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Battle lines drawn for next week's Rolex TP52 World Championship Barcelona 2023

by 52 Super Series 18 Aug 2023 08:09 NZST 21-26 August 2023
Rolex TP52 World Championship © 52 Super Series

When the Rolex TP52 World Championship Barcelona 2023 opens next week on the 37th America's Cup waters off Barcelona, Spain next week there will be no clear favourite.

And as Cup teams ramp up their training and testing off Barcelona, eyes will inevitably focus on the white hot TP52 fleet with which many sailors have personal history, a national allegiance, or are just interested, discerning fans.

From the fleet of 10 boats from seven different nations which will line up on what is considered an open, very challenging race arena, more than half the teams are widely considered to have an equally realistic chance of securing the 2023 world title.

Defending champs, putting the pieces in place...fast

Were the champions Quantum Racing fielding the same team as they won the world title with in Cascais last year, they would doubtless rank as out and out favourites. But after changing their focus to develop young talent for the American Magic America's Cup team, bringing in a group of younger sailors, the US flagged team have been close in Saint-Tropez, Scarlino and Menorca, but have not won a regatta this year.

In Barcelona, Quantum Racing powered by American Magic will welcome the return of American Magic's highly successful Terry Hutchinson as tactician, for this one regatta only. But Hutchinson is very short on high level, cutting edge racing this season and, also, it will certainly take time to gel with the existing young afterguard.

That said Quantum Racing powered by American Magic have proven fast at all three events so far this season. They still count on the strongest, most consistently successful core crew on the circuit. If they can put the pieces together very quickly, it would be no surprise at all to see hard driving perfectionist Hutchinson prove the winning catalyst.

Rivalry resumed

Terry Hutchinson's return reprises one of grand prix sailing's most enduring rivalries as the American ace is pitched once more up against Italy's Vasco Vascotto who himself is a past Rolex TP52 World Champion with Azzurra.

Now tactician on Harm Müller Spreer's Platoon, Vascotto and the German flagged crew arrive in Barcelona fresh from winning a very close Mahon, Menorca regatta. Platoon are twice winners of the world title - 2017 in Scarlino and 2019 in Puerto Portals - and Vascotto is hungry to land another world title.

"Right now Barcelona is a world capital of sailing and the Rolex TP52 World Championship will really be under the spotlight. On the water it is a venue which can hold surprises. It will be a great challenge."

Says Vascotto who joined the Platoon team late last season,

"We come straight from Mahon's victory and we will try to be competitive in Barcelona too. Together we have grown a lot together and we can do great things. These world championship regattas must always be tackled full on at 100 per cent, every slightest mistake penalizes you."

Of rekindling the rivalry with his American nemesis, Vascotto smiles,

"There's no doubt about Terry, he's a big character for the whole class, he's won a lot with Quantum, and his return to the world championship comes at a particular time. He's a sailor who has won a lot, and of course an extra stimulus for me personally to win."

Past champions aiming at the present

Takashi Okura's Sled team, which has five times America's Cup winner Murray Jones calling tactics, were the 2021 world champions and have all the ingredients to win again. If anything this season they have started regattas better than they have finished them.

"Barcelona is a tricky place to sail. We definitely have the boat set up well and are fast. Obviously we need to just to a bit better than we have been sailing so far, to concentrate better. And a little bit of luck would help."

Summarises Don Cowie, Sled's project manager and mainsheet trimmer.

Ergin Imré's Turkish flagged Provezza have never won the world title but arrive in the Catalan Capital city holding a comfortable lead on the 2023 52 SUPER SERIES circuit overall standings after having won two out of three regattas so far this season. Their Spanish navigator Nacho Postigo maintains that they will carry on with exactly the same successful approach as they remain fully focused on the season title.

"Again it is just about keeping on doing what we have been doing, changing nothing in our approach, our risk management. We know we are up to speed but winning in Barcelona would really just be a bonus along the way." Says Postigo.

The meteo expert Postigo notes, "It will be very different to when we raced in October last year. June, July and some of August the Garbi, as the local sea breeze is known, is the principal wind and we should see some of it. But maybe there will be some Mistral effect if it is blowing over in the Gulf of Lion but that is not so common, but for sure the wind range will be higher than last year when it was very, very light."

And Provezza's Kiwi tactician Hamish Pepper is very much on form having just won the RC44 world title in Cowes, England.

Baird is back

Hasso and Tina Plattner's Phoenix, circuit runners up in 2022, return to the services of three times World Championship winning tactician Ed Baird, who is delighted to be returning to the 52 SUPER SERIES fleet,

"The fleet, as we all know, is incredibly strong so it will be good to catch up with the team again and the circuit. We have had good experiences together in the past. But to be honest I don't really have expectations other than to make sure we have fun together and sail our best."

Says America's Cup winner Baird who has been sailing TP52s with the competitive fleet on the Great Lakes which has been keeping him sharp. Owner-driver Hasson Plattner is expected to steer.

Most teams push a little harder in their quest for the Rolex TP52 World Championship title and among those who are widely considered title contenders would be Tony Langley's Gladiator which has finished twice on the podium this season with Argentina's Guillermo Parada calling tactics. Parada won the Rolex TP52 world championship title in 2015. So too Andy Soriano's Alegre team have twice been on the world championship podium, third in 2018 and also third last year, both times in Cascais.

Competition starts with the official practice races on Monday August 21st with points racing running Tuesday to Saturday.

All five days of points racing at what promises to be the most exciting, demanding, closest fought Rolex TP52 World Championship for many years, will be broadcast live on the 52 SUPER SERIES channels.

Rolex TP52 World Championship Entries:

  • Alegre, GBR, (Andy Soriano)
  • Alpha +, HKG, (Shawn & Tina Kang)
  • Gladiator, GBR, (A J Langley)
  • Interlodge, USA, (A & G Fragomen)
  • Phoenix, RSA (Hasson & Tina Plattner)
  • Platoon, GER, (Harm Müller Spreer)
  • Provezza, TUR, (Ergin Imre)
  • Quantum Racing powered by American Magic, USA, (Doug DeVos)
  • Sled, USA, (Takashi Okura)
  • Team Vayu, THA, (Whitcraft family)

52 Super Series 2023 Standings: (after three regattas)

1- PROVEZZA (TUR), 34+42+35 = 111pts
2- PLATOON (GER), 45+51+34 = 130pts
3- QUANTUM RACING powered by AMERICAN MAGIC (USA), 40+43+54 = 137pts
4- SLED (USA), 45+52+46,5 = 143,5pts
5- GLADIATOR (GBR), 40+66+41 = 147pts
6- ALEGRE (GBR), 43+64+46 = 153pts
7- VAYU (THA), 58+48+65 = 171pts
8- PAPREC (FRA), 56+81+58 = 195pts
9- INTERLODGE (USA), 45+54+100 = 199pts
10- ALPHA+ (HKG), 65+91+72 = 228pts
11- PHOENIX (RSA), 57+71+100 = 228pts

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