Thomas Rudewald: Sailing competitively at the age of 70

Hanging on the periphery of the Palma yachting world for the past few years, I was under the impression that sailing was a young man’s sport, with just a few fit over 40s. Then I met Thomas Rudewald!


This charming, fit and youthful 70 year old has been sailing since he was a boy back in Sweden. He made a deal with his dad (who was also sailing), that if he did well at school, then his dad would support his sailing. So, he got his MBA and sailed all over the world! Thomas started sailing Optimist before moving on to Laser, 505 and then Star Class. Sailing became a key part of Thomas´s life – with Olympic campaigns, several international titles and Swedish Championships under his belt by the time he was 25.

Thomas worked as a resort manager for a Swedish tour operator back in 1978/79. Looking out at the boats dotted around Palma Nova bay, Thomas hoped to sail there with his own boat one day. Life got in the way and he had to wait 35 years for his dream to come true. He finally sailed his Beneteau First 40.7 from Sweden to Spain in 2003! Thomas then worked for the Swedish Americas Cup challenge in Valencia 2005/2006. He spent the next few years cruising around the Balearics and Western Mediterranean, but the racing bug was always there.

Sweden meets Spain at RCNP

Santini Thomas-Rudewald

RCNP has been an institution in sailing for more than 70 years. In fact, the club celebrated the 40th edition of the Copa del Rey in 2022. Thomas bought a J80 from Rodrigo Sanz, whose father was the Club’s Chairman at the time. He then became an RCNP member in 2014 and then managed to get into this exclusive club, with a helping hand from Senor Sanz. He immediately felt very welcome despite being a Swede in this predominantly Spanish environment.

In 2017, Thomas won Palma Vela with his son Mattias and crew. He met local sailmaker Christian Fornes, a long-time club member and active J80 sailor and trainer at the Club. Christian helped Thomas to get some local Spanish sailors on board and they participated in the various club races. (Fun fact: The Islander´s editor, Jens Oomes joined the crew for a couple of races too!)


Santina Yacht

After the Palma Vela in 2022, the decision was made to find a boat that could perform well under the complicated ORC rule. The Dehler 38 C “VellMari IV” was laying idle at the Club during the Princess Sofia and Palma Vela races. Christian Fornes set up a meeting with the owner, Juan Cabrer Piza and his son Pedro. They wanted to sell the boat, so Thomas bought it and Vell Mari became “Santina”.

 “I never imagined that at the age of 70 I would have so much fun and be competitive in sailing at this level!”

Fortunately, the original crew that had been sailing with different Vell Maris for many years wanted to continue sailing the boat. Pedro Cabrer, a long-term member of the club, has known the bay of Palma since childhood. He sailed with his father, Juan, with mostly the same crew. Dru Bestard Summers – whose father Sinto sailed around the world blind (that’s another great story for another article!) – is trimming the main. Francisco Xisco Casstallo looks after the boat and is mast man. Christian Vidal takes care of the foredeck and is also one of the best Snipe sailors in the Club. Javier Pomar is main trimmer and Christian Fornes (sales manager at Quantum, Mallorca) is tactician. Thomas´ son, Mattias Rudewald, and partner Vica Eckeström make up the rest of the 9 person crew. Thomas believes that Santina has “a great team, full of talent, experience and different personalities”. The common language on board is usually Spanish, but if the crew doesn’t want the Swedes to understand something – they cheekily switch to Mallorquin!

Santina Sailing Team is sponsored by the Santina restaurants, located in Puerto Portals and Santa Catalina. The owners, Madeleine Heckel and Vincent Solleveld, make sure that the team is well fed and full of energy for the races. Both have been involved in different activities at RCNP. Madeleine was marketing manager for Gaastra and Code 0; both have been the main sponsors for Palma Vela and Copa del Rey. Santina’s other sponsors include AIX Vin de Provence, B&G, Robline and PelleP Marine clothing.

“The key to staying young is to surround yourself with young people, young energy!”

Santina will participate in the local regattas in 2023 (see schedule below), but also represent RCNP at the Trofeo de Vela Conde de Godo in Barcelona and Trofeo La Reina in Valencia. Together with Palma Vela, these events make up the Circuito Mediterraneo de Vela with boats coming from all over Spain.

As for Thomas – he has no intention of slowing down or retiring from racing! His goal for the season of 2023 is to get to the podium for the circuit and “it would be great” if he and his crew could win Copa del Rey. Please join me in cheering this great man and his crew on in all their races. Fingers crossed Thomas wins his dream Copa del Rey before his next birthday!

“You don´t have to have the best boat to win the race!”

Photos: Thomas Rudewald´s Personal archive

Text: Mia Naprta / Thomas Rudewald


Instagram: @mianaprta


Santina Sailing Team Program 2023

January 22               Trofeo Sant Sebastian

February 19              Trofeo Carnaval

March 11-12             Trofeo Noli

April 1-3                   Trofeo Princess Sofia

Circuito Meditarraneo ORC de Vela 2023

May 5-7                     Palma Vela

May 24-28                Barcelona Trofeo de Vela Condo de Godo

June 29 – July 2      Valencia Trofeo La Reina

August  1-6               Copa del Rey

October 7-8              Trofeo Hispanidad

November 4-5         Trofeo Bon Vent GP Sails

Sailing Team / Sailing with 9 crew

  1. Thomas Rudewald – Patron – Sweden
  2. Mattias Rudewald – Trim – Sweden
  3. Vica Eckeström – Floater – Sweden
  4. Paul Andersson – Trim – Australia
  5. Christian Fornes – Tachtician – Spain
  6. Francisco Casstallo – Garcia Mast Boat – Captain Spain
  7. Rafael Bestard Summers – Main Trim – Spain
  8. Pedro Cabrer Piza – Pit Trim – Spain
  9. Christian Vidal – Bowman – Spain

Extra crew

10. Javier Pomar – Pit Trim – Spain
11. Jonas Wenger – Pit Trim – Germany
12. Stefan Roslund – Bowman – Sweden
13. Vincent Sollevold – Floater – Sweden
14. Jorge Diaz Valderas – Bowman – Spain
15. Sebastian Allebroth – Trim Tachtician – Germany

Written by Mia  Naprta

Photo of Mia Naprta The Islander

Photos: Thomas Rudewald

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