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Thread: Ready to Rumble: The 2016 52 Super Series Primed And Ready

  1. #1
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Ready to Rumble: The 2016 52 Super Series Primed And Ready

    Ready to Rumble
    The 2016 52 SUPER SERIES is primed and poised for action in Scarlino, Italy.

    (Tuesday 24th May, Scarlino) – When the 2016 52 SUPER SERIES answers the start guns on the renowned waters off Scarlino, Tuscany on Wednesday, the 11 teams competing know only too well how important it is to make the best possible opening. The season-long championship spans five regattas between now and the conclusion mid-October in Cascais, Portugal and none want to find themselves rueing silly mistakes and cheap points given away lightly at the outset of the championship.

    In fact the old cliché that "you can't win the circuit on the first day but you can sure as hell lose it" holds equal currency all the way through the 52 SUPER SERIES fleet.

    Recall that the battle for the third step on the 2015 podium went down to single points, small losses and gains made here and there over the 46-race season. There were just ten points separating seventh from third overall, three points of difference between third and fourth and one point between fourth and fifth. Crews are extremely conscious that every place gained or given away in these first days is every bit as important as those mid-season and late in the year when the hierarchy has more shape and form.

    all images© nico martinez/ martinez studio

    Such is the unique, unrelenting pressure of the 52 SUPER SERIES championship where every race counts and there are no discards.

    The universal consensus through the fleet is that the standard has never been higher and the racing has never been closer. And the pre-season preparation and training has been more intense than ever, including a formative week in March in Valencia as well as Gaastra Palma Vela two weeks ago which featured no fewer than nine boats of the 11 which will race here.

    And launching right back into that high octane battle for the podium is Niklas Zennström's Rán Racing. The crew that won the opening regatta of last season, Valencia, – one of the only two events they contested in 2015 – served notice of their potential when they won Tuesday's practice race by a few metres.

    Owner-driver Zennström is unequivocal in his belief that they can win in Scarlino:

    "Of course we can win here. Last year we won the practice race in Valencia and won the regatta and so we have done the same here and we look forward to carrying on that tradition. With the 52 SUPER SERIES, it's about not having the shockers, the big scores, and just staying consistent. We have a bit of a learning curve being back on the boat, back racing in the fleet but the more hours we have on the boat the better we are getting."

    If the practice race today added a final measure of confidence to the Rán preparations, the Quantum Racing result, sixth, piqued Quantum Racing's Terry Hutchinson.

    He felt their performance highlighted how much the benchmark team which has twice won the 52 SUPER SERIES has to improve, despite their winning the Gaastra Palma Vela dress rehearsal regatta two weeks ago.

    "As a team and evaluating my own performance Palma Vela was a misleading regatta. I feel we have a lot of gain right in front of us. We have a lot of room to grow as a team and I have to get my head back around sailing these boats really well, like the comms and coordination with Ed [Baird, skipper-helm]. And so the positive side is there is a lot of improvement to come in front of us. The negative side is you feel it. The teams around us have benefited from the extra five or six days they had in Valencia, the guys around us have done a lot of sailing already and that is noticeable on the water. We have to be very methodical, very pragmatic and keep things simple."

    If the 2015 champions Azzurra had an edge last year then there has been no clear, consistent evidence that it has carried on into 2016.

    Many of the crews identified the specific technical advantage the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda team had and have replicated that into changes in their sail programme.

    The common quest is for height and pace off the start line after the gun perhaps at the expense of downwind speed. Any team at all can win races. Probably any one of eight crews could win a regatta this season even if the smart money would still back Azzurra or Quantum Racing as the most likely challengers for the 2016 title.

    There is so little between Harm Müller Spreer's German flagged Platoon which has had a great pre-season build up, Takashi Okura's Sled which squeezed into third in 2015, Andy Soriano's Alegre, Ergin Imre's Provezza and Vladimir Liubomirov's Bronenosec, and the returning Rán that it is simply too close to call. This battle of owner-driver supremacy is mouth watering.

