For the grand finale of an incredible 2018 season, the world’s leading grand prix monohull circuit makes a very popular return to Spain’s America’s Cup city of Valencia.
Next week eleven TP52s will be docked in front of the iconic Veles e Vents building and will race off the famous Malvarossa Beach as the final placings for the five-month, five-regatta season will be decided.
Competition on the water will be as close and uncompromising as it has been throughout this season, successively in Croatia, Portugal and Mallorca. In September, the America’s Cup race arenas that so many sailors know so well, can be very different to those on which many 52 Super Series sailors realised career-defining America’s Cup wins in summer sea breezes or very early spring. It is an entirely fitting venue for the finale. And for the dozens of sailors who spent many long months living in Valencia during the 32nd, and – some prior to and during – the 33rd America’s Cups it will feel like something of a homecoming, returning to familiar sights, sounds and smells.
In 2007, the triumphant Alinghi team contained 52 Super Series regulars like Phoenix tactician Ed Baird on the helm, Quantum Racing’s Warwick Fleury, Rodney Ardern and Pieter van Nieuwenhuijzen. Emirates Team New Zealand had Quantum Racing’s Dean Barker, Terry Hutchinson, and trimmers James Dagg and Grant Loretz. Other well known names from the 2007 final who will be at the fore next week in Valencia include Sled’s Team New Zealand alumni Ray Davies, Adam Beashel and Don Cowie.
And of course in 2010 the winning skipper-helmsman was Jimmy Spithill, who returns to Luna Rossa this week after missing the Puerto Portals event last month. Sailing with Spithill on the Cup-winning 90ft trimaran were Platoon trio John Kostecki, Ross Halcrow and Dirk de Ridder.
But all the way through the 52 Super Series family, sailors, shore crew and event crew are relishing the return.
Looking to help guide Luna Rossa to their second regatta title of the season after winning the Royal Cup in Zadar, Spithill recalls:
“I spent AC32 and AC33 in Valencia. I really enjoyed my time there and getting to know the culture. My team mates and I did a lot of kiteboarding there during AC 32 in the summer months. During AC33 it was winter, so there wasn’t much kiteboarding. And then we were in a sprint at that stage working every day, and to be honest the days were so long and exhausting we spent all our time on the water or at the base. But my favourite event on land was the ‘Las Fallas’ festival and the ‘Mascleta’ demonstrations.”
Of the period leading up to his first America’s Cup win, Spithill remembers: “My memories of AC33 were how strong a team we had on and off the water, and how stressful it was sailing and maintaining such an extreme boat and wing during some very long days. But what we pulled off in terms of sailing, handling, engineering, boat building and the logistics of that boat and wing still amazes me. It was 24 hours around the clock for a great team on and off the water for a long period. Im not sure anything of that scale will be repeated.
“I am looking forward to going back. Three of my team mates from AC32 & AC33 are with us on Luna Rossa: Gillo Nobili, Max Sirena and Shannon Falcone. It will be fun to reflect with them. But more importantly, it will be great to go racing again off that coast.”
Of their chances of a second regatta win, he says: “Only two teams have won events during this season, Quantum, and ourselves. This shows we have the boat and team to do it. However, in this fleet, consistency and minimising mistakes is crucial. That is something Quantum have done better than anyone else. We have a great shore team, and an awesome opportunity to finish the season on a high, I can’t wait to get racing!”
While Quantum Racing appear to have a relatively straightforward task on their hands to secure the 2018 overall title, they are 32 points ahead, unfortunately owner-helm Doug DeVos will not be able to join the team for the finale. His inspirational father Rich DeVos passed away recently and the 52 Super Series family send their condolences and thoughts at this time to the DeVos family. Dean Barker will return to the helm.
Quantum Racing’s Terry Hutchinson confirms that their points cushion will in no way affect the way they approach the final regatta:
“The fleet is too strong to worry about points so we have to approach this event with the same mentality that we have entire season; look for a consistent score line and race to be in contention on Saturday.” He adds, “From a racing perspective, the venue this time of year can be quite tricky. Not the traditional summer sea breezes that we experienced during the 32nd match, so I think we can expect to see a variety of conditions. Challenging for sure. And I have great memories of Valencia. Having lived there twice in the last 12 years it is always a special place to come back to.”
