After a beautifully scenic 30-nautical-mile coastal race tour of the islands off Sibenik, third place across the finish line sees reigning TP52 World Champions Platoon step up to lead the hotly contested first regatta of the 2018 52 SUPER SERIES season, the Sibenik 52 SUPER SERIES Sailing Week.
While there was an extremely satisfying runaway victory for Takashi Okura’s mainly Kiwi crew on Sled, a team now comprising almost all past or present Team New Zealand America’s Cup sailors, it was the third place of Harm Müller-Spreer’s team with rivals and team-mates Quantum Racing in eighth that now means the German-flagged crew lead by five points after eight races.
Quantum Racing’s long-standing love-hate relationship with the coastal race concept was in no way enhanced by today’s outing. Picturesque it may have been but they were judged to be over the start line early and after re-crossing the line they were always trying to fight back along a track that did not have any real passing lanes.
Their one divergent choice, staying right up the long beat – closer to the mainland shore – yielded no long-term profit. With many spirited boat on boat tussles going on ahead of them that was the best they could manage under the circumstances.
Sled started well, dealt an early blow to Azzurra off the start line and from there were quickly able to control the right side of the short, 1.2 mile opening windward leg. By the top mark there was already an ominous look to their 60-metre lead over Jean Luc Petithuguenin’s Paprec, which had also found themselves a nice, clean lane of breeze on the right.
The jump made early on by this duo proved conclusive. Sled were over 600 metres clear of second by the turn at the top of the first island and something of a distant speck for the last placed chasers.
There was a welcome measure of satisfaction for the Sled team that has worked diligently to a strategic programme that saw the boat beautifully built at Core Composites at ‘home’ in New Zealand, launched and sea trialled first of the nine new boats, and up to speed at PalmaVela. But for the passionate team on Paprec, second was like a win for them, ebullient owner Petithuguenin promising a few bottles of champagne for his team.
“We are here to enjoy ourselves!” laughed the delighted French owner as he stepped on to the dock.
Sled’s winning tactician Team New Zealand’s Ray Davies was a little more reserved: “The key was the start. We got a piece of Azzurra of the start line and then we were able to control the right hand side. And from there it was a leader’s course. Everyone else was dicing with each other and we were just able to sail away. In these conditions it is relatively easy, sailing our own modes in clear air.” ?He added, ?”We are thrilled with the win and the way it went today. It is a big boost for the team. We have all sailed a lot with each other so much before it is really working well.”
Platoon’s Victor Marino was delighted with their steady gains on Platoon, typical of their step by step low risk strategy worked by John Kostekci and strategist Jordi Calafat.
“We knew that it would be a very complicated, challenging race and we needed to be solid in every department, in the start, in the boat handling and everything. We got ourselves into a solid position in the middle of the fleet and then picked our time to attack step by step. The goal in this kind of racing is to stay safe and solid in each area and be able to take your opportunities as they come to you.”
There was little joy for the Quantum Racing team or indeed the reigning 52 SUPER SERIES champions, Azzurra, though both might be disappointed for different reasons. Azzurra were fourth, overlapped with Gladiator at the first top mark but faded to cross the finish in 10th. Quantum Racing looked to have rallied on the long beat, staying right – towards the mainland shore – but it appeared that the breeze continued to lift inside them. But at least they were making places, chipping away to eighth.
Quantum Racing still lie second overall but are five points behind Platoon while the Quantum trifecta remains intact with Eduardo de Souza Ramos’s Onda still holding on to third, just one point behind Quantum Racing. Tactician Robert Scheidt explained:
“Today it was a bit like we were trying to hold off the boats behind and we had some really challenging moments, but I think the crew is coming together really nicely in the last few days so we’re really happy to get fifth. We still need to improve a lot, but since Palma, which was our first regatta, we’ve made a big step, we’re already more confident to sail boat-on-boat situations, we had a good start today, and we’re changing gears better than we were before but still a long way to go.”
Results after Day 2:
The Sibenik 52 SUPER SERIES Sailing Week will take place from 23-27 May. State-of-the-art live boat tracking technology will allow 52 SUPER SERIES fans to follow their favourite teams. Shows start 15-minutes before racing, and can be enjoyed via the 52 SUPER SERIES homepage – www.52SUPERSERIES.com – or via the app. Never miss a beat.
Thoughts from Harm Muller-Spreer of Platoon
On usually being able to move up through the fleet:
“It’s everybody and everything a lot of crew work, the guys working together really hard, and have been working together for a long time. It works well, keeps the boat at maximum speed the whole time. Sail trim, tactician, everything! And I tell you, Kostecki is pushing me harder than I’m concentrating, all the time!”
On topping the leaderboard currently:
“It’s good to see that we are competitive, but it’s the second day. For us it’s a little bit like a black hole, with Provezza together we are one of the new Vrolijk, and there are 7 new Botin boats. You never know in advance which design is better, but I would say the boats are more or less even, it’s almost one-design, it’s good, it’s all about sailing and sail trim and getting off the start line.”
On the new design:
“The good thing is that the crew from my boat have sailed together for years with me, we stick together with Vrolijk and talked about advantages and disadvantages of the old boat and made some gains. We have moved the rudder, moved the keel, moved the mast back, did quite a lot of changes on the hull shape, and finally, I think we can’t say if it’s better or not from the other boat, because we all have new boats. But my feeling is we are also good in light conditions whereas last year we thought we struggled a little bit below ten knots. Downwind we have been fast all the time, upwind above 12 also, but now we feel good on low range conditions as well.”
Analysis by Azzurra
Azzurra got a good start tacking to port to sail on the right hand side of the course that was favourable. She rounded the upwind mark together with Gladiator, in third place. At the downwind gate the light breezes died down and Azzurra got stuck in a wind hole and dropped back to seventh place. The long upwind leg through the islands saw frequent changes of position in the compact fleet. Winds built back up to 12 knots and even higher along the run. Azzurra was in seventh place when she hoisted her gennaker and passed Alegre and Onda. But she missed her chance approaching the island Dugo where Alegre covered her and the rest of the fleet caught up.
Guillermo Parada, skipper, said: “It wasn’t a good day for the blue team. We were always just a little bit off positioning ourselves where we wanted to be and we made a couple of tactical mistakes and messed up a couple of manoeuvres. With a fleet this competitive, you pay a high price for even the smallest error. But the boat speed is still good and we’re in good spirits. It’s just something we have to work through and we will. Tomorrow is another day and we’re looking forward to going back out and showing what we can do.”
“The boat is not a problem, we can always improve, but it is going well that’s a good thing. The boats are more powerful now, with a little bit less rudder, so quicker in the breeze, but they changed the hull a little bit to not penalise with the drag when it’s upright, so overall I think we are quite a bit stronger in almost every condition, especially downwind.”
by 52 Super Series