(Wednesday 18th January, Key West) – At Quantum Key West Race Week Wednesday is known as “moving day”. It is, in the middle of a regatta, a pivotal stage, when consistency starts to show, the cream rises to the top, and a real insight into the possible hierarchy at the end of the week is gained.
After three races today for the white-hot 52 SUPER SERIES fleet, three boats sit at the top of the 11-boat fleet with just one point separating them. Harm Müller-Spreer’s Platoon are credited with the lead, but only by virtue of the tie break.
Azzurra, winners of the last regatta in 2016, now share the lead thanks to a solid 2,6,4 today, while Ergin Imre’s crew of Provezza – the day’s ‘climbers’ – are now third overall. With Peter Holmberg steering and Tony Rey on tactics, Provezza have notched up three second places in the last six races, finishing no worse than fifth today.
After seven races, five different boats have now won races. Today Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s new Interlodge posted back-to-back wins, their first ever with a boat that was only really trialled and tested for the first time in December.
In contrast, but no less welcome or deserved, a race victory on the 52 SUPER SERIES circuit has been rather longer in coming for Jean-Luc Petithuguenin’s French Paprec crew, who won Race 7, leading from gun to gun and meriting a champagne celebration back at the dock!
The gaps at the top of the table are small. With three scheduled races still to go, the four-point buffer between Provezza and Niklas Zennström’s Rán Racing may seem significant, but waiting patiently are top teams like Quantum Racing, Bronenosec and Sled poised behind them, all still hold strong hopes of finishing on the podium.
The 2016 champions Quantum Racing actually had one of their highest scoring days for a long time, going 8,7,9, but are still just eight points off the lead, tactician Terry Hutchinson observing wryly:
“That’s not nearly as bad as it should be. That’s the beauty of the team, we’ll get up tomorrow, it’ll be a new day and we’ll come out ready for another street fight. We just got to have the mental toughness and the trust to do that properly.”
Race 5: Interlodge Scores First Win With New Boat
With the wind down a bit from the first two days, and the sea state as well, the pressure was squarely on the tacticians and strategists.
The teams spread out along the line, each looking for a good lane to launch up the track. Interlodge charged off the pin, with Azzurra closely to windward. Those two, along with Bronenosec bit hard into the left side while the rest of the fleet worked the middle and the right. The left proved good with Interlodge rounding first and Azzurra five lengths behind. Azzurra kept the pressure on throughout the race but Interlodge, led by helmsman Ian Walker and tactician Andy Horton, proved equal to the task, earning their first win of the regatta and the boat’s maiden win.
Azzurra was a close second with Rán Racing third and Provezza fourth. After doing a penalty at the leeward mark and so finding themselves in last place, Quantum Racing ground back to eighth, saving a few crucial points.
Race 6: Interlodge Strikes Again
When you’re good, you’re good. Interlodge wasted no time in getting a second win on their scorecard. For the first time in this regatta a large group of boats battled for the committee boat end of the line. Brononesec emerged from that scrum unscathed, Azzurra and Platoon took advantage of the space down by the pin to accelerate cleanly at pace and make a beeline for the left corner. Initially this appeared to be the best call, but it was a case of too much of a good thing as the wind shifted so far to the left that Sled, Azzurra and Platoon were all quite overstood.
Interlodge, who had started toward the middle of the line and played the leg more conservatively was able to close on the front group and round as part of the leading foursome.
Bronenosec squirted into the lead at mark one, followed closely by Interlodge. At the second windward mark those two boats were overlapped.
Bronenosec blinked first, gybing away shortly after the rounding. It was a decision the Russian boat would come to regret as Interlodge sailed to a comfortable win, and Platoon – who finished 10th in the first race of Day 3 – was able to right ship somewhat with a second.
Race 7: Allez les Bleus
While the breeze continued to fade, the race committee decided there was enough left to run a third race, especially with a forecast for weak winds for Day 4. As the boats neared the line, the wind dropped to its lowest point in the regatta, putting a premium on positioning and the speed build.
Among those with a strong start was the all-French team on Paprec and Provezza.
It proved perhaps the most competitive beat of the regatta with the lead changing hands often and rarely stretching to more than a boat length.
Bronenosec with Morgan Larson calling tactics struggled all leg to find a lane, but had a masterful top quarter of the beat, moving up to third and rounding just inside of Interlodge.
The leeward mark, however, proved the undoing for the Russian boat as they were whistled for a foul and forced to do a circle. Platoon, likewise struggled around the mark, but Harm Müller-Spreer’s team rebounded nicely on the next beat to put themselves back into the top half of the fleet.