As it always is at this stage in the season, the battle for the podium places is incredibly close. After four regattas in different conditions it is the 2017 champions Azzurra in second place, just five points up on Takashi Okura’s Sled and Harm Müller-Spreer’s Platoon. And not far behind them are Luna Rossa who still have a realistic chance of finishing second or third.
It is the third time the 52 Super Series returns to Valencia. In 2012 it was Azzurra which won when there were just five boats racing. In 2015 in was Ran Racing. In fact not only have Quantum Racing never won a Valencian 52 Super Series regatta since the circuit started there, they have not yet won a race there.
Azzurra have shown a notable return to their best as runners up in Cascais by only four points and in Puerto Portals by only three points. They will be pressing hard to finish with a regatta win which would, by definition, secure them second overall.
Skipper-helm Guillermo Parada explains: “We need to try to have a good regatta. On top of everything we need to continue the strength of the last two regattas in order to secure second. That is the most realistic goal we can set for the end of the season. It is hard to consider looking at other boats. In Cascais because it was strong conditions you really had to sail your own race to be sure. And in Portals it was so unstable, the same thing applied, if you raced another boat straight away you were in trouble automatically. So we need to see how it pans out. There are too many boats too compressed in points so we cant focus on any one in particular. We need to have a nice clean regatta. Maybe in the middle of the week we look and see if we need to adjust our strategy. We need to go fast and have good clean races.”
The super consistent Sled wavered in Puerto Portals finishing seventh. Tactician Ray Davies notes: “I have always enjoyed sailing in Valencia because it can produce a range of conditions. Normally this time of year we can expect a steady SE sea breeze, but we can also get offshore shifty breezes or light and variable conditions. With the points so tight for the podium we can expect some very tough racing. We have to keep focused on our team and just keep pushing ourselves.”
Racing at the Valencia 52 Super Series Sailing Week starts Tuesday and finishes Saturday with the end of season prize-giving on Saturday night. All of the action will be broadcast live at 52SuperSeries.com and via the appthroughout the whole regatta on 52 Super Series TV with live commentary and expert analysis throughout each race. Shows start 15 minutes before racing is due to begin.
Alegre – Andy Soriano (USA/GBR), 2018 Botin
Azzurra – Roemmers Family (ARG/ITA), 2018 Botin
Gladiator – Tony Langley (GBR), 2017 Botin
Luna Rossa – Patrizio Bertelli (ITA), 2018 Botin
Onda – Eduardo de Souza Ramos (BRA), 2018 Botin
Paprec Recyclage – Jean Luc Petithuguenin (FRA), 2015 Vrolijk
Phoenix – Hasso/Tina Plattner (RSA), 2018 Botin
Platoon – Harm Müller-Spreer (GER), 2018 Vrolijk
Provezza – Ergin Imre (TUR), 2018 Vrolijk
Quantum Racing – Racing Doug DeVos (USA), 2018 Botin
Sled – Takashi Okura (USA), 2018 Botin
2018 52 Super Series overall Standings after four events:
1. Quantum Racing (USA) (Doug DeVos) 131 p.
2. Azzurra (ARG/ITA) (Alberto and Pablo Roemmers) 163 p.
3. Platoon (GER) (Harm Müller-Spreer) 168 p.
4. Sled (USA) (Takashi Okura) 168 p.
5. Luna Rossa (ITA) (Patrizio Bertelli) 175 p
6. Phoenix (RSA) (Hasso/Tina Plattner) 189 p.
7. Alegre (USA/GBR) (Andrés Soriano) 190 p.
8. Provezza (TUR) (Ergin Imre) 215 p.
9. Onda (BRA) (Eduardo de Souza Ramos) 248 p.
10. Gladiator (GBR) (Tony Langley) 287 p.
by 52 Super Series