2015 52 Super Series sets the highest level yet

 

           What will the biggest and most competitive 52 Super Series fleet of TP52s be like?

           How close will racing actually be?

           How much difference will there be between the nine new boats?

           What’s to choose between the five new Botin Partners designs and the four new Vrolijk designs?

 

 

When competition for the 2015 52 Super Series, the world’s leading grand prix monohull race circuit, begun in Valencia from 19 – 23 May at the Ford Vignale Valencia Sailing Week, some answers to these burning questions became evident.

 

Nine brand new boats and three proven, established designs represent a quite significant investment of time, money and energy for their proud, poised, expectant team owners. And it is a glowing reflection of the desire of owner-drivers to go TP52 racing.

 

For all that, it is hard to predict who might win the top prize for this five regatta 2015 circuit come September. There are many more variables than in preceding seasons. The fleet is bigger and so many new boats which are relatively unproven and unknown. It is ‘all change’ in the afterguard of the back-to-back championship winning Quantum Racing. Leading contenders Rán are only due to race two regattas this season. When there are well drilled, excellent teams which previously had an older boat, now they armed with a new competitive boat they race on level terms. Any register of form really does default back to zero.

 

New blood

Into the line up of established 52 Super Series teams, Azzurra (ITA), Gladiator (GBR), Interlodge (USA), Paprec (FRA), Provezza (TUR), Rán (SWE), Quantum Racing (USA), Xio (ITA previously Hurakan) and Sled (USA), three new, high level, successful teams make their debut in Valencia. Andy Soriano’s British flagged Alegre are past Maxi 72 world champions. Germany’s Harm Mueller Spreer is attracted back to the class because ten of the 12 boats are owner-driven. He likes to drive his own Platoon. Russia’s Vladimir Liubomirov has assembled a top crew for his Bronenosec – a sistership to the new Azzurra.

Young blood

American flagged Quantum Racing have unquestionably been the dominant team of 2013 and 2014. The core of their crew still comprise five sailors who won the America’s Cup eight years ago with Alinghi on these same racing waters off Valencia’s Malvarrosa Beach: Ed Baird (USA), Juan Vila (ESP), Warwick Fleury (NZL), Lorenzo Mazza (ITA) and Pieter van Nieuwenhuyzen (NED). This season Adrian Stead (GBR) replaces Terry Hutchinson (USA) as tactician, and owners Doug and Dalton DeVos will share the helming duties. In Valencia 22 year old Dalton DeVos steered his very first ever 52 Super Series regatta, coached by Baird. It is a new dynamic which is showing signs of settling quickly.

Hot blood – ice in his veins?

Azzurra (ITA), the Roemmers family’s team representing the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, the 2012 52 Super Series champions won the warm up Gasstra Palma Vela regatta earlier this year and are clearly quick and very well prepared. And Takashi Okura’s team which finished on the podium twice last season have a new Botin design with Canada’s ice cool double Olympic medallist Ross MacDonald calling tactics supported by Hamish Pepper (NZL) as strategist.

Setting the blood racing…

One of the reasons for the outstanding success and longevity of the class is the managed evolution of the design rule ‘box’ which has ensured the boats get quicker and more challenging with each iteration. A new generation rule comes into force this year and that has promoted the building of new faster, more exciting boats.

It is a different animal now but with the same
genes as 2005 when the TP52 was introduced to Europe. The displacement has dropped in managed stages by 500 kilos from 7500kgs to 7000kgs, lowered 200kgs from last year. Draft has gone up in steps from 3.2m to 3.5m. Mainsail area has increased from the original 91.51sq m to 98.5 sq m now with powerful square roached mains. Spinnaker area has risen progressively from 247.6 sq m to 270 sq m. Max crew weight is down from 1273kgs originally to 1130 kgs, now sailing with one or two crew less. Deflectors on backstays which add power and control to the rig are new this year. From a traditional spinnaker pole length of 7.67m to a bowsprit at 9 metres (both measured from the front of the mast)

 

 

First blood to Rán Racing at Ford Vignale Valencia Sailing Week

 

 

The first regatta of the season delivered five days of light to moderate winds, cloudless skies and the most intense racing ever experienced by the 52 Super Series circuit.

 

From the biggest and most competitive fleet yet, Niklas Zennström and the Rán Racing team drew first blood of the 2015 Super Series when they kept their focus under the weight of final day pressure.

With Zennström steering and tactician Morgan Larson and strategist Adam Beashel they achieved the required balance between proactive attack and consolidation to convert the last day’s six points margin to finish ahead of rivals Alegre, Andy Soriano’s series debutants.

Valencia’s Malvarrosa Beach race course delivered perfect conditions for the super Saturday showdown, one light sea-breeze contest in 6-8kts and a breezier finale in 14-16kts to complete a maximum possible complement of 11 races.

Rán Racing laid the foundations of their title victory when they started with three second places and a race win. Then they had to come right back on form after a wobbly three race Thursday when they added a weighty 22 points to their scorline. Showing considerable composure they made a necessary recovery in the first contest on Saturday, rising from ninth to sixth. And in the second race Rán did what they had to do, sticking close to their rivals to clinch their first regatta title since winning the TP52 World Championships in Miami in 2013.

