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52 Super Series

Racing on their own home waters, Hasso Plattner’s Phoenix 11 made a dream start to the Odzala Discovery Camps 52 SUPER SERIES V&A Waterfront – Cape Town regatta, the first event of six that comprise the 2020 52 SUPER SERIES.

Local knowledge and a protracted spell of training late last year and before this season’s curtain raiser played its part as Phoenix completed a textbook first race that they won comfortably.

Then, after a less than perfect start to the second contest, Phoenix battled from the bottom third of the fleet to deliver a valuable third place finish. Plattner’s crew lead the regatta by two points from the 2019 champions Azzurra who returned a fourth and a second, a solid debut day for new tactician Michele Paoletti.

In the south westerly breeze, which picked up to 16kts for the second start and averaged 10-13 kts for the day, conditions were not easy to read – consistency proving particularly elusive. Phoenix 11, the newer of the two Plattner family TP52s, were undoubtedly the class act delivering for the home support.

Along with veteran Plattner on the tiller, the day’s leading crew has a potent mix of local South African sailors on board such as main trimmer Paul Willcox, navigator Shane Elliott and grinder Shaun Pammenter, working with America’s Cup winner Peter Holmberg, who joined the crew this season as tactician and the hugely experienced Andy Horton also adding to the afterguard strengths.

Phoenix 11 stuck to their pre race strategy, starting smartly off the pin end of the start line to establish an early lead that allowed them to own the left, inshore side of the first upwind.

Building their margin to over 90 metres, they could keep Bronenosec and Sled in check to the finish line. Bronenosec, with double Olympic medalist Jonathan McKee calling tactics for helm Morgan Larson, finished second with winners Sled in third. Sled have Murray Jones steering. World Champions and 2019 runners up for the season Platoon were over the start line and had to re-cross and finished ninth.

52 Super Series at Cape Town - day 1 - photo © Ingrid Abery /
52 Super Series at Cape Town – day 1 – photo © Ingrid Abery /

While Quantum Racing had the best start to the second race they had to take a penalty on the first beat and then, as others did today, had to slow to remove kelp from their foils, resulting in an eighth place.

Andy Soriano’s Alegre, which has Ado Stead and Nic Asher as afterguard, were able to capitalise from their own solid start to lead all the way round the second course, emulating the gun to gun win of Phoenix 11.

Plattner smiled enthusiastically: “It is fun to sail here. It was Tina and my idea to bring everyone here and who would have thought we would have a day like this? This is perfect sailing, Table Mountain clear and fog outside, you can’t get much better?”

Of the racing he added: “You always have to go to the left, everybody knows it. And so we had to fight for the shore. First race we had a perfect start and could squeeze out Provezza and that gave us the lead. Second race we were squeezed out and could not quite make it and so we had to fight back and we had to come from last to fourth on the beat and work hard for third. We had luck on the downwind to pass Sled for a good third. So the third was much more hard work than first!”

52 Super Series at Cape Town - day 1 - photo © Ingrid Abery /
52 Super Series at Cape Town – day 1 – photo © Ingrid Abery /

Main trimmer Paul Willcox reflected on the local excitement of having this regatta on their own home waters: “I have been so excited to have the fleet come here ever since we talked about it a couple of years ago. You see the pictures and it is awesome to have it happening here. The Volvo comes here because we are this part of the world but to have these guys want to come and race here. It is just awesome.”

Of the local knowledge and the resulting game plan, Willcox revealed: “We have spent a lot of time recently trying to better understand the bay a bit more. There is a fair amount of sailing goes on here but not at this intense level. There are a lot of smart people on these boats and so trying to outsmart them is not easy. So having a little bit of understanding of the place, a bit of local knowledge on board definitely helped.”

He paid tribute to the veteran owner-driver who sailed a great opening day: “Hasso has been around a long time and there are not many people, especially owner-drivers, who steer a boat as fast as he does, especially when you get him on a day like today, off the blocks.

