The 2021 Multihull Cup took place this weekend from Port Adriano, Mallorca with a competitive fleet of state-of-the-art performance cruising cats. This was my first time watching performance catamarans racing at this level, and the action didn’t disappoint.
A gentle start
This Ed was lucky enough to watch the racing aboard a stylish 55ft solar yacht by Silent Yachts.
Racing in near ideal conditions with a solid sailing breeze which reached 14 knots, the first race took the four-strong fleet from the start off El Toro, to a laid windward mark.
Multihull Cup first-timer Highland Fling XVII held an early advantage ahead of R-Six, a Cup regular and former champion, with Allegra and Coco de Mer opting for the left of the course on the first beat, which proved a smart move. This is Irvine Laidlaw’s second multihull regatta sailing the VPLP designed Gunboat 68, Highland Fling with South African’s Hylton Hale, Jan Dekker and Mike Giles aboard.
At the mark Allegra led followed by Coco de Mer, with Highland Fling and R-Six in hot pursuit. The fleet then headed east past Cap de Cala Figuera and into the Bay of Palma where they rounded the Ilot de Sec and turning back to the west and a racing mark off the Islas Malgrats, before the final sprint back to the finish line.
The 84’ Nigel Irens-designed Allegra was able to hold her lead on the water, finishing far enough ahead of her opposition to secure the opening race win once the sophisticated ORCmh rating system was applied.
Coco de Mer was overtaken by her fellow Gunboat built rival Highland Fling on the final leg, but bettered her slightly longer – 66’ plays 68’ – and optimised sibling on corrected time to secure second place, with R-Six also doing enough to see her rating put her third ahead of Highland Fling in the final standings.
Of the Multihull Cup competition Highland Fling tactician Cameron Appleton said: “They have good teams on all the boats. With Fling we are always aware how close it can get with them so when we had the first cross ahead at the top mark it was quite comforting. Coco though was the surprise performer in the first part of the race, doing very well, and I don’t think any of us expected them to be that far up in the mix.”
It was a moment – Tim Thubron, his counterpart on Coco de Mer acknowledged – that had the crew holding their breath as they took the shortcut.
“We were on a tight layline and we had a bit of a wind shift, so I asked the question if we could go inside to avoid doing two tacks to get around it, and we looked at it carefully and we had some local knowledge on board, and we decided to go for it with the boards up.
“Overall we sailed a good race though and didn’t make any glaring mistakes. We let Highland Fling get inside us at the final mark when we got it a bit wrong, but it was really the only mistake we made around the course. Everyone is having a great time here and looking forward to the next two days of racing.”
“After everything so many people have been through over the past 18 months it is a real pleasure to be able to welcome back so many old friends and have the opportunity to make new ones here in Port Adriano,” said Multihull Cup Event Director Andrea Grimm.
A worthy duel
The level of competition across the fleet was evident from the outset on day two, with Coco de Mer’s enthusiasm seeing her just jump the starting gun and have to restart.
As on the opening day there was an early split on the initial upwind leg, though with neither option delivering a clear-cut advantage. Allegra and Highland Fling were neck and neck at the first mark, the former just ahead, with Coco de Mer following ahead of R-Six.
The extended course again took the fleet into the Bay of Palma with a full-on drag race around Ilot de Sec, before a long leg to the west to a laid racing mark off Cabo de la Mola on Mallorca’s rocky southwest coast.
With the breeze building from 8 to 18 knots this downwind leg proved a true test of crew work as the performance cruising cats gybed towards the mark.
Highland Fling and Allegra were again scrapping for the lead on the water while hitting speeds of up to 20 knots, with this time the VPLP designed Highland Fling emerging ahead in the skirmish at the Mola mark, albeit by the finest of margins.
Their duel resumed on the upwind leg to the finish, with the lead changing hands a number of times. Perhaps making the most of her longer 84’ waterline Allegra edged ahead, covering 68’ Highland Fling on the final tacks to the finish to take line honours just over a minute ahead after two hours and 21 minutes of racing.
“It was a beautiful day today with great conditions and a great battle,” said Cam Appleton, tactician on Highland Fling. He continued, “Racing against Allegra we know that the two boats have some different characteristics. We had some great racing against them and we know we have to do a little more on the racecourse to get out in front of them. We are on a steep learning curve and we are having a bit of fun doing it – we had a great race today and heading down to the final mark we had 20 knots of boatspeed.”
