Who will take first blood in Valencia?
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, starts Tuesday 19th at Ford Vignale Valencia Sailing Week some answers to these burning questions will become evident. Meantime, the level of excitement and interest around the dock in Valencia has not been seen for many, many years at an inshore grand prix regatta. Valencia is buzzing again.
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 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 are rmed with a new competitive boat they race on level terms.
Any register of form really does default back to zero.
Additional insight is gained from today's one, adrenalin fuelled practice race. Most of all it proved there will be nothing in it. At the first top mark the fleet was overlapped, mere seconds between first and 12th. He who won the start and a lane of clear breeze did best. Getting caught a metre short on the start line at the gun and life proved much more difficult.
For the record it was Niklas Zennstrom's Swedish flagged brand new Vrolijk designed Rán which won the practice race, finishing just ahead of Jean-Luc Petituguenin's French, mainly amateur crewed Paprec, the 2011 build ex-Rán Racing. All the way through the fleet the places changed all the time.
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 maxi72 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.
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 steers 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 month 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)
Racing starts Tuesday 19th May at 1300hrs local time and runs through until Saturday 23rd with ten windward-leeward races planned. There are no discards over the five regatta season which includes the Settimana delle Bochhe, June 9th – 13th, Porto Cervo, 52 World Championship Puerto Portals 2015, July 14th – 18th, Mallorca, 34 Copa del Rey Mapfre August 4th – 8th, Mallorca, and climaxing in Portugal at the Cascais Cup September 16th – 20th, Cascais.
– 52 Super Series Media