Living the Dream: The Superyacht Cup, Palma, 2019

We know you think that the life of a yacht designer is nothing but head-down, nose-to-the-grindstone, bound to the computer screen while we deal with prismatic coefficients and righting arms. All true—but every now and then we get an opportunity that we just can’t pass up. This spring a long-time client who commissioned one of our favorite boats said, “Bob, wouldn’t it be great to get the guys back together for a ten-year reunion of Bequia’s build? And why don’t we do it at the Superyacht Cup, in Palma?”

Well, okay, twist my arm. 

To understand the excitement of participating in this event on this particular boat, I’ll have to take you back to her inception. Our client had owned several smaller cruising boats over the years, and fell in love with ocean passages. His dream included a true yacht that would tie in all the features he had loved on his smaller boats, with the size and comfort to take his family cruising anywhere in the world, or indeed, around the world. In short, he wanted a  boat that could take him away from workaday worries and transport him to a special, private place of peace. The result was Bequia, a 90-foot yawl launched in 2009, built in cold-molded wood at Brooklin Boat Yard.

She’s covered a lot of miles since then — back and forth from New England to the Caribbean several times, across the North Atlantic twice, over to Panama, up to Sweden, up the Adriatic to Croatia. We’re guessing her log shows upwards of 40,000 sea miles under her keel. It’s so rewarding to see a yacht getting used like this. Even more rewarding is knowing that she has helped her owner realize the dream that led him to our design firm ten years ago.

During her travels, Bequia has also seen her share of starting lines and collected a surprisingly crowded shelf of silverware at superyacht regattas on both sides of the pond. I jumped at the opportunity to sail aboard her in a dream setting like Palma.

Palma’s the major city on Mallorca, the largest island of the Balearics, about a hundred miles off the southern coast of Spain. The city has ancient origins, with a mix of cultures that’s evident in the architecture. The spectacular 13th-century Gothic cathedral anchors the city’s waterfront vista, looming over the Moorish fortifications and the old sandstone, red-tiled roofed buildings. Streets teeming with restaurants, tapas bars, and high-end shops—there’s plenty of diversion in off-water hours.

The Superyacht Cup’s race village is centrally located at the Marina Moll Vell, secure within the city’s massive breakwaters, right on the strand, and packed with boat eye-candy. Within the village, fourteen yachts lined up stern-to. The mix of yachts was compelling, running the gamut of what appeals to today’s well-heeled yacht-owners: from Open Season, a 107-foot cutting-edge Wally with few compromises to cruising, through WinWin (aptly named!), a 108-footer built by Baltic in carbon and described by Yachting World as “an uncompromising, dual-purpose cruiser-racer”, designed by Mallorca local Javier Jaudenes, to Meteor, a 170-foot clipper-bow schooner by Dykstra and Alden. The race committee had a challenge parsing this diverse fleet into sensible classes; here’s how it broke down:

Living the Dream: Class A

NameDesignerBuilderYearLength
Win WinJ. JaudenesBaltic Yachts2015108 ft (33m)
Open SeasonJudel VrolijkWally2012/2015107 ft (33m)
NiyalaReichel PughBaltic Yachts2010111 ft (34m)

Living the Dream: Class B

NameDesignerBuilderYearLength
VelshedaNicholsonCamper/Nicholson1933129 ft (39m)
TopazPaine/HoekHolland Jachtbouw2015140 ft (43m)
MissyM. McKeonVitters2016108 ft (33m)
Stay CalmFrersNautor Swan200171 ft (21 m)
TulipFrers
K&M Yachtbuilders201288 ft (26m)
Child of LirFrersNautor Swan2014105 ft (32m)

Living the Dream: Class C

NameDesignerBuilderYearLength
BequiaStephens WaringBrooklin Boat Yard200990 ft (27m)
KealohaHoekClaassen200890 ft (27m)
HuckleberryLanganAlloy Yachts2001130 ft (40m)
MeteorDykstra/AldenRoyal Huisman2007169 ft (52m)

Class B showed the most diversity, from a small and older Swan (Stay Calm) to the modern Missy to the stately and thrilling-to-watch J-Class yachts Topaz and VelshedaVelsheda claims the prize for oldest yacht, having survived years in a mud-berth before her restoration in the 1990’s. Class C was a smart grouping of yachts with a Spirit of Tradition design theme. With her stripped-down interpretation of a pilot-boat hull, Tulip would not have been out of place in Class C.

Sailing conditions were all that could be asked for: 8-12 knot breezes, mid-80ºF air temps, flat seas and gorgeous scenery of the cliffs, caves, cathedral and mountains surrounding Palma Bay. The race committee showed their experience in 22 past runnings of this event. They held off on starts until good sea breezes filled in, ensuring fair and steady sailing conditions.

The committee used rolling starts—two minutes between each yacht’s start, avoiding the challenge of placing more than a thousand tons of yacht on a single line simultaneously. The only exception was the J-boats, which started together for true match racing. Bequia’s start as the smallest boat in Class C placed us next, after the J’s, giving us a good vantage point to watch the close competition between these impressive machines.

We finished the first race with a second to Huckleberry’s first. Huckleberry is a venerable superyacht, built in 2001 as Victoria of Strathearn, and this was her first race under new ownership. Can’t beat winning your first race! (She was recognized for this by Tom Whidden of North Sails who awarded her the Lowell North Trophy in honor of North’s founder who passed away only a few weeks ago.) 

Tom was working hard at the Cup, not only representing both North Sails and their subsidiary Southern Spars (both major sponsors) but also sailing hard as Bequia’s tactician. He coaxed and cajoled superb performance from our crew. Bequia’s yawl rig imposed some suffering on the beats, but we made up for it on the runs, where her all-white A2 pulled like a racehorse and helped us make up lost ground. We never lost the top of the podium again, rounding out the event with two bullets to make our record 2-1-1, and decisively winning Class C. 

Once back at the dock, tied stern-to with the passerelle deployed, our friends and family crew (no need for an army of pros) relaxed in the cockpit under the awning and in the cool of the air-conditioned pilothouse with glasses of chilled rose. We debriefed on what we could have done better, swapped stories of our so-distant daily lives, and visited with roving bands from other yachts, trading congratulations and good wishes around the capacious teak cockpit table. As the sun went down and the heat of the day cooled, we watched the lights come up on the cream-colored sandstone walls of the city and planned our next move.

Will I come back again? You bet I will. From drawing board to the podium, the experience of a Spirit of Tradition yacht is unparalleled in the sailing world. 

For full results, go to https://www.thesuperyachtcup.com/