    As Tony Rey, Provezza's tactician notes:

    "It's going to be a spectacular season.

    This is what we love to do. I mean, we grumble and complain on a bad day, but we love to do this. I think this season is going to be about turning those tens into sixes, and the nines into fives – that's going to be the killer. It's not about winning races, it's not even about getting seconds. It's about turning the bad ones into decent ones and then saving the points in the middle of this intense season."

    This is the first time the 52 SUPER SERIES has been to Scarlino, hosted by the brand new marina, but the bay is very well known to international sailors as it is beside Punta Ala which was home to Italy's emblematic Luna Rossa team for eight years, because the winds are so reliable. And the TP52 class was here in its formative years in the Med in 2005 when there were five boats and in 2006 when there were 27.

    After the practice race many of the organisers, staff and youngsters from the local sailing academy and club took to the adjacent beach to complete the first Beach Cleanup of the season, just one of the commitments the 52 SUPER SERIES and sustainability partners 11th Hour Racing have made to environmental responsibility this season.

    Terry Hutchinson (USA), tactician, Quantum Racing (USA):

    "The margin between last year's best team, which was Azzurra, and whatever the worst team was was, is a lot closer. I think you're going to have to scrap and fight and claw for every single point. I mean you could look back on a regatta and think 'boy we lost one boat down the last run', that boat is going to be critical so you have to sail the thing right through until the finish."

    Vasco Vascotto (ITA), tactician, Azzurra (ITA/ARG):

    "I feel like a kid on the first day at school. There are so many boats that can win races and can win the season. It is very tough and so many teams have made a big step forwards. We know that and we need to sail very well. We need to forget the little advantage we had last year and go sailing in a tough way."

    Francesco d'Angelis (ITA), coach, Bronenosec (RUS):

    One of the beautiful things here is that the environment is so well preserved it is a nice place to go sailing and there is always wind. There are three main directions and each has its own features which are not easy to sort out. It is a great place to sail. It is a place where there are not usually big waves, tricky winds."

    Ross MacDonald (CAN), tactician, Sled (USA):

    "We have gone in a slightly different direction with the sail design. We have looked at the upwind sails, we have put a little more attention to this. The whole game has moved forwards but we are looking for an easier boat to sail as well. The other things are small, rigging changes. The all important thing for us is the owner-driver trophy which we be big for us this year. I have been here a fair bit including some IMS boats, the Star worlds in the last century (1999) when we were second, one point short of first."

    Harm Müller Spreer (GER), owner-driver, Platoon (GER):

    "It is so totally different to last season. Last season we were a new boat and a new team. This year we have made some small changes to the crew, we have new sails (Quantum) and the set up is perfect. I am very happy. To see how the Quantum Racing guys work is great for us. They are totally open. We share all the information all the data."
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  2. #2
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Scarlino Sticks to the Plot

    (Wednesday 25th May – Scarlino, Tuscany) – There were few surprises on the long awaited first day of the new 2016 52 SUPER SERIES season. Along the race dock of Tuscan's showcase Marina di Scarlino the nervous tension bubbled from early morning right through until dockout time. But the two light winds races adhered to the letter the widely expected plot line when Quantum Racing emerged with a small three points lead – smart, patient, percentage sailing being their Day 1 watchwords – and no fewer than four boats all log-jammed into a share of the same 7 points tally between second and sixth in the 11 boat fleet.

    Quantum Racing's tenacious tactician Terry Hutchinson may have expressed his concerns that their team was not quite at the high level of readiness he would have wanted, but the American flagged crew made key crucial gains, going forwards in both windward leeward races to score a first and third and so lie three points ahead of the four boat cluster.

    When they lost Alegre on the first run of the first race they fought hard to get back into the lead on the second run, so taking first blood for the season, leaving Andy Soriano's team to second place. And in the second contest Quantum Racing showed their mettle when they chipped away to convert a fifth at the top of the first beat to a third on the finish line.

    "It's two down 48 to go" smiled Hutchinson ashore after racing. He considers they sailed little different today to how they did in yesterday's practice race when they made a sixth.

