The reigning 52 SUPER SERIES champions, Harm Müller-Spreer’s German flagged crew, start their title defence on Sunday on Majorca’s Bay of Palma by getting to know as quickly as possible the fine details of what could make their brand new boat, Platoon Aviation, another winner.  

Their new TP52, a hull sistership to the Botin designed Alegre, was only launched at the start of this month and the crew so far have had just one week of trials and training – on their own out of Valencia – before a final few days this week lining up against the mustering fleet of TP52s which are set to start racing on Sunday when 52 SUPER SERIES Palma Vela Sailing Week starts the five regatta season which next takes the fleet to Newport Rhode Island for two events in June and July.

Whilst they are all relishing the task ahead of them and loving the prospect of unfolding the expected step up in performance which should fill in any perceived weaknesses of their previous Platoon, neither the icy cool owner-driver Harm Müller-Spreer nor the tightly knit, international team are particularly phased by the lack of time they have had with their shiny new machine, one  which has an equally distinctive but subtler livery to the 2018 launched Vrolijk designed Platoon.

“We are going into this confident in ourselves and the boat, hoping we have made the right choices, but We will face it with a new boat confident and hopeful that we have made the right choices, but we start the season humble and ready to work hard and smart. We need to have last leave last season’s titles behind us and focus on every race this year. Medals and titles do not turn the handles and make good decisions, or help us win regattas this season. That is down to us and how we sail, new boat or not.”

Contends Platoon Aviation’s bubbly Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto.

“In most respects we cannot better last season after winning the circuit and the World Championships, but having a new boat is another step forwards in design and performance and I like that we help lead the way with that. A new design should deliver what we are looking for and ask for and that is important. But while we cannot top last season we can sail better than we did and we have a great crew who are up to the task.”

Said three times TP52 world champion owner-driver Müller-Spreer.

Same team, same winning recipe?

Keeping the same solid team line up year on year has underpinned Platoon’s successes – though the owner has never fought shy of making what he has seen as a key, fundamental change like bringing in three times circuit champion Vascotto two years ago – and for their 2024 circuit title defence the crew is exactly as that which won the 2023 season on tie break on the last day of the year.

New Zealand’s double America’s Cup winner, trimmer Ross Halcrow emphasizes,

The new boat has felt good from the off, like the rudder angles were good. With this boat we have a performance gain in maybe nine knots of breeze and above, we have a bit more performance on the numbers we have compared to the old boat. That’s the theory but we will see how that compares on the race course.”

He is keen to line up as soon as possible,

“It will be fun because we won’t have much time to learn the boat and there are so many good boats up to speed, it is up to us to learn as fast as we can. But I am sure we are up to it as a team, it is all part of the game. Ours is slightly different, the hull mould is the same as Alegre but we changed the deck layout to widen the cockpit more as we like our winches a little more outboard for the cross-sheeting and the vision of the helmsman. We modified that a little. We have modified some of the controls. But I don’t think it is too much of a challenge. I think we will learn the boat quite fast and as ever it is more about how we sail it. We have to figure out this boat’s strengths and use them. But probably more than that we need to minimise the mistakes and minimise the penalties. Previous seasons have come down to a few points. That is the biggest thing we have to work on.”

Platoon Aviation’s strategist Palma-based Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup winner, Spain’s Jordi Calafat says,

We need to learn how to race the boat well and that to a certain extent will dictate our season to a certain extent, to learn the good things, the bad things, how to mode the boat for different conditions. It is a very different animal for surem when you look at volume distribution but it is impossible to see how it will be until you line up against other boats to learn. There is a lot of work to do in terms of calibration.”

Questions, questions?

Calafat continues,

“The boat is a little bit more sophisticated than the old boat but really the differences are so small. It is hard to tell. We especially need to know where we can position the boat relative to the others. For sure there will be differences. And we have to remember the old boats, the Vrolijks were fantastic boats, first and second last season, so we maybe have some work to do to get to that level with the new boat. But the more you race the more you learn. There are a few places to start learning from. You look at the starts, what is the lowest speed you can still manoeuvre and build speed from? How long it takes to build the speed at the beginning off the line? Then, how you can survive in difficult tight lanes And then in open water what is the best way to sail the boat. These are probably the three key things to start with.”

But can they win the season and can they win regattas?
Calafat responds typically enigmatically….

“When you go racing there is always the chance to win again but there is a much bigger chance you will lose. And so you have to do all you can to reduce the chances of losing. It is such a different season with two events in the USA that really breaks up the season, racing in Newport RI where we have not raced together before, a place most of us don’t know so well. Or it is a while since we sailed there. For us there are a few critical things, like I say, where we position the boat relative to the fleet, and then we will need to work at the lower windspeeds as the old boat was very powerful in those conditions, so these two things will dictate the season for us.” 

And he is looking forwards to the USA to waters new to the 52 SUPER SERIES

“I sailed in Newport a lot especially when I was there with American Magic, but it has been a while.”

Says the Spanish ace,

“And the conditions can be so very different at the same regatta, you can get a front and it will be super windy with rain, it can be light and overall quite unpredictable, and so for the season very different to when we sail in Saint Tropez, Palma, Menorca, Valencia where we know so well, so it is a new challenge, new venues. I like racing close to home (laughs) but it is good to have some new challenges, we have a great team and so I am sure we will be fine.”

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