The international team which races under Zennström’s Swedish flag finally broke their 2014 hoodoo. Since they joined the circuit in 2011 Rán have won a regatta each year until last year when they won almost all the practice races. They add to regatta titles in 2011 Barcelona in their first year on the MedCup, Palma’s Royal Cup in 2012 the first year of the 52 Super Series and the world title in 2013. But last year they were the team which won almost all the practice races, often leading regattas but never quite sealed the deal. In is particularly pleasing for the tall Swede to come out on top of this regatta which confirms the 52 Super Series, of which he is one of the founding, visionary stakeholders, to be in robust health.

Zennström said:

“It’s fantastic to win this first regatta of the year with this bigger fleet. Its been a really tough week and we have been fighting hard so we are very pleased. We had good boat speed and good starts.”

“There are 12 boats here which can win regattas, so the boat which wins this year is going to be a really good victory. All of these boats can win.”

Reflecting on the growth of the circuit he said:

“It’s amazing. In 2012 we were basically only four boats and now this is the best monohull racing in the world. We will get more and more boats and owners joining and racing at very high levels. The sailing this week has been amazing. It is such a good fleet.”

Alegre, Andy Soriano’s programme, proved they have all the talent and hardware to win on the 52 Super Series. They lead after Thursday but then had their own bogey day Friday with an eighth and ninth. With tactician John Kostecki and strategist Kelvin Harrap placing the boat consistently well and no shortage of speed across the wind range, they highlight themselves as 52 Super Series overall contenders.

Soriano concluded:

“I never thought that we would be in second position in this regatta and that we would win the first race of the 52 Super Series. I would be crazy to have thought that. I think we did a good job in the pre-season. We had a very good practice at PalmaVela where we competed with some good teams and gathered valuable information. Finally we had five days hard practice in Valencia before this regatta.”

“We only really made one mistake it was the fourth day because we weren’t fully focused and when you do something wrong in this fleet it is very expensive.”

The level of racing proved to be above and beyond most expectations. Runners up overall in 2014 Azzurra took time to get firing on all cylinders, finding tiny early mistakes too costly. But on the final day, the team of the Roemmers family which sails for the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda finished on the perfect note on which to head to the next regatta on their own Costa Smeralda home waters. Two magic
al back to back wins brought the biggest smiles back to the Azzurra camp, proving they too are finding their mojo.

Race wins were shared among the top five finishers. Rán Racing, Alegre, Sled and Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec all won two apiece while Azzurra’s tally included three wins.

Takashi Okura’s quiet consistency on Sled sees them finish in third place, Azzurra finished just one point behind in fourth, tied on 54 points with hull sistership Bronenosec.

Ross MacDonald (CAN) tactician Sled (USA): “We’re ecstatic. The goal was to be in the game. We have a whole list of things we need to work on as I’m sure do the other teams but we are already looking forward to the next event and addressing those and seeing how we go.

As predicted there is very, very little speed differences between the nine newly built and launched TP52s all from the design offices of Botin Partners and Judel/Vrolijk. Rán Racing is from the Vrolijk office, Alegre and third placed Sled from the Spanish Botin team.

A strong fleet is expected for the next regatta of the 2015 season on the Costa Smeralda in mid June, then the fleet head to Palma de Mallorca for two regattas, the World Championship in July and Copa del Rey in August.

Live coverage of these regattas in real time is broadcast daily on www.52superseries.com.

 

Overall Results:

1. Rán Racing, SWE (Niklas Zennström SWE) (2,1,2,2,10,5,7,4,1,6,5) 45pts

2. Alegre, GBR (Andre Soriano USA) (1,3,1,5,2,9,2,8,9,5,3) 48pts

3. Sled, USA (Takashi Okura JPN) (7,11,3,3,3,1,11,1,3,3,7) 53pts

4. Azzurra, ITA (Pablo/Alberto Roemmers ARG) (6,5,5,9,1,8,5,5,8,1,1) 54pts

5. Bronenosec, RUS (Vladimir Liubomirov RUS) (8,6,6,1,9,6,1,6,5,4,2) 54pts

6. Quantum Racing, USA (Dalton DeVos USA) (4,7,8,6,6,11,3,3,10,2,8) 68pts

7. Platoon, GER (Harm Müller-Spreer GER) (3,8,11,4,7,2,12,7,7,10,4) 75pts

8. Provezza, TUR (Ergin Imre TUR) (5,2,7,8,8,7,6,12,2,7,12) 76pts

9. Interlodge, USA (Austin/Gwen Fragoman USA)(10,4,4,10,11,12,4,2,4,12,6) 79pts

10. Paprec FRA (Jean-Luc Petithuguenin FRA) (9,10,12,12,4,3,9,11,12,9,10) 101pts

11. Gladiator, GBR (Tony Langley GBR) (11,9,9,7,12,4,10,10,11,8,11) 102pts

12. Xio, ITA (Guiseppe Parodi ITA) (12,12,10,11,5,10,8,9,6,11,9) 103pts

 

By Jonny Fullerton, Grand Prix Sailing

 

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