A fleet of 12 grand-prix yachts from six nations is champing at the bit in anticipation of the second annual IMS 50 World Championship that begins tomorrow on the Mediterranean Sea off Palma de Mallorca.
While the sailors competing in the event hosted by Palma's Club de Mar include Olympic gold medalists and America's Cup victories, they'll be racing against royalty. Expected to compete are H.M. King Harald of Norway, who'll skipper his newest Fram, Spain's H.M. Prince Felipe aboard Sirius V and H.M. Princess Cristina aboard Azur de Puig.
This is the second IMS 50 Worlds and class president Pasquale Landolfi expects nothing less than the intense competition featured last year. "According to the experience of last year, I didn't race such exciting races since the One Ton and ILC 40 days," said Landolfi, the veteran Italian owner of Brava Q8 who has won the Admiral's Cup and multiple 40-foot world championships.
Landolfi's high expectations are due to the influx of new boats in the
class. Four boats were launched this year. The new breed of 50-footers looks menacing. Pushed to maximum length of 50.8 feet, they feature black carbon-fiber masts, high freeboards and nearly plumb bows and sterns. The hull configuration helps the boats meet interior volume requirements under the IMS Rule.
The critical factor in the class is the rating band. The spread from top of the fleet to bottom is no more than 10 seconds per mile, which is intended to create tight racing. What's more, the boats must measure between 14.5 and 15.5 meters (47.5 and 50.8 feet) LOA.
Of the 12 entrants, only one boat didn't compete in last weekend's Copa del Rey Regatta. That event was won by Vincenzo Onorato's new Mascalzone Latino, followed by Caixa Galicia in second, Castellon Costa Azahar in fourth and Brava in fifth.
"I think last week's finishes are a good indication of each boat's strength," said Brava mainsail trimmer Warwick Fleury. "The new generation of boats is fast."
Launched late in June, Mascalzone Latino finished fourth among the 10
50-footers that competed at the IMS Worlds last month in Valencia, Spain. But the crew, led by helmsman Onorato and tactician Vasco Vascotto, got the boat up to speed and posted a 6-point win in Class A at the Copa del Rey.
Onorato's main competition may come from CAM, led by Spanish Olympic
medalist Fernando Leon and Francisco Sanchez Luna. CAM, a Farr 51 previously raced as Esmeralda, won the IMS Worlds with four victories in six races. CAM finished ninth in Class A at Copa del Rey, but was saddled with a disqualification that added 55 points to its total. The Kevlar-constructed boat was designed as a Cruiser/Racer under the IMS Rule, but will be in Grand Prix trim for this event.
Trying to break the Farr stranglehold on IMS racing is Caixa Galicia.
Launched this year, the 50-footer is from Spain's Botin-Carkeek design
firm. Skippered by Roberto Bermudez de Castro, Caixa Galicia finished runner-up at the Copa del Rey.
King Harald's Fram XV is the newest boat in the fleet, having arrived from New Zealand's Cookson Boats two weeks ago. Pushed to maximum LOA, the Farr design built of Kevlar could be a contender so long as the new boat kinks can be worked out.
Competition begins tomorrow with two windward-leeward races scheduled. On Wednesday the fleet will begin a long distance race of around 100 miles (24 to 30 hours). The race will be broken into two parts with the first boat at the first mark and finish line each receiving points. Thursday is a scheduled lay day. Two windward-leewards races are scheduled for Friday and Saturday with a final windward-leeward slated for Sunday.
The IMS 50' World Championship is organized by the Club de Mar Mallorca, in agreement with the Real Federación Española de Vela, and under theauthority of the Offshore Racing Committee of ISAF and the IMS 50 Class Association.