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Visit 52 Super Series’

ROB WEILAND looks at the strides made in the TP52 class and at the line-up for the Super Series

When it comes to performance in yacht racing readers will surely agree that weight positioning and weight saving are crucial – and the most efficient way to save weight is to leave it on the dock. Over the past 30 years big steps have been made. The 2015 TP52 at 7,000kg is half the weight of the IOR50 of the 1990s and (very) considerably faster in all directions. Weight management is always key to performance.

So you have to chuckle reading recent PR on TP52 cruiser-racer hull sisters being equally good or (why not) even better than the pure race version. You cannot have your cake and eat it and you cannot win a race dragging hundreds of kilos of unused space and comfort along with you, let alone while dreaming away in a comfy bunk or having a shower and a shave before returning to the deck to have breakfast under the sprayhood…

That is if rulemakers understand that racing is sport and that sport is what makes people build and buy boats and accept a class rule. Even if you own a cruiser-racer you are not going to be shocked to be beaten by a flat-out racer hull sister being pushed to the limit by a well-practised race crew. Meanwhile, the opposite experience, being rated out of a chance to beat your comfy hull sister, is enough to sell up and take to golf or gardening.

I talk of course about racing international events and national, regional and world championships. Not about Wednesday evening club racing. Each club is welcome to rate and rule locally as it pleases.

Of course a well-sailed, well-equipped cruiser-racer should always beat a poorly handled racer and a modern rating rule should reflect this. However, if a rule actively encourages a cruiser-racer typeform then it should not be used for top-level events.

Most accept the logic of this, although there will always be the odd person who prefers to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing causing havoc. With my blessing, please do put the wolf behind bars.

But putting those bars in place means accepting that no system will ever fairly rate all types of boats. I know that honesty in this department clashes with the holy grail of every rating system, but once we accept this simple fact and work on this basis then we will find the quality of racing going up. Yes, even the quality of racing among cruiser-racers, as we are not selling them as racers.

Owners will either accept this and will still enter the top regattas or they will seek out events catering for their style of racing. As at the Rolex Maxi Worlds, where you now have the Mini Maxi start for cruiser-racers and the Maxi72 start for pure racers of the same size. The result is not two small starts, but the cruiser-racers returning each year to compete again – so more boats and two proud winners. When quality goes up interest and participation grow. You cannot race off the back of PR, it is not a racing system… as too many have found out and often at great expense.

That having a good boat is a good start, but no more than that, must also be accepted. The TP52 Class and the 52 Super Series, without too much PR, have prompted considerable steps forward in raceboat design and construction, as well as in build management. The 2015 boats mirror the enthusiasm and passion of their owners in every detail. Many owners, as many flavours and no two boats styled the same. The same goes for layout and equipment: even sisterships are by no means identical twins.

Soon, however, the beauty contest will be secondary. The moment the PR stops, the sheets are pulled in and the bows come up for real then all the nonsense fades away.

Typing away in the Real Club Náutico de Palma clubhouse during the final day of racing at the Gaastra PalmaVela I am witnessing the first reality check. Four TP52s that we will also see in the Super Series in Palma: Alegre, Azzurra, Interlodge and Quantum. All Botíndesigned boats, so a verdict on the Botín-Vrolijk preference is still only guesswork. It is my feeling that we will not see a clear winner in this department.

Three days of PalmaVela racing proved once more that experience is of the greatest value. Newcomers to the class, Andy Soriano and the Alegre team, are up against Azzurra, Quantum and the experienced team on Interlodge helmed by no less than Dean Barker – straightaway back in at the deepest part of the deep end.

Changing gears in the 52 is of the utmost importance and requires practice. Once behind, it is a long haul to catch up and oh so easy to slip further behind, certainly on the one-sided courses that the Bay of Palma tends to present. Racing the top boats is the best way to learn, a four-day masterclass, but not always easy on the self-esteem. The first Super Series event in Valencia will show us the value of this ‘crash course’.

From the first gun in Valencia we will witness pure promotion for sailing and in particular for big boat racing and the teamwork that it requires at the highest level. Pure promotion for the magnificent machines that the TP52s are. No excuse to lose. No excuse not to enjoy every moment of the racing.

As 52 Super Series organisers and as the TP52 Class there is much to live up to. We somehow have to match the enthusiasm and efforts of the 14 owners and teams competing this year. It will be tough to get even close is my modest perception. There will be frustration and disappointment, there will be joy and satisfaction.

All participants start each of the 50 races scheduled for this Super Series with the same goal: to win. Win the start, the beat, the run, the race, the event, the series. One win is better than none. Winning an event is big. Winning the series is huge and so difficult.

Race hard and fair. Focus on the moment, on each and every action. It has to happen here and now, after all the planning and preparation now is the moment of truth. Not for the fainthearted, but for the passionate. Enjoy the game, come ashore with a smile. One good photo of a guy enjoying his sport is better promotion than me sweating over a thousand words… no matter how hard I try.
Rob Weiland, TP52 class manager

52 Super Series 2015
Valencia, 19-23 May, Ford Vignale Valencia Sailing Week
Porto Cervo, 9-13 June, Week of the Straits
Puerto Portals, 14-18 July, TP52 World Championship
Palma, 4-8 August, Mapfre Copa del Rey
Cascais, 16-20 September, Cascais Royal Cup

Click here for more information on the 52 Super Series»

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