Paprec hung on for their first win in a 52 SUPER SERIES race, while Provezza moved to within a point of the lead by finishing second. Sled claimed third and Azzurra continued their consistent regatta with a fourth, which was good enough to put the Italian/Argentine team into a tie for first with Platoon.
52 SUPER SERIES
2017 Quantum Key West Race Week standings after seven races.
1. Platoon (Harm Müller-Spreer, GER), (1,1,6,6, 10,2,5) 31 pts.
2. Azzurra (Alberto and Pablo Roemmers, ITA/ARG), (6,2,3,8,2,6,4) 31 pts.
3. Provezza (Ergin Imre, TUR) (8,9,2,2,4,5,2) 32 pts.
4. Rán Racing (Niklas Zennström, SWE), (4,6,9,4,3,4,6) 36 pts.
5. Interlodge (Austin Fragomen, USA) (5,8,11,5,1,1,8) 39 pts
6. Quantum Racing (Doug DeVos, USA), (3,7,4,1,8,7,9) 39 pts.
7. Bronenosec (Vladimir Liubomirov, RUS), (7,4,5,3,7,3,11) 40 pts.
8. Sled (Takashi Okura, USA), (2,5,8,11,6,11,3) 46 pts.
9. Gladiator (Tony Langley, GBR) (10,10,1,9,5,9,7) 51 pts.
10. Paprec Recyclage (Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, FRA) (9,11,10,7,11,8,1) 57 pts.
11. Alegre (Andrés Soriano GBR/USA) (11,3,7,10,9,10,10) 60 pts.
Peter Holmberg (USVI) helm Provezza (TUR):
“I can count the two points we lost today (laughs) but I said today when we were going out that this is a big day and we want to come out if it feeling alright. It was a big day and we did well and now we are in the top half and that is good.
It is a light air, and today was my first taste of it with this boat. I was happy with it, the boat felt good. I think they have to be very careful telling me what to expect. I don’t want to know. I want to feel the boat for what it is, a boat. I think we can lock into preconceptions of what are slow or fast boats. I don’t look at the instruments very often. I feel it like it is a little Finn dinghy.”
Vasco Vascotto (ITA) tactician Azzurra (ITA/ARG):
“I think we can come away from today saying this is the best class in the world. Everybody can win races. And the bad thing is that from my point of view the tactician’s job is getting harder all the time because of that. We need to be happy to be leading after more than half of the championship. We are good enough to stay in this fleet and if we sail like this we can hope for a good result at the end of the season.”
Ian Walker (GBR) helmsman Interlodge (USA):
“It has been a while since I steered a TP52 and I have never steered one with a tiller before, but we are getting better. We have made nearly all good starts. All but one start has been clean but for the one penalty, but that is my main job, getting off the line. But we have good people and they are looking after me well. The starts are tight. And it is interesting having been tactician in the fleet last year and suddenly now you have the tiller in your hand and you have no excuse. You think you know it all when you are not doing it, then here you have to do it and the buck stops with you.”
Morgan Larson (USA), tactician, Bronenosec (RUS):
“As the coaches said, every race we’ve done one thing to shoot ourselves in the foot. That’s a lot of points. Every time it was six points. The speed team is doing a great job up and we’re placing the boat in the right spots, we just have to figure out how to convert that on the runs. I don’t think it was necessarily a speed situation but just we didn’t position ourselves to be able to take advantage of it. I was maybe a little reactive in one of those runs so I overcompensated on that final run and coughed up a couple of points.
We actually made a gain out of it, it’s just that I was a little conservative and took the gain instead of going all the way to layline. If we’d gone all the way it would’ve been great. It’s learning how to take your gins and when to lay it out there.
There was that [wind going from underpowering to overpowering conditions]. It was kind of a cell-y, shear-y day. It was a challenge for everybody and I think we’ll see more of that tomorrow.”
Terry Hutchinson (USA), tactician, Quantum Racing (USA):
“I think the mistake would be to not rehash it. You generally learn the most when you get your teeth kicked in. And that happened today in a big way.
In the last race we got a great start, not great start but a good enough start, and basically poor tactics, poor decision-making. And that’s no more complicated than looking in the mirror. Everybody out there is very good and each decision and each time you tack the boat there’s a component of uncertainty and I just, in the very short sharp world of making good and bad decisions I just have to trust my instincts a little more.
I look at each race individually and make sure I can identify in each race where we made mistakes. That’s the most important thing in the world of getting better. If we don’t analyse the mistakes we’ll never get better.
Most of the time you kind of know [what went wrong in a bad race]. As I said to the troops on the way in, that was a pretty low tactical standard. So plain and simple I just need to do my job better. That’s an easy thing, we can control that. It’s quite disappointing.”