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Provezza versus Platoon in 52 Super Series 2023 title shoot out in Puerto Portals next week

by 52 Super Series 14 Sep 2023 04:17 NZST 18-23 September 2023
Platoon - 52 Super Series 2023 © 52 Super Series

Next week the Bay of Palma will be the scene for one of the most exciting title showdowns in the history of the 52 Super Series, the world's leading grand prix monohull circuit.

Ergin Imré's Turkish flagged Provezza head into the fifth and final event of the 2023 season, the 52 Super Series Puerto Portals Sailing Week Mallorca with an 18 points leads. They won the first two regattas of the season, in Saint-Tropez and Scarlino. As probably the most consistent team this season Provezza are probably favourites to join the three teams which have so far won one or more 52 Super Series titles, Quantum Racing, Azzurra and Sled.

But pushing hard behind them in second are Harm Müller-Spreer's German team on Platoon. They come to Puerto Portals having won the Royal Cup in Menorca in June before pipping title rivals Provezza to the Rolex TP52 World Championship title on a thrilling last race in Barcelona. Müller-Spreer's crew are desperate to finally land the season title which they have missed five times, finishing second or third every time.

Statistics and probability should in theory favour Provezza who are normally clinical, consistent finishers. They won their first 52 Super Series regatta in Puerto Portals in 2017 and besides having the speed and crew skills to close the deal also have one of the most experienced local, Palma based navigators in Nacho Postigo whose knowledge of the Bay is legendary. And the team are ultra keen to deliver for Turkish owner Imre who has been in grand prix yacht racing for 40 odd years.

But Platoon come in with the winning impetus. Their Achilles heel has been penalties, even in Barcelona en route to their third world championship title they landed unnecessary penalties.

Four times 52 Super Series champion, ex Azzurra skipper Guillermo Parada is perhaps the most accomplished observer, impartial but with a foot in both camps. His brother Cole is strategist on Provezza but no one knows Platoon's effervescent Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto - who was Azzurra's tactician better than Guille Parada.

"They are the two quickest boats this season. Provezza were fastest from the start with their new keel, new sails, new crew members, Platoon took time to settle. So with a nearly 20pts lead looking at the overall standings it is for Provezza to lose and Platoon to go and win." Suggests Parada.

"But as we know there are ten races and Provezza is in a good position. They need to not make any big mistakes. If they can equal Platoon over the first two days they should be safe. If I was Provezza I would stay close to Platoon and try and get as equal points as they can. And if you have chance to hit them (tack or gybe on them) you do it. Provezza has a little edge in speed on Platoon and if they can start ahead they have the chance to hit them. But Vasco is so talented he will do all he can to get these obstacles out of the way. They both have the advantage that there is a big points gap back to third. They will be looking at each other and that is where I see Provezza's advantage." He summarises.

"But they have been among the quickest boats in most of the conditions. Provezza are leading because they made less mistakes at the start of the season."

The Provezza team plan to continue with the same approach, the same processes which have served them all season.

"We feel confident. It is a shame to miss the world championship title. We had it the day before, we had in our pocket the last race until the last run. But they did not win by chance, they pushed, they sailed well and they won. And we would rather come away from Barcelona with an 18 points lead and miss the world title than have the world title and a ten points lead, absolutely!" Says Postigo.

"But we can take nothing for granted in terms of the weather. September on the Bay of Palma can be very complicated. It could be a beautiful week of sunshine with seabreezes, but we have just had a week with rain and calms. There are too many races still to think about any kind of strategy, we go there and do our thing like usual." Says Postigo.

Winning two regattas on the trot, Platoon's Vasco Vascotto is on great form but knows the odds are against the Platoon team.

"I am looking forwards to being in Puerto Portals, it has such strong links with the TP52 class I feel good there. Provezza have a strong lead but winning the world title has re-invigorated us and reminded us what we can do, we can still do good things. And this circuit has consistently shown that no lead is safe, nothing can ever be taken for. On Platoon we will fight until the very end, each regatta has gone to the last races on the last day and I think this one will be the same. A lot will depend on the weather conditions. It is still very hot in the Mediterranean and we will see what effect that has."

The battle for third place is close between Doug DeVos' Quantum Racing powered by American Magic and Tony Langley's Gladiator, the British boat leading by (2) points.

Quantum Racing powered by American Magic have been unlucky this season after losing John Kostecki, tactician, to an eye injury just before Scarlino. And so every event has seen a different afterguard line up. But in Puerto Portals they will welcome Kostecki back to work with Victor Diaz de Leon as Strategist and new navigator Nico Sanfelici (check spelling please).

The season's finale will see 11 boats competing representing eight different nations. 2021 circuit champions and World Champions, Takashi Okura's Sled will reprise their title winning afterguard brining back Italian Luna Rossa helm Francesco Bruni for the regatta. On Jean Luc Petihuguenin's Paprec, three times Women's World Match Racing champion Pauline Courtois will steer and eight times round the world racer Bouwe Bekking will steer the Hong Kong entry Alpha Plus.

The official practice races are Monday 18th, points racing starts Tuesday and goes through to Saturday.

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