Winning by the slimmest of margins, Takashi Okura and his TP52 Sled team were crowned 2021’s 52 Super Series champions and Rolex TP52 world champions Saturday in Palma, Mallorca and doing so, join Azzurra and Quantum Racing as only the third crew to have won the circuit’s top honours.
Holding a lead of one single point on both championship scoreboards, the team that won two of this season’s three regattas, had a nervous wait ashore today. This until scheduled racing had to finally be cancelled because of gale force Mistral winds on the Bay of Palma.
Theirs is a popular victory for a hugely experience team that represents the New York Yacht Club. The crew includes New Zealand veteran America’s Cup winners, Don Cowie on mainsheet and project manager and five-time America’s Cup winner Murray Jones on helm. Finn Olympic ace and more recent Cup winner Josh Junior rounded out the Kiwi component.
Sled’s overall victory was more special as the team had to overcome successive crew line-up changes imposed by travel restrictions. All of their core Japanese sailors had to miss the second regatta and substitutes found. Australian ace, Adam Beashel, called tactics for the first regatta win in Puerto Portals in August, but Italian Francesco Bruni then had to step in cold when Beashel could not travel for the second and third events.
Sadly, the passionate owner-driver could not attend this season because of a health situation, but his crew and the circuit paid a warm tribute for making sure Sled made all the start lines this season, as did others, such as the Plattner family’s Phoenix which finished fourth.
It has been the closest season yet. Five leading boats arrived in Palma last week within four points of each other and on Friday, the foreshortened three event circuit went right to the wire.
However, victory was found in the breezy final race, and meant Sled’s crew finished the series just one point ahead of four-time champions, Doug DeVos’ Quantum Racing. Third overall for the season, two points behind, was Harm Müller Spreer’s Platoon which has been overall runner-up three times.
Sled’s winning helm Murray Jones affirmed, “It was hard to sit around and wait when we really were keen to get out there and race. We like sailing in the breeze as a team. We were a bit disappointed not to go sailing but we’ll take it!”
Sled has been on the circuit since joining in January 2014 and finished on regatta podiums eight times. The crew proved a class apart at 2019’s season-ending Porto Cervo event where owner, Okura, helmed to victory and now finally breaks the Azzurra-Quantum Racing duopoly which has reigned for eight full years.
Quantum Racing finish a very close second, Doug DeVos being awarded the top owner-driver championships title.
He said, “At the end of the regatta, you always feel like you did everything you could. Everyone is going to look back and think where did we lose a point where could we have gained a point? Especially being just one point behind Sled. But they did the same thing, they had to fight for every point they got.
“You’re happy with good competition, you look at the result and think, ‘we did our best.’ To be in this class and to be competitive in this class is a thrill for me. To see the quality of all the sailors, all the owners, all the programs and to be in the mix here is a complete thrill.
“I pinch myself every day when I walk down the dock and see everybody. The commitment they have, they talent out there and the way all the teams work. The shore teams, the crews on the boats and to see the effort that goes in to be the best they can be, I’m just thrilled to be part of it. And it is great for the class to have a new winner.”
Standings after two regattas and eight races in Palma:
Sled 74, points
Quantum Racing 75pts
Platoon, 76 pts
Phoenix 79 pts
Alegre 85 pts
Bronenosec 94 pts
Provezza 110 pts
Interlodge 123 pts
Gladiator 142 pts
World Championship RCNP 2021 after eight races:
Sled (7,2,5,1,6,1,7,1) 30 pts
Quantum Racing (4,5,3,4,5,7,1,2) 31 pts
Platoon (3,3,4,8,2,2,3,6) 31pts
Phoenix (1,1,6,7,3,3,6,5) 32 pts
Alegre (5,9,1,10,1,5,8,3) 42 pts
Bronenosec Gazprom (2,8,9,2,4,8,2,8) 43 pts
Interlodge (9,4,7,5,8,6,5,9) 53 pts
Provezza (10,7,2,9,9,4,9,4) 54 pts
Gladiator (8,10,8,3,10,9,4,7) 59 pts
Code Zero (6,6,10,6,7,10,10,dnf) 66 pts