52 Super Series US Championship – Practice race overall

52 Super Series 2014
Martinez Studio/52 Super Series
52 Super Series US Championship is being held in Miami, Florida, from 5th to 9th March 2014. Reigning 52 Super Series champions Quantum Racing may have had the upper hand in Key West in January when they won the first regatta of the US 52 Super Series but today’s official practice race prior to Wednesday’s start of the Miami regatta highlighted that this second event may be open for the taking.

Niklas Zennström’s Rán Racing crew read the light, shifty breezes best off Miami’s South Beach Tuesday, on the waters where they secured the 52 World Championship title last year, winning the practice contest with Azzurra a good second. In a sense it reprised the finish order of the last race of the 2013 regatta here, augering well for Rán Racing perhaps?

2014 52 Super Series, Rolex Capri Sailing Week
Martinez Studio/52 Super Series

But Jim Swartz’s highly fancied Vesper crew were very much in the mix before they chose to leave the course at the leeward gate, whilst champions Quantum Racing found themselves on the back foot early in the race.

After flying in last night to take the helm of Interlodge, Dean Barker admitted on the dock after the race to feeling slightly rusty, hardly surprising considering the double MedCup championship winning skipper-helm reckons this was his first monohull race in the best part of four years.

Having raced with the TP52s from 2006 to 2010, including early years finishing runner up on Warpath, Barker was visibly excited about getting back on the 52 regatta race course.

'I felt a bit rusty.' Barker smiled, ' I think it is the first monohull racing I have done since 2010. It is good, nice to do some racing and some upwind starts for example which is a little bit of a novelty these days.

'It is hard to turn down an opportunity to do some good racing like this. The racing absolutely is the appeal. I have been following this circuit and how it has been developing and going. I think some of the best sailing we did was in 09 and 10. It was great fun and so it is nice to be back out there and mix it up a little bit.'

Winds for the first few days are expected to be light and the race course area offers a whole different group of challenges. As Quantum Racing’s Terry Hutchinson noted on Monday, Miami is a venue which does not often favour the risk averse, percentage afterguards. A frontal system Thursday is expected to yield stronger breezes.

52 US CHAMPIONSHIP 52 Super Series
Martinez Studio/52 Super Series

Vesper’s tactician Gavin Brady is very much a fan of Miami: ' Typically here you have bigger waves for the wind strength because of the Gulf Stream and so it is a little bit more expensive here in Miami to do the extra tack, especially in the start where you can be caught slow.'

'That is one of the cool things about Miami. It is different. I think the key thing here is getting the lanes early. I find this class really interesting because you can really push the boats like a small keelboat, but they still weigh 7.3 tonnes and so you actually have to get lanes, and sail them somewhat like a small maxi boat, but then at the corners you can treat them like a sportboat and so you have to jump between these modes, especially here in Miami.'

Rán Racing narrowly won here last year, usurping Azzurra on the last race. Project manager and main trimmer Tim Powell considers they are in shape to win again here, but need improve their consistency.

'I think that every boat on its day is capable of winning and last year we had a fantastic week. I think we all know we are capable of being right up there.

I think from our point of view we need to keep the consistency going. In Key West we had a couple of bad results, one bad day. Here we need to look at the risk, gain and rewards. And that is very difficult here today in these kind of conditions.'

Their biggest change since last season is bringing on board double 470 world champion Nic Asher as strategist, a choice which might work well for them in Miami’s light, streaky and shifty winds.

'It (having a strategist to concentrate on the wind changes and big picture) does allow Ado to concentrate more on the tactical side of things and Nic and Steve Hayles can be a little more eyes out of the boat in terms of what we are expecting wind wise. Nic is great, a young guy learning lots and lots, but he is a world class sailor in his own right. We spoke about the need to have a strategist person and we looked around for the right person we thought we needed.

He is a very talented sailor and has won two 470 world titles. What we felt, from Ibiza, is that we were missing out on a very good, natural sailor who can look up the course and see the wind. When you sail big boats a bit too long then maybe you lose that skill a little.' Racing starts Wednesday with two or three races scheduled, first warning signal at 1230hrs local time.

Gavin Brady (NZL) tactician Vesper (USA): 'You can never have enough time out there practising against these guys, the Super Series is probably the highest level in the world, and so every minute you are out there with them is beneficial for the programme.

