There are still 15 weeks until the first start gun is fired off the Tuscan coast to open the 2016 52 Super Series but many of the top teams are ramping up their preparations imminently to ensure they are ready to unleash their optimum performance from day one, race one.
Two 52 Super Series teams enjoyed a great work out at Key West regatta in January where Doug DeVos steered Quantum Racing to a good win in IRC Class 1. After finishing second overall on the 2015 52 Super Series behind rivals Azzurra, who also won the 2015 World Championships, the winter has maybe felt a little longer and darker for the Quantum Racing crew, back to back winners of the 52 Super Series in 2013 and 2014. Certainly there is probably no team suffused with more motivation and drive right now than Quantum Racing as they anticipate getting under starter’s orders when the circuit visits Scarlino for the first time May 25-29.
But when it comes to pre season preparation everyone on the circuit will acknowledge there is simply no substitute for time on the water, ideally racing. Five teams are reported to be set to work together in Valencia next week (March 14th to 19th) over an intensive period of testing, tuning and informal racing. Bronenosec (Vladimir Liubomirov, RUS), Alegre (Andres Soriano, UK), champions Azzurra (A and P Roemmers, ARG), Provezza (Ergin Imre, TUR) and Gladiator (Tony Langley, GBR) have taken up on the St Petersburg Yacht Club’s initiative to set up this training and race camp in Valencia.
Last year Gaastra Palma Vela, considered the best warm up regatta on the Med, proved Azzurra were firing on all cylinders, an early foresight of their 2016 title winning form. Winning the Palma warm up was of little real consequence for the Azzurra crew but it was a great validation that they were fast and their crew work was solid and cohesive. Following that precedent it is little wonder that no fewer than eight of the 11 teams which will race in Scarlino are checking in to the Gaastra Palma Vela (May 4-8) – Quantum Racing, Paprec (Jean Luc Petithugeunin FRA), Platoon (Harm Müller-Spreer GER), Provezza IX, Alegre (Andy Soriano, GBR), Sled (Takashi Okura, USA), Azzurra and Rán Racing (Niklas Zennström).
The overall level through the TP52 fleet on the 52 Super Series will rise even higher over this coming season. 2013 World Champions Rán Racing return to challenge for the overall title. After external commitments required owner-driver Niklas Zennström to miss three regattas last season, the team which won the 2015 curtain raiser in Valencia last year with their new Judel-Vroijk design are back for 2016 with Morgan Larson (USA) calling tactics supported by Adam Beashel (AUS).
Also back for a full on participation in 2016 will be Terry Hutchinson (USA). The twice 52 Super Series winning tactician returns to the hot seat, calling the shots on Quantum Racing. Owner-driver Doug DeVos (USA) will steer three regattas this season and miss two. Ed Baird (USA) will steer these and revert to the strategist role when DeVos is helming.
“We go into 2016 aiming to, and expecting to win.” Says Quantum Racing’s team manager Ed Reynolds, “When we win it feels like a relief and so, personally, it felt pretty horrible not to win last year. But we have such a great group of guys that there was no complaints at all at the end of the season, nobody made excuses. And we could so easily have been fourth. So we are all incredibly motivated and ready to get back on the race course and do our very best work.”
Quantum Racing will partner Platoon which has switched to Quantum Sails. They will share the input of coach James Lyne and all performance data leading up to and after regattas while Spain’s legendary Olympic gold medallist Jordi Calafat moves from a supporting role with Quantum Racing to sail as strategist on Platoon.
Double Olympic medal winning, Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Ian Walker (GBR) returns to the highly charged world of grand prix inshore racing as tactician on Tony Langley’s Gladiator. Walker is no stranger to the TP52, previously skippering the successful Patches, but the circuit has evolved considerably since then. Walker reaffirms his role is that of tactician, the decision maker on the water, but undoubtedly his considerable Volvo Race and Olympic experience, plus his natural competitiveness will see him as a stabilising and motivating influence on the British flagged team.
“My role is tactician. And for me the initial challenge is just going to be getting back into the fast moving world of inshore racing after so long on the Volvo where you obviously have much more time to think. Getting back to very fast, accurate decision making will be the first thing for me, but kind of inevitably the tactician is often the one who leads the briefings and debriefs and sets the tone. I am the tactician and the boat is very well managed by Tom Wilson. We will see how we do. A winning team is a happy team and vice versa and so I just want us to start off on the right foot.” Walker comments.
The overall fleet size for 2016 has held up well. Between ten and 13 boats are expected to compete at the five regattas which comprise this season. Battle lines are drawn in late May but the pressure is on until the circuit concludes in October in Cascais where the 2016 champions will be crowned.
by 52 Super Series