“Even before we started, Hasso sat us down and said look – ‘sailing is just so much fun’. When you hear someone like Hasso who has put so much into sailing, he has brought these boats here and it a massive thing for South Africa, it is massive thing for everyone in our country to be exposed to this, but to hear him today just say, ‘sailing is just so much fun’ is just awesome. That is what you want. It is good for us, for the sport, for everyone.”

If it was a baptism of fire for Azzurra’s new tactian Michele Paoletti, the Italian 2000 Olympian did not let it show: “It has been an unbelievable day for me. We have two really good races, one fourth and one second. It’s super to sail with this boat, and especially with this team. I think everybody has more or less the same strategy, the shore was the favourite, but the trouble is making the plan the reality. I was of course a little bit nervous this morning. It’s a different boat, I’m not an expert in the TP52, but the team keep me in my comfort zone, so in the end we had a good day.”

For more information on the 52 SuperSeries visit

Regatta standings after Day 1:

1. Phoenix 11 (RSA) (Hasso Plattner) (1,3) 4 p.
2. Azzurra (ARG/ITA) (Alberto/Pablo Roemmers) (4,2) 6 p.
3. Sled (USA) (Takashi Okura) (3,4) 7 p.
4. Alegre (USA/GBR) (Andrés Soriano) (7,1) 8 p.
5. Bronenosec (RUS) (Vladimir Liubomirov) (2,10) 12 p.
6. Provezza (TUR) (Ergin Imre) (6,6) 12 p.
7. Phoenix 12 (RSA) (Tina Plattner) (8,5) 13 p.
8. Quantum Racing (USA) (Doug DeVos) (5,8) 13 p.
9. Platoon (GER) (Harm Müller-Spreer) (9,7) 16 p.
10. Paprec (FRA) (Jean-Luc Petithuguenin) (10,9) 19 p.

52 Super Series at Cape Town - day 1 - photo © Ingrid Abery /
52 Super Series at Cape Town – day 1 – photo © Ingrid Abery /

Update from Azzurra

In the first race Azzurra started at the centre of the line and was trapped in dirty air at first. She got away and began to recover positions from sixth to at the end of the first beat to fourth along the run where she passed Quantum Racing. Azzurra held on to this position to the end of the race, covering her American rivals all along the way. The first win of the new season went to the home team, Phoenix 11, who knew the area better but still had to fight off a determined Bronenosec. Third place for Sled.

In the second race Azzurra used the same tactic at the start but managed to accelerate right away and position herself third behind Alegre and Sled at the first mark. Azzurra closed in on Sled along the run attacking and passing along the second beat on starboard tack. The boat flying the YCCS colours held on to her second place while Sled was passed again, this time by Phoenix 11, on the final gybe.

Guillermo Parada, skipper: “It’s always nice to get back on the water, really racing, after all the time spent thinking, working and adjusting during the off season when the boat is being modified and during practice sessions and trials. Today we finally saw the real results of the work we have been doing for the past five months. We’re very happy with today’s results but we also know that it’s just the beginning of the season. But we’re geared up, have worked well and the boat is showing it. We felt fast both up and downwind and Michele (Paoletti, Azzurra’s new tactician) did a great job. I hope that today’s results will be a further booster for him within the group.”

Michele Paoletti, tactician: “My debut went well, but if you don’t have a fast boat there’s no such thing as a good tactician. Azzurra is fast and always has been, that’s why she has always been in the top positions of this super competitive circuit. Her team knows every detail of the boat, they are real experts and they have an added plus: they’re a tightly knit group. They have made me feel comfortable and welcome even though I know I’m walking in the big footsteps of the tacticians who have come before me.”

52 Super Series at Cape Town - day 1 - photo © Ingrid Abery /
52 Super Series at Cape Town – day 1 – photo © Ingrid Abery /

by 52 Super Series

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