52 Super Series: Sled triumph

Takashi Okura’s Sled team were crowned winners of the first regatta of the 2021 season, the 52 SUPER SERIES Puerto Portals Sailing Week, after conflicting breezes on the Bay of Palma meant no racing could be held on the final day.

Sled triumph by just one single point at an event which saw five different teams win races and only six points separate the top six boats after six races were sailed.

In six boat 20th Anniversary Invitational fleet, racing under IRC, the victors were the Beau Geste of Hong Kong’s Karl Kwok who has a long and proud history with the TP52 class, dating right back to the origins of the class on the Transpac race. Sadly neither owner could be in Puerto Portals to compete.

As a celebration of the longevity and ongoing success of the TP52 class, both since it grew out of the Transpac Race and since it was adopted by the Mediterranean Fleet in 2004, the regatta was a great success, drawing 16 boats to race – nine in the 52 SUPER SERIES and six in the invitational division.

The highlight of the week in terms of sheer spectacle was Friday’s 20th Anniversary racing day when the fleet combined for two great races. But for the 52 SUPER SERIES it was a stark reminder of how close and evenly matched these ultra-refined these grand prix monohulls are, and how extremely close the racing is.

Sled showed flashes of the speed and form which saw them whitewash the last regatta of 2019, a breezy finale in Porto Cervo.

Aerial shot of the fleet sailing downwind with spinnakers.
Overall, only six points separated the top six boats. Pic – Nico Martinez

New faces on board, amidst a hugely experienced team included Finn Gold Cup and America’s Cup winner, Josh Junior with six times America’s Cup winner Murray Jones moving from the strategist’s role to steering.

Sled were the only team to win two races but – in this white hot fleet – no team this time were able to avoid the big scores and Sled also posted two sevenths in the nine boat fleet. Correspondingly on Thursday, when there were three races sailed, Quantum Racing weighed down their overall results, with a sixth, seventh and fifth place.  

Don Cowie, mainsheet trimmer and project manager of the winning boat grinned, “Well this is our first win of the season obviously and only our second in seven or eight years and so we are delighted. For us as a team it is a great result. It is a shame Mr Okura’s not here to enjoy winning but we know he’s been back in Japan watching every step of the way so it’s a great win for the team.

“I think we are all a tight unit, Murray and Adam Beashel and Jeremy Lomas, and Josh Junior did a really nice job on the race track. Unfortunately we didn’t get any racing today which made it a little bit easier. We knew the pressure was on today because the points are so close. Anything could have happened but we’re very happy to come away with the win. It was great to win in 2019, we had an edge there, but everyone has moved on.  everyone has done something to their boats and the racing is still fantastic.”

The fleet sailing upwind, led by Quantum Racing.
Quantum Racing came second overall. Pic – Nico Martinez

Quantum Racing’s tactician said, ”Obviously we came to win the event. But we did a little bit too much damage to ourselves on Day 3. We got a lot better after that day. Hat’s off to Sled, they sailed well. That three race day was a tricky day and they stringed together three good races and did what they had to do. But we look to the long game. You like to win all the battles but at the same time we have our sights set on the overall  title and the world championships.

“This is a great baseline event for us because we haven’t sailed together really since the 2018 season. But we want to be better. The fleet is really close, really really even. It’s impressive to see how the boats are evolving. When I stopped sailing this boat in 2018 I felt like we had a really good speed advantage especially in the breeze and you see all the fleet coming very close to the same spot.

“The Vrolijk boats still hold an edge in very specific conditions, 12-13 knots in the flat water they’re very nice. And I think our boat is a good all round boat. But you can never blame your equipment so from there it feel’s like the fleet has all gravitated towards the same spot.”

Phoenix sailing upwind
Australia’s Tom Slingsby, was the tactician for Phoenix. Pic – Nico Martinez

In the 20th Anniversary Invitational fleet Beau Geste, with Kenny Read steering, were unbeaten.

A collision with another boat during the big fleet start of the first race of the 20th Anniversary regatta day knocked them out of contention for the day’s prizes. They were granted redress and topped the leaderboard comfortably. Tactician and project manager Gavin Brady was effusive in his praise for the event and in his thanks to Mr Kwok for ensuring his boat raced and supported the class which is dear to his heart.

Brady said, “This was a really fun week for us. It was a real privilege to be invited to this anniversary event. We didn’t plan on sailing this year but when this opportunity came, Karl Kwok thought it was important to be here. He was one of the founding members of the class.

“We did our first Transpac together, I think we were Transpac 52 number 5 so it’s been a big part of the journey for us with the Beau Gestes, Karl’s had a number of TP52’s, some for offshore and some for inshore so it’s really neat to be here, hopefully we’ll be here for the 30th anniversary in 10 years time.”

For the full results, see: https://www.52superseries.com/events/2021/eu/puerto-portals-52-super-series-sailing-week-tp52-20th-anniversary-invitational/

Pantaenius Sailing
Windcraft
Jeanneau Sun Fast
West System 3
M.O.S.S Australia
Jeanneau Sun Odyssey
West System Afloat