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Copa del Rey in Palma – The Mother of All Sailing Regattas in the Mediterranean

Photo Credits: Copa del Rey Mapfre

From Monday, July 31, until August 5, Palma’s bay will transform into one of Europe’s largest maritime racecourses. The 41st edition of the international sailing regatta, Copa del Rey Mapfre, will see around 100 crews from 16 countries competing across eight different classes. Among the approximately 1500 participants in the competition is the event’s namesake, King Felipe I, who will be at the helm of the 50-foot yacht, Aifos, just like last year. Interestingly, the royal regatta yacht officially belongs to the Spanish Navy’s fleet.

Apart from the Spanish teams, the Germans make up the majority of foreign regatta participants with a total of eleven crews spread across five classes. In the ClubSwan 50 category, a one-design class for sailing yachts from the Swedish luxury shipyard Nautor’s Swan, five out of the nine listed yachts sail under the German flag. One of them is the eye-catching “Earlybird,” owned and steered by Hendrik Brandis, a millionaire co-founder of the venture capital firm Earlybird and one of Germany’s most ambitious and successful sailing patrons. Brandis has already won the Club Swan World Championship five times and was the vice-world champion in the past two years.

“The Copa del Rey is the most internationally renowned regatta in Europe, attracting some of the world’s best sailors every year,” says Manu Fraga, CEO of the Real Club Náutico in Palma (RCNP), the yacht club that has been hosting Copa del Rey for over 40 years.

Over the years, little has changed regarding the event’s organization and the framework program. One aspect that remains unchanged is that the largest sailing regatta in the Mediterranean mostly takes place behind closed doors, with limited public access. Unlike similar events in Europe, such as Kiel Week in Germany or Cowes Week in England, which offer weeks of diverse entertainment, including cultural events, music concerts, film screenings, open-air activities, and gastronomic offerings to thousands of visitors and locals, the Copa del Rey, sponsored by the Spanish insurance company Mapfre, is predominantly reserved for the sailors, invited guests, other sponsors, and the maritime elite on the island.

Photo Credits: Copa del Rey Mapfre
Photo Credits: Copa del Rey Mapfre

“We would like to make the event more accessible to a broader audience, but the problem is the lack of space,” says Emerico Fuster, President of the RCNP. There simply isn’t enough space in the harbor area for concert stages or even an entire regatta village with various stands. The situation is different on the opposite side of the marina, such as the public park Sa Feixina, which the city of Palma uses for various events throughout the year. “We have offered the city administration several times in recent years to set up a regatta village with stages and stands there,” says Club President Emerico Fuster. However, these offers were unsuccessful, and he suspects that the city is afraid of upsetting other yacht clubs in the harbor, such as Club de Mar or Marina La Llonja, by supporting the regatta at RCNP.

Despite the apparent lack of interest from the city of Palma in turning Copa del Rey into a mega-event for locals and foreign visitors, the potential revenue for the local economy remains undeniable. Each year, the regatta teams, along with their technical and social entourages, inject an average of up to 80 million euros into the city’s coffers. “Transforming the regatta into a week-long public festival in Palma would undoubtedly be a rewarding venture for everyone,” believes Fuster.

Thus, everything remains the same this year as well. In addition to the races in the bay, participants, yacht owners, and Spain’s king will celebrate within the heavily guarded clubhouse premises.

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