    "We had a great session this morning talking about the mistakes we made yesterday, and how we are continuing to do the high percentage things that we think are going to work. Yesterday [practice race], we felt like we did that, but we got absolutely nothing for it. But overall the boat is going quite well. We have quite a good setup.

    Just as every team has expressed their pre-season belief that this will be an incredibly close season, the level being almost universally high, so there is an immediate, ringing endorsement with four boats – all you would consider as podium contenders for a regatta or at the end of the season – unerringly finishing Day 1 on the same points. Takashi Okura's Sled won the second race and matched that to a sixth and are credited with second overall.

    Platoon's fifth in the first race is bolted to an excellent second behind Sled in the second race. Alegre showed great potential but might rue small losses for a 2,5 when it could have been a 1,3 had they converted their best positions in both races. Rán Racing, with Morgan Larson and Adam Beashel combining on tactics and strategy, proved to be one other team along with Quantum Racing which made important successive gains. They transformed an early fifth to a third in Race 1 and then a Mark 1 sixth to a finish line fourth in Race 2. Gains down the last run were a notable aspect of the Rán game.

    Of course there is little of real solid substance to be extrapolated from Day 1 of a season which is likely to comprise somewhere around 25 days and perhaps 45 or 50 races which all count. In essence it just sets the ball rolling, buries the first day nerves – which were very evident in the way some teams sailed – and sets the 52 SUPER SERIES down to business in this fifth year of is existence.

    The Scarlino race arena – new to this 52 SUPER SERIES circuit – delivered light, shifty breezes which were hard to read. Staying in the best strands of wind pressure and changing gears was vital.

    Now with a full year of racing under their belts since the newest generation of boats were launched and prepped hurriedly for the Valencia opener 12months ago, suffice to say that Day 1 may not have yielded any big, toys out the pram upsets, no high octane drama but instead it served only to whet the appetite further for what promises to be a truly mouth watering 52 SUPER SERIES season.

    Scarlino Cup, Standings after Day 1, 2 Races
    1 Quantum Racing, USA (Doug DeVos USA) (1,3) 4 pts
    2 Sled, USA (Takashi Okura USA) (6,1) 7 pts
    3 Platoon, GER (Harm Müller-Spreer GER) (5,2) 7 pts
    4 Alegre, GBR (Andres Soriano USA) (2,5) 7 pts
    5 Rán Racing, SWE (Niklas Zennström SWE) (3,4) 7 pts
    6 Provezza, TUR (Ergin Imre TUR) (4,9) 13 pts
    7 Bronenosec, RUS (Vladimir Liubomirov RUS) (9,6) 15 pts
    8 Xio/Hurakan, ITA (Guiseppe Parodi ITA) (8,7) 15 pts
    9 Azzurra, ITA (Pablo/Alberto Roemmers ARG) (7,8) 15 pts
    10 Gladiator, GBR (Tony Langley GBR) (10,10) 20 pts
    11 Paprec FRA (Jean-Luc Petithuguenin FRA) (11,11) 22 pts

    Terry Hutchinson (USA), tactician Quantum Racing (USA):

    "It's two down, 48 to go. It was a good day. We had a great session this morning talking about the mistakes we made yesterday, and how we are continuing to do the high percentage things that we think are going to work. Yesterday [practice race], we felt like we did that, but we got absolutely nothing for it. The boat was going quite well. We have quite a good setup. I think there was that and then there being a little bit of better pressure up the leeward left hand side going up the beat made for a good gain up the second beat where we were hanging on and defending.

    Yes we were making gains but yesterday we went backwards. That's the difference, but we didn't sail any differently today than we did yesterday [practice race]. I think that we're scratching the surface as a team about how we're going to evolve. We had a great session on the boat this morning as well, on our way out, about things that we can go better. I'm very optimistic. The other unique feature is that now, we have a great training partner in Platoon, which is making for our ability to get faster through the water. We're faster, as well, on shore. We debrief every morning and talk to those guys, I mean, they're a great sailing team so there's a lot of evolution that's happening. It's simply a matter of keeping it all pointing in the right direction.

