(Tuesday 22nd May 2018, Sibenik) – Sibenik on the stunning Adriatic coast of Croatia is set to see the first points-scoring skirmish of what promises to be a long, close and hard-fought 2018 52 SUPER SERIES season that will span five regattas between now and its conclusion in September in Valencia.
Big Wednesday should quickly tell which of the nine new build boats are best set up and best known to their teams – who is fast, who is smart.
As well as the challenge of learning the new boats, there is the challenge of profiting fastest on a ‘white sheet of paper’, a new venue where the TP52 fleet has never raced before.
The official practice race on Tuesday has proved that, as predicted, there is little separating the 12-boat fleet from eight different nations. The 2018 fleet includes three new teams, Hasso and Tina Plattner’s Phoenix; Onda, the new all Brazilian team of Eduardo de Souza Ramos with five times Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt as tactician; and Prada backed Luna Rossa; and two teams that are set to challenge for the 36th America’s Cup, Quantum Racing, which is a key part of the American Magic team, and Luna Rossa.
If there is any murmur of consensus on the race dock at the historic town’s D-Marin Marina, it is that the 52 SUPER SERIES champions Azzurra have prepared to a high level and to an exacting schedule, and are therefore in the best shape. They proved that by winning the pre-season PalmaVela warm up regatta, and, by all accounts, would have won today’s practice race had they not bowed to their usual superstition and not taken the finish line.
Nacho Postigo, navigator on Provezza, MedCup co-founder, long time TP52 fan and aficionado, observes:
“I have seen that Azzurra are very strong, not only because of their winning in Palma, but also how they have been sailing over the past few days. We have been doing some lineups with them and they are fast, and smart.”
“I think they already know their boat very well, they have had the same team, for many, many years – except for their new tactician in Santi Lange – and they do a very good job in terms of setting up the boat. They go fast, but they also make very very good decisions. Their previous tactician Vasco Vascotto is a genius, but Santi Lange is another one, so they have just replaced one genius with another!”
As the need to perform on Day 1 comes to a head, Argentina’s Olympic champion Lange, the new Azzurra tactician, relishes the pressure:
“I would call it more than pressure it’s a responsibility. Azzurra is a great team, and I am new to the team, so I have to perform. But that’s really motivating, and it’s a nice challenge, so I’m up for it for sure.
The first days are important. I think that the level is too high to think that just because you are fast today, you will be fast for the whole season. It’s about whoever can learn the fastest, and whoever can keep learning and keep their feet on the ground is the big difference.”
Three times 52 SUPER SERIES champions Quantum Racing are visibly coming to the boil as the season starts, as are World Champions and series runners-up Platoon, both of which are part of the three-boat Quantum Sails powered team that now includes Onda. Quantum Racing’s Dean Barker explains:
“We are pretty solid. Nothing changes much over the season in that every day is important and you need to make sure you don’t give away the season on the first event. We have talked a lot about last year, when Terry considers a few opportunities slipped away at the first event, and that made it difficult at the end of the season. We don’t need to king-hit this event, we need a good solid start. Right now the quest is to get consistent when everyone is learning the new boats. The fleet will get better through the year and we just need to make sure we are at the front end of that.”
The Luna Rossa team is knee deep in the best of Italian talent, three battle-hardened musketeers form an afterguard comprising helm Francesco Bruni, tactician Vasco Vascotto and ice cool navigator Francesco Mongelli. But theirs was the last of the nine new boats to be commissioned and completed, and so they are playing catch up a little.
Helmsman Bruni, of the emblematic Prada crew, notes:
“It is coming together nicely now. We are learning every day. Hopefully the learning curve will be quick and we can be near the top of the fleet soon.”
Postigo underlines the welcome test that a brand new venue brings:
“It’s a blank sheet for everybody, because no one has sailed here before. You saw that today in today’s practice race where half of the fleet went one way, and the other half went the other way. It’s exciting for us because there are plenty of opportunities. It doesn’t look like a super strong one-sided course.
There are three race tracks. They are surrounded by small islands, and they are relatively far away from the main land, so there are no major effects from the mainland, so that will keep it very open and make it very interesting.”
Two Windward-Leeward Races are scheduled for Wednesday with the forecast suggesting an unsettled, thundery day with some rain probable. The scheduled start time is 12:00 CEST.
Francesco Bruni (ITA) helm Luna Rossa (ITA):
“This is an America’s Cup team and we are using this tool to build a better understanding between all the team members to meld the team and make it work well, the shore team, the sailing team. The boat is not similar to the new Cup class but this is the highest level of sailing you can have. It is good exercise for an America’s Cup. We have the newest boat in the fleet, probably now only one week old, so we are learning every day. Hopefully the learning curve will be quick and we can be near the top of the fleet soon.”
Dean Barker (NZL) helm Quantum Racing (USA):
“We are getting there. We have made some big steps since PalmaVela, when we really were finding our way, so we have made a good step on in performance especially upwind. There is still room for improvements. There is very little separating the fleet. I have raced with Terry a lot and now we have had the benefit of racing the Flicker and the Congressional Cups to get the comms going again, we work well and balance each other. We are pretty solid. Nothing changes much over the season, every day is important and you need to make sure you don’t give away the season on the first event. Terry talked a lot about last year and letting a few opportunities slip away at the first event and that made it difficult at the end of the season. We don’t need to king-hit this event, we need a good solid start. It is very different to be back in this style of racing, really great. You feel like you have to win every metre out there. I am really enjoying it, the boats are really great and the Quantum Racing team are a great group to be with. And right now you could throw a blanket over the fleet. I think everyone is going well. Right now the quest is to get consistent when everyone is learning the new boats. The fleet will get better through the year and we just need to make sure we are at the front end of that. It is going to be great.”
Sibenik 52 SUPER SERIES Sailing Week
Wednesday 23rd May: WL Races from 12:00.
Thursday 24th May: Coastal Race from 12:00.
Friday 25th May: WL Races from 12:00.
Saturday 26th May: WL Races from 12:00.
Sunday 27th May: WL Races from 12:00 and prize giving ceremony shortly after.
Entries for Sibenik
Alegre – Andy Soriano (USA/GBR), 2018 Botin
Azzurra – Alberto Roemmers (ARG/ITA), 2018 Botin
Gladiator – Tony Langley (GBR), 2016 Botin
Luna Rossa – Patrizio Bertelli (ITA), 2018 Botin
Onda – Eduardo de Souza Ramos (BRA), 2018 Botin
Paprec Recyclage – Jean Luc Petithuguenin (FRA), 2015 Vrolijk
Phoenix – Hasso/Tina Plattner (RSA), 2018 Botin
Platoon – Harm Müller-Spreer (GER), 2018 Vrolijk
Provezza – Ergin Imre (TUR), 2018 Vrolijk
Quantum Racing – Racing Doug DeVos (USA), 2018 Botin
Sled – Takashi Okura (USA), 2018 Botin
XIO Hurakan – Marco Serafini (ITA), 2013 Botin
Photo: ©Zerogradinord / Azzurra