Comebacks and consistency are key to podium spots
With two days of racing still to sail, winners last year Sled have taken control of Puerto Portals 52 Super Series Sailing Week but only by a couple of points. The US flagged team which are the reigning 52 Super Series champions finished third in the first race today and then won the second contest by the tiniest of margins, just one second as they pipped 2022 circuit leaders Quantum Racing on the finish line.
After six races of the ten scheduled for this, the third regatta of the five event 2022 52 Super Series season, Sled have still not finished worse than fourth. Today their four points aggregate was only matched by the resurgent Quantum Racing who went 2-2 for the day, clearly back on form after a very modest opening to this event.
Since accumulating 21 points over the first three races Quantum have now sailed three consecutive second places and only missed out on their first win of this week when they were wrong-footed in the dying minutes of the second contest in what Sled's Don Cowie called an 'old school match racing move'.
The Plattner family team Phoenix atoned for an eighth in Race 4 when they ran out winners of Race 5, holding off the attacking Quantum Racing at the finish line. Phoenix could not match the precision and speed of Quantum Racing's perfect pin end start in the second race and while Terry Hutchinson drove Quantum Racing to a substantial early lead, able to cross the fleet to round the top mark with nearly 80 metres in hand, Phoenix could only get round in seventh. That they pulled back to fourth means it is the South African team steered by Tony Norris which is, again, Sled's biggest threat.
Cowie, Sled's mainsheet trimmer looked pleased with the progress they have show here so far after a sixth in Baiona and fifth at the Rolex TP52 World Championship in Cascais last month,
"We are having a good event. After the first two events this season we had to make some changes and we are seeing the rewards. The boat is going well, Mr Okura is doing a good job and so is the afterguard. We have a few changes in the set up. We have new sails which we have worked on the designs on which we have new at this venue which we know is normally a bit like this. Everybody loves it here. I think we had two nice starts, quite conservative, but got good lanes out to the left and Murray and Francesco picked a nice time to tack over and stay out of the fight going on to the left and then we came round the top mark in good shape. We did a nice simultaneous gybe with them, a little old school match racing, and obviously Francesco and Murray are good at that, and we just go them with a committee boat favoured end finish."
Unfortunately overnight leaders Interlodge came unstuck in the first race to post a ninth but the Fragomens' crew which is being led this week by Cameron Appleton, were back on it in the next race to take third. When Quantum and Sled were momentarily engaged in their match race to the line, Interlodge sprinted down the middle of the final third of the second run and very nearly snatched the win from under the noses of the two race leaders. Sled's margin was reported to be one second, with Interlodge making up over 100 metres to finish five seconds behind Sled.
Phoenix's Tom Slingsby is readying the team for the final push, pleased to be in the mix again.
"We are in the hunt and that is what matters. We had a good day, Sled had a good day and Interlodge came back strong and so the points are tight. We are happy. The second race could have gone better. We were down the pin end with Quantum Racing and they got away and were able to tack and cross and we couldn't and got pinned out past layline. But from then on we did really well. We could very easily have been last around the top mark I think we were still second or third last but we gained boats on each leg and got a fourth. It is so hard to overtake out there, especially being one of the top boats as everyone has their eye on you and want to make sure they tack on you. But you end up hoping other boats make mistakes and engage in battles with one another to sneak up on them. We are not flying past people with boatspeed or anything. It has been making a few less mistakes, not overlaying the marks and so on, but just chipping away."
Quantum Racing's tactician Lucas Calabrese seemed relieved their results are on the up,
"We keep learning from the mistakes, from the details, because in TP52 every boat has its little detail in the different conditions. It's a learning process. As a tactician I have to talk a lot more and I'm loosening up; always with a lot of respect for Terry, Michele and everyone on the boat. Today I felt much looser. Let's keep going down that road."
Standings after six races,
1 SLED (USA), Takashi Okura, 2,2,4,4,3,1 16pts
2 PHOENIX (RSA), Hasso & Tina Plattner, 1,3,1,8,1,4 18pts
3 INTERLODGE (USA), Austin & Gwen Fragomen, 4,1,3,3,9,3 23pts
4 QUANTUM RACING (USA), Doug DeVos 8,6,7,2,2,2 27pts
5 PLATOON (GER), Harm Müller Spreer 5,4,8,1,5,7 30 pts
6 PROVEZZA (TUR), Ergin Imre, 3,8,5,5,4,5 30 pts
7 ALEGRE (GBR), Andy Soriano, 6,7,2,7,7,8 37 pts
8 GLADIATOR (GBR), Tony Langley, 7,5,6,9,6,9 42 pts
9 VAYU (THAI), Family Whitcraft, 9,9,9,6,8,6 47pts