    Hamish Pepper (NZL) strategist Sled (USA):

    "We're reasonably happy. It's going to be a long season, so to start the first day with two 'keepers', we've got to be happy with that. It's more important for us to be consistent overall than to win races, but it's nice to win a race this early in the regatta. It just shows the work we've done over the winter to the boat, the boat's going well, and the team's going well. But it is certainly going to be a tight series, and that's why we're here sailing TP52s!"
    Last edited by Photoboy; 05-26-2016 at 09:19 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Day 2 Vid by Keith Brash!

    Pinpoint Provezza's Perfect Pair
    (Thursday 26th May, Scarlino) – Broad smiles around the Marina di Scarlino told the story of Races 3 and 4 for the 52 SUPER SERIES' Scarlino Cup and without doubt the most contented crew were that of Ergin Imre's Provezza. Not only did the Turkish flagged team win both races but they led at every mark, even the margins at times were mere metres. It was a nice early season payback to the hugely supportive and enthusiastic owner Imre who invested heavily through this last winter, ordering a new, stiffer rig and new foils and enhanced their sail programme in a clearly defined quest to stand on the podium at the end of this season.

    With the 9-13kts breeze round more to the south than Day 1 there was an acknowledged advantage on the left side of the upwind, closer to the beneficial influence of the land. Provezza executed their game plan to the letter, staking an early claim to the pin end of the start line and fighting to maintain that key spot.

    Their lead at the top mark in the first race was more conclusive, in the second it was down to a matter of a half a boat length on Azzurra and Quantum Racing. But the Provezza team stayed cool through the day and enjoyed their success, well knowing that they had been fortunate to make it to the start line.

    They broke a deflector during the pre-race warm up and had to send a crew member aloft for nearly 30 minutes to make a fix. In fact this mishap rather cleared their heads, admitted tactician Tony Rey later, and they could do little more than focus on fighting for the pin and delivering on their game plan.

    Andy Beadsworth, the GBR Olympian who steers Provezza commented:

    "We have done a lot of work over the winter. Ergin has committed a lot of resources to try and improve the boat with a new rig, new foils, a few changes to the positions of the foils. We have made a few sail design changes and hopefully these things are coming together and we will see a general trend of improvement. A day like to today makes everything worthwhile."

    The two race wins promote Provezza to second overall after four races of this opening regatta of the 52 SUPER SERIES season four points behind Quantum Racing. If Provezza's starts were pin sharp today Quantum Racing's were not up to their usual high standards. They were fouled in the final minute of the second race and had to compromise on what they wanted to do. Second to last off the line they still battled to third by the windward mark. The first start was the better but they held fourth all the way around the track. Overall it was another consistent day for the Ed Baird skippered Quantum Racing, 4,3 giving them a lead of four points now, improved by one point on the morning's standings.

    Azzurra came back to the dock with smiles much more evident than their "nightmare" start to the season yesterday. A good second in the second race of the day finally ignited their grins. They had their best start of the series so far, next boat to windward of Provezza and held second all the way around. This contrasted sharply with their first start of the day when they were ejected from the pin end sandwich and had to take a penalty. The Azzurra team were fully 40 seconds late in starting as a consequence but pulled through to sixth, what Vasco Vascotto, the Azzurra tactician, later described as "a little miracle".

    Consistency has been the Quantum Racing metier so far, Terry Hutchinson so far proving the fleet's professor of risk management. This is especially evident on the start line where, as Hutchinson points out, they will not compromise the security of the big picture game plan by pressing for a high risk start. Don't mistake this playoff between prudence and high stakes gambling as not pushing hard at the start:

    "When I open the door in the morning I start pushing!" Hutchinson says emphatically.

    Meantime rival Vasco Vascotto reaffirmed that nothing changed in the way they sailed the Azzurra, the 2015 52 SUPER SERIES championship winners, from yesterday's high scoring opening to today's very obvious improvement:

    "I said to the guys on the boat 'we change nothing' we sail how we know we can sail and just remember there will be many ups and downs this season, that is how close this fleet is."

