World Champions Rán Racing, Niklas Zennström’s, team proved they are tuned up and ready to defend the title they won in Miami in spring 2013 when they won a fluky, light winds practice race as the nine boat fleet warmed up today for the Audi TP52 World Championship off Porto Cervo, Sardinia.
While the regatta is the second of the season-long Barclays 52 Super Series, around the dock at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda today there is no doubting that the crews see the TP52 world title as an important target for their season. With potentially three days of coastal races, sailors were preparing for a very different set of challenges to those which they dealt with last month in Capri.
Racing in among the rocks and islands of the spectacularly beautiful archipelago between the NE corner of Sardinia and the islands of Caprera and La Madalena is some of the best in the world. Even if some of the leading sailors in the fleet have done dozens of world class regattas here, there are always surprises.
Indeed Vasco Vascotto (ITA) the tactician of Azzurra, the host’s Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, finished the practice race today and then went out to do his extra homework, taking a RIB to reconnaissance some of the key areas, just to be extra sure.
'Be sure there are more rocks out here than there were before. There are plenty.' Joked Vascotto, who would love to deliver Azzurra’s home club the world title on their own waters. But his homework could take all night as the YCCS’s book of courses contains no fewer than 40 options!
2014 Barclays 52 Super Series, Azzurra
Light winds are expected for the first few days of the regatta which starts Tuesday and finishes Saturday. Rán Racing’s British tactician Adrian Stead confirms that his crew are sure they are on the up, and ready to hold on to the title they won against Azzurra on the last race in Miami in March.
'The title is ours to defend. Dead right we are here to defend it and want to win it again. We want it for another year. We love it here and we feel we are on the up. We have won here. It is a great place to sail and there is always something going on. Today there was a little bit of tide which came in and made a difference at the gate.' Said Stead who has won the world title twice as tactician with Quantum Racing in 2010 in Valencia and in 2011 here in Porto Cervo, before winning last year with Rán Racing.
'I think the 52 Coastal races are often decided on the first beat or the first lap. If we are racing in a NE’ly it is one thing and then later in the week a W’ly. We have a few little things we do to the boat.'
'We came out of Capri very positively. We have moved on a very long way from Miami. We started well and we were two points off the lead going into the last day in Capri. We know we have the ability to come and win regattas.'
Quantum Racing might be considered to be on the back foot after their third in Capri, but they are the team which has won three world titles since 2008 (there were no worlds in 2012) and team director Ed Reynolds reaffirms that a fourth title would sit well on their list of honours:
2014 Barclays 52 Super Series, Capri day 1 - Quantum Racing
'You can never have too many world championships on your resume. It is one of those things that instantly strikes a chord with people. It has a significance of course. Our primary focus is always winning the season long title, but to come away from here as world champions would be awesome, and everyone here wants to do that.'
And while Stead is vehement that he relishes the weighting towards coastal courses here, Reynolds says his team would honestly prefer the known quantity, containing many fewer variables that the discipline of windward-leeward racing usually is:
'We figure everything is the same for everyone. But the truth is if you hooked a lie detector up to our guys you would discover they would rather do windward leewards because it is a known quantity. We feel strong there. All the little variables that get thrown at you on a coastal race, you can’t control. If it is good luck accept it, if you get bad luck then keep fighting. We have a boat full of control freaks, windward-leewards they can control more, and so distance races there is more that is out of your control.'
Unfortunately Quantum Racing’s team owner Doug DeVos will not be in Porto Cervo to steer his yacht. He made a sudden change of plans due to business reasons four days ago, having planned to be here for the previous nine months since the dates were announced.
'We are heartbroken at that.' Reynolds said today,' Doug has a big business situation which he has to stay for. Doug loves this fleet, the boat, the venue, the circuit. He made the decision four days ago but he has been planning to be here for the last nine months. He does a great job on the boat. Honestly, not trying to compare Doug’s steering to Ed Baird, because Ed Baird is Ed Baird and Doug is Doug. Doug in his own right is a great driver and nobody ever feels compromised in any way when Doug is steering. The crew is very disappointed he can’t make it.'
Audi TP52 World Championship
1. Azzurra ITA (Alberto Rommers, ARG)
2. B2 ITA (Michelle Galli, ITA)
3. Gladiator GBR (Tony Langley, GBR)
4. Hurkan ITA (Giuseppe Parodi, ITA)
5. Paprec Recyclage FRA (Jean-Luc Petithuguenin FRA)
6. Phoenix BRA (Eduardo Souza Ramos BRA)
7. Provezza TUR (V Ergin Imre, TUR)
8. Quantum Racing USA (Doug DeVos, USA)
9. Rán Racing SWE (Niklas Zennström, SWE)
52 Super Series