The recently optimised Highland Fling carries a substantial rating which saw her stay in fourth place on the overall leaderboard, while R-Six leapfrogged Coco de Mer to occupy second spot.
Though experiencing less close quarter racing at the back of the fleet on the water, the 67’ Morrelli & Melvin designed R-Six is revelling in the Multihull Cup, and delighted with her second place . Skipper and helm Robert Janecki said: “Being the last to cross the finish line you can get the feeling you have lost, but we felt we had sailed well today and the crew did really well, so we were hoping to be rewarded, and in the end second place is a very good place to be.”
Having competed in all three previous Multihull Cups – and a winner at the first event in 2016 – the owner and crew of R-Six are well aware of the regatta’s unique appeal.
“We are focused on racing the boat, and as the first one built by Hudson Hakes Marine we are proud to have been at all the Multihull Cups,” said Janecki, back on the dock at the Port Adriano base.
Winning in style
The all-conquering Allegra took a clear-cut victory at the 2021 Multihull Cup in Mallorca after another high tempo performance out on the racecourse secured her third straight race win.
Sailed by Switzerland’s Adrian Keller, the 84’ Nigel Irens design eased her way to the front of the fleet of performance cruising catamarans to again take line honours and win her second Multihull Cup title.
In a close finish for the overall runner-up spot the British-flagged Coco de Mer pipped her fellow Cup regular R-Six to second place, both ahead of Highland Fling XVII which was making her debut at Multihull Cup.
Speaking at the Port Adriano prize-giving Allegra’s delighted tactician Paul Larsen said: “It’s nice when everything works and we had a fun time doing it in great conditions – we’ve had a little bit of everything here and the race committee did a great job.
“We love having our cage rattled, and Highland Fling certainly did that at Lora Piana, so we came here ready to put on a good show, and all the other boats are lifting their game, just look at Coco, which was nipping at our heels as well.”
And Larsen said he anticipated the growing interest in performance cruising catamarans would continue increasing: “Looking ahead there are so many good designs out there and a lot of people coming to it. Here we are showcasing what they are capable of out on a racecourse without compromising the level of comfort, so it is truly a dual-purpose boat that does fantastic cruising and amazing racing as well.”
Racing for the win
The fleet started in an easterly with a beat to the first turning point on the course, the rocky promontory of Cap de Cala Figuera and its distinctive black and white lighthouse.
The fleet was then able to bear away to the first turning mark, the tiny islet of Ilot de Sec in the Bay of Palma, and then run off west for another gybe-fest to the laid mark off Cabo de la Mola before heading back to the finish.
When the results came in Coco de Mer took second, with Highland Fling overhauling R-Six to take the last place on the final day podium, if not the overall.
Having targeted a second place overall at the start of the final day, the crew of the Morrelli & Melvin designed Gunboat 66 Coco de Mer finished the Multihull Cup with a smile on their faces. “Allegra were worthy winners and they didn’t really put a foot wrong, so it was great to take second,” said tactician Tim Thubron.
“There are no slouches in this fleet and every boat has been sailing well, and it was very close, tight racing, especially between us and R-Six over the three days.”
And he added: “It has been a classic case of ‘champagne sailing’, with great wind, shorts and T-shirts, it doesn’t get any better than this really. The rivalry between the teams is very friendly, but equally there’s not an inch given on the racetrack, just good, clean, fair and competitive racing.”
Meanwhile, though disappointed with their overall standing, the Highland Fling team are also looking to a return match next year.
Cam Appleton, tactician on the VPLP designed Gunboat 68, said: “Congratulations to Allegra – it was good fun racing and a really well-run event, and we appreciate all the hospitality and Andrea’s foresight in putting the regatta together.
“We weren’t as competitive as we’d hoped to be. We have a few things to improve on and our performance against our rating is something we need to take a look at, and refine and develop moving forward now that we have a better knowledge of the boat. It has been great and the multihull fleet is sure to grow and become more competitive, and it’s a date in the diary for next year for sure.”
Multihull Cup Event Director Andrea Grimm said: “The whole team here are just delighted that the owners, their families, guests, skippers and crews have had a great time with some competitive racing in fabulous conditions.
“As ever we are grateful for the strong backing of our supporters, including Marinepool and Rigging Projects, whose sponsorship of the Clean Waves refillable water station and reusable bottles here in Port Adriano has reinforced our status as a Sailors for the Sea Clean Regatta.”
The fifth edition of the Multihull Cup is scheduled for next September.
Pictures: Sailing Energy