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Flying Fifteens at PalmaVela

by Jonny Fullerton 10 Nov 2021 08:43 GMT 27-31 October 2021

The 17th edition of the PalmaVela regatta was postponed from early May, it usually marks the opening of the Mediterranean season with a good entry of keelboats ranging from the latest TP52 fleet to keelboats including Flying Fifteens, Dragons and J80s.

The regatta usually enjoys a strong entry from a number of nationalities but this year the pandemic combined with a rather daunting forecast for heavy winds and big showers over the four day regatta, restricted the entry to 80 boats.

The Flying Fifteen fleet was also depleted but nonetheless extremely competitive with sailors from a mixed bag of nationalities including Spain, UK, Ireland, Australia, Chile and Germany. Whilst the bigger fleets started their racing on a grey and damp day on Thursday, the Flying Fifteens began their regatta on Friday with 3 good races in shifty winds ranging from 10 - 14 knots with a confused sea testing the tactics of the best of sailors.

The courses were all windward/leeward with 2 laps each, around 40 minutes race time in duration. Three races were completed in succession. The wind did pick up a bit in the final race and accompanied by quite choppy seas proved quite a tough course for some competitors.

The standout crews were the local team of Harris brothers (Patrick and Vincent) and James Waugh and his Australian crew Lockie Stewart-Baker who battled for the winning gun in all three races. The Harris brothers just crossed ahead in the first and third races, James Waugh and Lockie Stewart-Baker setting for a consistent row of second places.

The two lead boats were split by the Chilean/Brazilian entry entered by Christian Siegmann who just got past on the second lap to take the gun in race 2. Local team Jonny Walker and Stephen Babbage challenged for third place with the Chileans, finally getting a breakthrough in race 3 of the day. The rest of the lead bunch traded places on all legs but a pattern was forming on the first day of the regatta.

Day 2 of the regatta on Saturday dawned with a howling wind off the mountains and a building sea. The whole fleet in all classes were postponed ashore in a long wait on the club terrace. The race management tried in vane to get a window of opportunity to send the fleets afloat so racing was abandoned for the day. Crews stayed on the club terrace hiding from the rain, enjoying free beer, wine and gin and tonic provided by the event sponsors. Yes why would you go to sail anywhere else with the hospitality on offer at the Real Club Nautico Palma?

So Sunday would be the decider for this prestigious regatta with another 3 windward/leeward races. The forecast was for another blustery day with some big rolling waves. With an earlier start time of 1100hrs the Fifteens had to head out quite early to get to their race course in the Bay of Palma. However race management did manage to get racing going on time.

The first race of the day was held in a building breeze in the late teens with a few strong gusts of much more. The leaders remained the same with the Harris brothers pulling through to take a narrow victory in the first from James Waugh and his new stand-in crew, a 49er sailor from Brazil. Locals Jonny Walker / Stephen Babbage squeezed over the line in third.

The second race of the day started to get quite fruity with the breeze up a notch and some seriously fun downwind racing in the swell. This race proved to be the undoing of James Waugh's challenge when his forestay gave way causing him to retire for the day. This left the Harris brothers only needing to cross the line in one piece to claim the regatta win which they did by some margin. The last downwind leg was a real belter with gusts of 30 knots and a big sea. Most of the fleet broached and the race became a war of attrition.

The South Americans came in second and a way back David Miles and Jonny Fullerton sailed through the fleet to cross third with the remainder of the fleet pulling out on the last leg to escape to the comfort of the marina.

Winds on the Bay of Palma proved just a little too fresh and the racing schedule was cut short without sailing the final race. The sail home was a real slug fest with some huge gusts but all got home safely to the terrace bar and more free beverages.

The short but sweet regatta served this year as the Mediterranean racing season's finale outing. The intention of the organisers is to return to the usual timing of early May pandemic permitting.

Overall Results: (top six)

1 ESP 3592 - Disco Volante Patrick & Vincent Harris - 4pts
2 ESP 3724 - Puffin - James Waugh / Locke Stuart - 8pts
3 CHI 3598 - Ffugue - Christian Siegmnn - 9pts
4 GBR 4014 - Ffinally - John Walker / Stephen Babbage - 15pts
5 ESP 3420 - Heaven Sent - David Miles / Jonny Fullerton - 18pts
6 ESP 3650 - Ffiskardo - Victor Rossello - 24pts

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