You never really know in the practice race who is using what, who is using good sails, who is trying something new. We were using pretty good race sails. The Vesper has always been a great TP52 which has been around for a long time now but she is still very competitive.

I think the key thing here is getting the lanes early. I find this class really interesting because you can really push the boats like a small keelboat they still weigh 7.3 tonnes and you actually have to get lanes, and sail them somewhat like a small maxi boat, but at the corners you can treat them like a sportboat and so you have to jump between these modes, especially here in Miami.

Typically here you have bigger waves for the wind strength because of the Gulf Stream and so it is a little bit more expensive here in Miami to do the extra tack, especially in the start where you can be caught slow. That is one of the cool things about Miami is it is different.

This year we have a new mast and boom. For sure things have moved on. We are really happy with Hall Spars and we have just been upgrading the boat. And Jim (Swartz) the owner still enjoys the process too, although the hull is older, the equipment and hardware is all new.

We have not been in Europe for a long time. The last time was with the STP65 and that seems like an age ago. I think we are all looking forwards to going to Capri, it will be a good event. Jim has some commitments when the worlds are on, and the North East (of the USA) is a big thing for him. It’s a yacht from Edgartown (Martha’s Vineyard) and you really want to spend the summer months there. So we are only doing the one event in Europe but are looking forwards to it.'

Tim Powell (GBR) mainsheet and project manager Rán Racing (SWE): 'We had got some good shifts at the top end of the first beat and that kind of got us a bit of a jump. And then we could hold on down to the bottom mark and then made a big extension on the second beat.

It is so changeable here and I think the forecast is for a bit of everything and so it should make for a pretty interesting week. We obviously did well here last year and want to repeat that here. I think that every boat on its day is capable of winning and last year we had a fantastic week. I think we all know we are capable of being right up there.

I think from our point of view we need to keep the consistency going. In Key West we had a couple of bad results, one bad day. Here we need to look at the risk, gain and rewards. And that is very difficult here today in these kind of conditions.

It does allow Ado to concentrate more on the tactical side of things and Nic and Steve Hayles can be a little more eyes out of the boat in terms of what we are expecting wind wise. Nic is great, young guy learning lots and lots, but he is a world class sailor. We spoke about the need to have a strategist person and we looked around for the person we thought we needed. He is a very talented sailor and has won two 470 world titles. What we felt, from Ibiza, is that we were missing out on a very good, natural sailor who can look up the course and see the wind. When you sail big boats a bit too long then maybe you lose that skill a little.'

Dean Barker (NZL) helm Interlodge (USA): 'I felt a bit rusty. I think it is the first monohull racing I have done since 2010. It is good, nice to some racing and some upwind starts for example which is a little bit of a novelty these days.

I got a call from Kris and I just had to tidy up a few things at home but it is hard to turn down an opportunity to do some good racing like this. The racing absolutely is the appeal. I have been following this circuit and how it has been developing and going. I think some of the best sailing we did was in 09 and 10. It was great fun and so it is nice to be back out there and mix it up a little bit.

I sailed with Dave Armitage, with Zach (Hurst) who was with us at Team New Zealand in 2004, I raced against Andy (Horton) a fair bit in the TP52s and know Andy Escourt from the RC44s but it is nice to be here and to sail with a different group of people but at the moment I am just trying to find my own way around! Your timing and starting takes time to get back, and obviously you are racing against guys who have never stopped and obviously the standard is very very high amongst the top guys. If the breeze stays light then I think all the boats are about the same speed.

You don’t want to have your best race in the practice race but we have some room to improve, but we are just getting to know each other and the boat. I am looking forwards to being out there racing. Rán and Azzurra had a pretty good race today. I sailed here a little in the Farr 40s but don’t really know the conditions that well. There is a lot going on out there.

It has been great at home. We are waiting to hear what the (America’s Cup) Protocol brings and that is supposedly mid March and so only ten days away, whether or not we see that will remain to be seen. It is very hard to know what will happen.'

52 Super Series 2014 Event Calendar:

• Quantum Key West Race Week, Key West, Florida, January 20 - 24
• 52 US Championship, Miami, Florida, March 5 - 9
• Rolex Capri Sailing Week, Capri, Italy, May 20 - 24
• TP 52 World Championship, Porto Cervo, Italy, June 10 - 14
• Copa del Rey, Palma, Spain, August 4 - 9
• Royal Cup Marina Ibiza, Ibiza, Spain, September 17 - 21
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