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Sled triumph in Puerto Portals at first 52 Super Series regatta

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Sled triumph in Puerto Portals at first 52 Super Series regatta
Sled triumph in Puerto Portals at first 52 Super Series regatta

Takashi Okura's Sled team were crowned winners of the first regatta of the 2021 season, the 52 Super Series Puerto Portals Sailing Week, after conflicting breezes on the Bay of Palma meant no racing could be held on the final day. Sled triumph by just one single point at an event which saw five different teams win races and only six points separate the top six boats after six races were sailed. 

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In six boat 20th Anniversary Invitational fleet, racing under IRC, the victors were the Beau Geste of Hong Kong's Karl Kwok who has a long and proud history with the TP52 class, dating right back to the origins of the class on the Transpac race. Sadly neither owner could be in Puerto Portals to compete.

As a celebration of the longevity and ongoing success of the TP52 class, both since it grew out of the Transpac Race and since it was adopted by the Mediterranean Fleet in 2004, the regatta was a great success, drawing 16 boats to race – nine in the 52 Super Series and six in the invitational division. The highlight of the week in terms of sheer spectacle was Friday's 20th Anniversary racing day when the fleet combined for two great races. But for the 52 Super Series it was a stark reminder of how close and evenly matched these ultra refined these grand prix monohulls are, and how extremely close the racing is.

Sled showed flashes of the speed and form which saw them whitewash the last regatta of 2019, a breezy finale in Porto Cervo, Sardinia when they won with a big points margin and took six winning guns.

New faces on board, amidst a hugely experienced team included Finn Gold Cup and America's Cup winner,  Josh Junior with six times America's Cup winner Murray Jones moving from the strategist's role to steering. They were the only team to win two races but – in this white hot fleet – no team this time were able to avoid the big scores and Sled also posted two sevenths in the nine boat fleet. Correspondingly on Thursday, when there were three races sailed, Quantum Racing weighed their scoreline down with 18 of their 23pts aggregate.

Don Cowie, mainsheet trimmer and project manager of the winning boat grinned, "Well this is our first win of the season obviously and only our second in seven or eight years and so we are delighted. For us as a team it is a great result. It is a shame Mr Okura's not here to enjoy winning but we know he's been back in Japan watching every step of the way so it's a great win for the team.

Of their winning edge in Mallorca he concluded,

"I think we are all a tight unit, Murray and Adam Beashel and Jeremy Lomas, and Josh Junior did a really nice job on the race track. Unfortunately we didn't get any racing today which made it a little bit easier. We knew the pressure was on today because the points are so close. Anything could have happened but we're very happy to come away with the win. It was great to win in 2019, we had an edge there, but everyone has moved on.  everyone has done something to their boats and the racing is still fantastic."
Of his first regatta back with the fleet since 2018, Quantum Racing's tactician was smarting – as ever – not to have won:
"Obviously we came to win the event. But we did a little bit too much damage to ourselves on Day 3. We got a lot better after that day. Hat's off to Sled, they sailed well. That three race day was a tricky day and they stringed together three good races and did what they had to do. But we look to the long game. You like to win all the battles but at the same time we have our sights set on the overall  title and the world championships. This is a great baseline event for us because we haven't sailed together really since the 2018 season. But we want to be better. The fleet is really close, really really even. It's impressive to see how the boats are evolving. When I stopped sailing this boat in 2018 I felt like we had a really good speed advantage especially in the breeze and you see all the fleet coming very close to the same spot. The Vrolijk boats still hold an edge in very specific conditions, 12-13 knots in the flat water they're very nice. And I think our boat is a good all round boat. But you can never blame your equipment so from there it feel's like the fleet has all gravitated towards the same spot."
In the 20th Anniversary Invitational fleet Beau Geste, with Kenny Read steering were unbeaten. A collision with another boat during the big fleet start of the first race of the 20th Anniversary regatta day knocked them out of contention for the day's prizes. They were granted redress and topped the leaderboard comfortably, tactician and project manager Gavin Brady was effusive in his praise for the event and in his thanks to Mr Kwok for ensuring his boat raced and supported the class which is dear to his heart: 
"This was a really fun week for us. It was a real privilege to be invited to this anniversary event. We didn't plan on sailing this year but when this opportunity came, Karl Kwok thought it was important to be here. He was one of the founding members of the class. We did our first Transpac together, I think we were Transpac 52 number 5 so it's been a big part of the journey for us with the Beau Gestes, Karl's had a number of TP52's, some for offshore and some for inshore so it's really neat to be here, hopefully we'll be here for the 30th anniversary in 10 years time. And we were in a very fortunate situation to buy this boat, It's a very special boat, when it became available we have all the options we could be super series or enjoy the boat by doing IRC racing. It's great to have the option to join the Super Series, I know he (Karl) would really enjoy it. It's a shame he couldn't be here to enjoy this week to see what it's all about and how professionally run this event is and see it in person. I think you have to be here to believe it. When you're here in person you really get to feel the vibe and be around the best sailors in the world."

Clasificación final de la Puerto Portals 52 Super Series Sailing Week
Sled (USA) (Takashi Okura) (4,7,1,1,2,7) 22 puntos.
 Quantum Racing (USA) (Doug DeVos) (2,1,2, 6,7,5) 23 p.
Phoenix (RSA) (Toni Norris) (3,8,7,4,1,3) 26 p.
Provezza (TUR) (Ergin Imre) (7,3,4,3,9,1) 27 p.
Alegre (USA/GBR) (Andrés Soriano) (5,5,3,2,6,6) 27 p.
Platoon (GER) (Harm Müller-Spreer) (1,4,9,8,4,2) 28p.
Bronenosec Gazprom (RUS) (Vladimir Liubomirov) (8,2,6,5,5,4) 30 p.
Interlodge (USA) (Austin Fragomen) (6,6,5,9,3,8) 37 p. 
Gladiator (GBR) (Tony Langley) (9,9,8,7,8,9) 50 p. 

20th Anniversary Invitational

Beau Geste (Karl Kwok, HK) (1,1,1,1,1,RDG1,RDG1) 7 p.
Air is Blue (Roberto Monti, ITA) (2,3,4,5,3,1,2) 20 puntos.
XIO (Marco Serafini ITA) (3,DNF8,2,3,2,2,1) 21 p.
THA72 (Kevin and Tom Whitrcraft, THA) (4,2,3,2,4,4,5) 24 p.
Arobas (Gerard Vogel, FRA) (5,6, DNC 8,4,6,3,3) 35 p.
Zero Emission (Samila Leisti, FIN) (6,4.5,5,7,5,5,4) 36.5 p.
Blue Carbon (Tony Guilu, ESP) (7,4.5,6,6,7,DNS8,6)

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