    Racing continues Friday with the coastal race planned.

    52 Super Series – Scarlino Cup
    Standings after four races:
    1 Quantum Racing, USA (Doug DeVos USA) (1,3,4,3) 11 pts
    2 Provezza, TUR (Ergin Imre TUR) (4,9,1,1) 15 pts
    3 Platoon, GER (Harm Müller-Spreer GER) (5,2,3,6) 16 pts
    4 Rán Racing, SWE (Niklas Zennström SWE) (3,4,7,4) 18 pts
    5 Alegre, GBR (Andres Soriano USA) (2,5,8,5) 20 pts
    6 Azzurra, ITA (Pablo/Alberto Roemmers ARG) (7,8,6,2) 23 pts
    7 Sled, USA (Takashi Okura JPN) (6,1,9,8) 24 pts
    8 Bronenosec, RUS (Vladimir Liubomirov RUS) (9,6,2,7) 24 pts
    9 Xio/Hurakan, ITA (Guiseppe Parodi ITA) (8,7,5,9) 29 pts
    10 Gladiator, GBR (Tony Langley GBR) (10,10,10,10) 40 pts
    11 Paprec FRA (Jean-Luc Petithuguenin FRA) (11,11,11,11) 44 pts

    Andy Beadsworth GBR, helm Provezza TUR:

    "We recognised in the pre race line ups that the left was pretty strong. We had a panic before the start because we broke a deflector and so I say the shore crew did a greta job getting up there and lashing a new one in. They got us on the start. We worked hard on both starts to win the pin. The left came good and we were just half a length forward, and I mean only half a length. It was only that and that is that half boat length you are always looking for in tuning and training . That was what it was at the top mark.

    We have done a lot of work over the winter. Ergin has committed a lot of resources to try and improve the boat with a new rig, new foils, a few changes to the positions of the foils. We have made a few sail design changes and hopefully these things are coming together and we will see a general trend of improvement. A day like to today makes everything worthwhile."

    Terry Hutchinson (USA), tactician Quantum Racing (USA):

    "The first race we did not get a great start and had to clear and take some transoms and so to get back from that and get fourth was good. And in the second race at 50 seconds we got fouled and that really put us on the back foot and forced us away from where we wanted to go and so there to battle back to third was a solid day.

    There are a lot of things still we can improve upon. The endgame is on Sunday and so we just try to keep ourselves in the hunt.

    Everyone I think had the same strategy wanting to go left. Provezza I think footed off a little to leeward it was very subtle. The left came in strong at the top of the beat. I would have picked Azzurra winning the second race. We sailed in about 45 seconds of fluffiness and Provezza was rumbling on layline the whole time. They were just in the spot they needed to be to pin Azzurra from tacking. Certainly that was higher risk higher reward (for them). But in the big picture world I am plenty happy with how we sailed. Our executions of our starts were not to our standards and so there are a lot of things there we can make gains on, there are good things communication wise that I will get better on which will Ed get us away cleanly.

    I am pushing the minute I get out the door in the morning. I think it is risk/reward, you are balancing the percentages. Yesterday first race of the year we came off the pin clean, it was high risk but it was open. We are never going to compromise our start to execute the big picture strategy. It is only one part of the race."

    Vasco Vascotto ITA, tactician Azzurra (ITA/ARG):

    "I am happier for sure. Yesterday was a bit of a nightmare for sure. And then in the first race we had a penalty and so were last by a long way. Left was so strong that it was then hard to come back from there, but really we did a nice job from there. We made a little miracle. We had a nice start in the second race. Who won the pin won the race but it was very close. At the top mark it was just down to a few metres. Now we need to slow ourselves down a little, prepare well and relax. We are doing a good job, speed is good, crew work is good, the worst thing is the tactician. We are happy today because we know that we don't have to change much. I said to the guys this morning 'we don't have to change anything, be ready to have some ups and some downs this season because the fleet is so competitive."
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