Day of reckoning in 52 Super Series

Menorca: After a thrilling two race day at the Menorca 52 Super Series Sailing Week when none of the top three title challengers could maintain a decisive high level of consistency, Azzurra carries a seven point lead into the final day of the season.

But for the first time in the history of the Series, the destination of the overall season’s title remains truly open, to be decided on the last day of the season.

In the hard-to-read, light easterly breezes, the Italian-Argentine crew skippered by Guillermo Parada with fiery tactician, Vasco Vascotto, were forced to stage yet another fight back from very deep in the first race, but then steadied the ship with an excellent second place in the second contest to take the initiative into the final day of the season.

Azzurra’s lead over Harm Müller-Spreer’s German-flagged Platoon is seven points, four more than she arrived in Mahón with, and 11 over defending 2016 champions, Quantum Racing.

Were they racing on any of their truly favourite, more predictable race arenas of the five venues that the 52 Super Series has already visited this season then Azzurra’s crew, in particular, might really fancy their chances of securing the title for the first time since 2015.

Azzurra’s Mariano Parada smiled: “We knew since pretty early in the year it was going to be a very tough season and everything was going to come to the last day – and here it is, happening. It’s great for the series and it’s great for the season. It’s the first time that the result is resting on the last day, so that’s great and we’re looking forward to it.

“Tomorrow we can’t control both boats, we’ll go race the first race as normal, play the shifts, look at the wind as we have the whole season, and then start making plans for the last race.”

But the Menorca race arena has proven extremely challenging and open, and today, again, there were telling comebacks from deep in the pack down the last run, which effectively wiped out hard-earned gains.

Quantum Racing went from fifth to ninth down the last run of the second race, four points painfully shed through no significant error on her part.

Quantum Racing’s Terry Hutchinson said: “Tomorrow’s game plan is to win the regatta, and let the chips fall where they’re going to. It’s not an easy race course, very, very tricky out there, there are big gains and losses and it’s frustrating, but the goal for tomorrow is to finish the season how we started it, with a regatta win.”

This late in September, there is less of a heating effect than during high summer, the island is notably smaller than neighbouring Mallorca, and also there is no mountainous terrain to cool the air and set up a thermal circulation. So the light breezes and big sloppy swell have proven especially tough on the pursuit of consistency.

Quantum Racing looked for all the world to have built an almost ominous momentum. After two second places yesterday, she won the first race of the day when Azzurra could only make sixth, and Platoon fourth. However, it was that second race finish, her worst of the regatta, which hurts the crew most.

And Platoon pushed forward over the start line early and had to re-cross at the second start. Tenth at the top mark, John Kostecki and Jordi Calafat rescued a sixth, but now need to push their risk-reward equation harder than ever on the final day if owner-driver Müller-Spreer is to become the first, other than Quantum Racing and Azzurra, to win the 52 Super Series title.

Platoon’s Jordi Calafat was playing down the last day showdown: “To be honest, we don’t have much pressure. We have the pressure that we put on ourselves, but for the first time ever, someone else other than Quantum and Azzurra is in the mix for the overall season.

“I think Azzurra has enough points ahead, it’s just how the crew are going to approach it between these two boats. Harm and JK are pretty relaxed about how we’re sailing the boat, but ultimately we’re going to take it if there is something to take.”

He adds: “I think light air upwind was our weakness the whole season; it’s pretty hard for us to keep a lane after the start. Our strong point is downwind speed. We’re rounding the top mark always eighth, and maybe it’s a bit easy if you are behind to overtake boats.

“Once the days go on, the wind gets wishy-washy and there’s a lot of opportunities, and if you are behind, maybe you sail a little bit loose, take a bit more risk, and that’s happened a couple of races here.”

So while both Quantum Racing and Platoon scored ten-point aggregates, it was a red letter day for the French on Paprec Recyclage. With 470 Olympian Jérémie Mion calling tactics, Paprec went 5,3 for the day, their best ever on the circuit.

Regatta standings after four days
1. Azzurra (Roemmers Family, ITA/ARG) (1,4,6,3,6,2) 22 p.
2. Gladiator (Tony Langley, GBR) (2,3,7,4,2,4) 22 p.
3. Quantum Racing (Doug DeVos, USA), (4,7,2,2,1,9) 25 p.
4. Platoon (Harm Müller-Spreer, GER), (6,2,1,6,4,6) 25 p.
5. Bronenosec (Vladimir Liubomirov, RUS), (9,1,5,1,10,1) 27 p.
6. Provezza (Ergin Imre, TUR) (5,6,3,7,11,5) 37 p.
7. Paprec Recyclage (Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, FRA) (8,9,4,9,5,3) 38 p.
8. Sled (Takashi Okura, USA), (3,8,8,10,3,10) 42 p.
9. Rán Racing (Niklas Zennström, SWE), (7,10,9,8,8,8) 50 p.
10. Alegre (Andrés Soriano GBR/USA) (10,11,UFD12,5,7,7) 52 p.
11. Sorcha (Peter Harrison GBR) (11,5,10,11,9,11) 57 p.

Overall Season Standings:
1 Azzurra 192 p
2 Platoon 199 p.
3 Quantum Racing 203 p.
4 Provezza 240.3 p.
5 Bronenosec 260 p.

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