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52 Super Series: "C", like consistency, is the key word

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Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019.
Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019. Photo: Nico Martinez

When the highly competitive fleet of 11 TP52s representing eight different nations line up to start the first points races of the 2019 52 SUPER SERIES season one week from now, on Tuesday 21st May, off Mahón, Menorca, one word will represent the target of each and every team. Consistency.

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 This will be the start of the eighth season of the 52 SUPER SERIES and by all accounts this is set to be the closest, most open contest for years. But history has shown that it’s high-level consistency – maintained over the entire season – rather than brilliance that wins the coveted circuit title.

“When I look round the fleet right now, at one week to go, I see every team is strong,” considers Adrian Stead, a double TP52 World Championship winning tactician. “Everyone seems to have been putting in solid results in this build-up period. You look at it and say ‘everyone can win’. There are opportunities for everyone. Getting a good result on the 52 SUPER SERIES is always about taking every point you can, occupying your space and sticking to it. Look at last year’s tie break for second overall and it was down to one place, one point. You need to keep the same mind set all the way through. It is a 40 race series, no discards.”

Looking ahead to the five regattas of the 2019 season, May in Menorca, June in Puerto Sherry, Cadiz, July in Cascais, August’s Rolex TP52 World Championship in Puerto Portals and the season’s finale in Porto Cervo, Sardinia and it really is a daunting prospect.

Almost all of the teams have had an extended period of preparation after a winter of modifications, including a week in Valencia in March as well as the Sail Racing PalmaVela event that finished Sunday, which included ten of the eleven crews who will race next week in Mahón.

Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019
Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019.

The defending 52 SUPER SERIES champions Quantum Racing took the win at the warm-up regatta, which teams utilised as a full on dress rehearsal. Having made five changes to their line up from last year’s winning crew, Ed Baird re-joining as skipper-helm, Juan Vila back as navigator and Cameron Appleton taking over the tactician’s role from Terry Hutchinson, Quantum will likely only improve from where left off Sunday in Palma.

Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019. Ph. Nico Martinez
Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019. Ph. Nico Martinez

America’s Cup winner Baird is happy with the progress the team made in Palma, pointing out that the absence of the hard-driving stickler Hutchinson does not really add extra pressure to his role:

“My role does not change much. This group manages itself. That’s the wonderful thing about this team. Everyone does a great job looking after their own area. All these guys take responsibility for their own areas and we have the approach that each and every person is equally important,” Baird explains. “But there is so much talent in this fleet and now too there is a lot of history and knowledge. Everyone has been working so hard at getting better in a class that has now been around for a while. Everyone goes out and we have these amazing races and we come in having had such a good time.”

If there is a team that seems best set to challenge for Quantum Racing’s crown it is probably Harm Müller-Spreer’s über-consistent Platoon, also on Quantum Sails. Changes to their keel and rudder have delivered the more all-round performance sought by the crew that has now finished runner up twice in successive years. Platoon had two costly errors in Palma last week – one that resulted in a penalty and one that dropped them down the fleet – and but for them they might well have won the indicator regatta.

“We feel we have improved our performance in the stronger breeze, which was the aim, and we seem to be still going well in the light. We have a new film that Quantum have for some of our sails and it seems to be a lot more stable and lighter. We are going well and like what we have.” Platoon’s America’s Cup winning trimmer Ross Halcrow comments.

Platoon’s owner-driver Müller-Spreer declares:

“I want to win this year. That is what we are here for, you buy a boat like this, you do this, you are here to win. But we need some luck. We did not do well in Cascais last year in the heavy conditions and so have changed the keel, and now we can see we have a different boat. But you have to keep your head up and stay totally focussed all year to win this thing.”

Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019. Ph. Nico Martinez
Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019. Ph. Nico Martinez

Azzurra were the strongest finishers in the second half of the PalmaVela event. It would be no surprise at all to see them win in Mahón next week. Takashi Okura’s Sled led after the first day before they missed Day 2 due to a medical incident with one of their crew, which required them to return to shore. But Sled were quick in all conditions, especially comfortable in the breeze and could have been on the podium but for their missed races. Adam Beashel was ably assisted in Palma by six-time America’s Cup winner Murray Jones who will do some regattas this season but will miss Mahón.

The brand new Botin Partners designed Bronenosec, the only new build this season, debuted in Palma just days after launching but still proved a competitive weapon. Tactician Morgan Larson has Croatia’s 470 Olympic gold medallist and 49er world champion Sime Fantela as strategist on the Russian-flagged boat.

Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019. Ph. Nico Martinez
Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019. Ph. Nico Martinez

Of his return to the 52 SUPER SERIES after a year off, owner-driver Vladimir Liubomirov says of the 52 SUPER SERIES:

“I had to come back. It is the only one for me where you can really race at this high level. To be at least in the middle of this fleet or a little better and I will be happy. The new boat is more powerful and feels great.”

Probably no team has devoted more time to practise during this early season than Hasso and Tina Plattner’s Phoenix crews. In Mahón they will race both the 2014-launched Phoenix 12 (originally built as “Phoenix”), which Tina will steer, and Phoenix 11, which was their new boat launched last year, which Hasso will steer.

“As a team, we are in good shape. We have proven we can be competitive.” Says Ado Stead of the Phoenix teams, “ I think we go with an open mind though. From my point of view and the team’s there are opportunities to go in and be competitive. We have shown we can win races and we have shown we can sail past the best teams out there.”

Ergin Imre’s Provezza showed glimpses of very competitive form with a new afterguard comprising tactician Hamish Pepper and helm John Cutler who admits he is still very much learning some of the subtleties of sailing the boat in particular downwind conditions.

“Upwind I feel like we are going pretty well but downwind some of these owner-drivers have been giving me a bit of a lesson, so plenty to learn. That is about coordinating the trim with the helm and the angles we are sailing, but we made progress. We have the same objective as everyone else: aim for the podium,” concludes Cutler.

Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019
Sail Racing PalmaVela 2019

Entries:
Alegre – Andy Soriano (USA/GBR), 2018 Botin
Azzurra – Roemmers Family (ARG/ITA), 2018 Botin
Bronenosec – Vladimir Liubomirov (RUS), 2019 Botin
Gladiator – Tony Langley (GBR), 2017 Botin
Phoenix 11 – Hasso/Tina Plattner (RSA), 2018 Botin
Phoenix 12 – Hasso/Tina Plattner (RSA), 2014 Botin
Platoon – Harm Müller-Spreer (GER), 2018 Judel/Vrolijk
Provezza – Ergin Imre (TUR), 2018 Judel/Vrolijk
Quantum Racing – Doug DeVos (USA), 2018 Botin
Sled – Takashi Okura (USA), 2018 Botin
Team Vision Future – Jean Jacques Chaubard (FRA), 2015 Botin

The 2019 52 SUPER SERIES season is due to start shortly. Racing at the Menorca 52 SUPER SERIES Sailing Week starts on Tuesday 21st May and finishes on Saturday 25th May. The boats can be tracked online or via the 52 SUPER SERIES app with live commentary and expert analysis throughout each race.

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