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Marine Resource 2016

Pressure is on from Day 1 as Quantum Key West opens 52 Super Series

by 52 Super Series on 11 Jan
Pressure is on from Day 1 as Quantum Key West opens 52 Super Series 52 Super Series
Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s brand new, recently launched TP52 Interlodge will make its racing debut when 11 highly competitive boats line up to start the 2017 52 Super Series at Quantum Key West Race Week, next week.

The pressure is on to hit the start line in optimum shape. Since the last regatta of the 2016 season, the EGNOS 52 Super Series Cascais Cup, in Portugal, there has been just 11 weeks available to make changes to boats and rigs, to ship boats from Europe to Florida, and to make changes to the crew line up. So the preliminary week of informal training off Key West promises to be doubly important.

Racing starts Monday 16th January and runs through to Friday 20th January. For the first time in the six-year history of the world’s leading monohull grand prix circuit, all six regattas – two in the USA and four in Europe – will count towards the overall 52 Super Series title.

Interlodge is one of four boats that race this season within an open book – shared information and coaching – Quantum Sails programme along with the 2016 champions, Doug DeVos’ Quantum Racing, Harm Müller-Spreer’s German-flagged Platoon and Tony Langley’s Gladiator, which races for Great Britain. These four teams got together for a few days of pre-Christmas training in Florida.

After the training session, Quantum’s coach James Lyne reported:

“We are in a great place for the rest of the year to develop speed as the boats will be able to talk ‘apples for apples’ between each other. We can now easily replicate good settings across the four-boat testing programme.”

The new Interlodge will debut with Andy Horton calling tactics with double Olympic silver medallist and Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Ian Walker steering; deputising for the owner who cannot race because of an arm injury. There are several key changes to crew line ups, some of which are likely to require time on the race course to function smoothly.

The champions’ line up has changed for 2017. America’s Cup winner, skipper-helm Ed Baird (USA) has moved from Quantum Racing to the tactician’s role on Gladiator. Olympian and two times Moth World Champion, Bora Gulari (USA) steps into the hot seat and will alternate on Quantum Racing as helm when owner-driver Doug DeVos is not available, sailing as strategist to support tactician Terry Hutchinson when DeVos steers.

True to their philosophy of minimal crew changes, the Roemmers’ family team, Azzurra, have two small changes. They bring on Ciccio Celon (ITA) as a trimmer and then will train up and integrate young Argentinian talent Klaus Lange, 21, who finished seventh in the 49er at the 2016 Olympic regatta in Rio, and is the son of Santiago Lange, the NACRA 17 Olympic champion who has raced extensively with the 52 Super Series.

Adrian Stead (GBR) returns as tactician on Niklas and Catherine Zennström’s Rán Racing. The boat is reported to have had some small changes made to the aft sections of the hull in Germany before being shipped to Florida. He swaps roles with Morgan Larson (USA) who will be tactician this season on Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec. America’s Cup winner Peter Holmberg (USVI) will steer Ergin Imre’s Turkish-flagged Provezza. On Harm Müller-Spreer’s Platoon, John Kostecki (USA) returns as tactician and on Andy Soriano’s Alegre, Chris Main (NZL) sails as tactician this season with Noel Drennan (AUS) on mainsail.

While Quantum Racing won the 2016 title by a comfortable margin in the end, Azzurra were on the ascendancy from the middle of the season. They won more races in the second half of the year than any other team and were at least Quantum Racing’s equals. There is every indication that most of the impetus gained during 2016 should be carried forwards, but this training and testing week will prove vital for most teams. New sails still need to be tested, crew work fine-tuned and full racing mode achieved before Monday’s first start.

Ed Reynolds, the director of the championship winning Quantum Racing team, explains:

“We have made some changes to the boat and the rigging and some system upgrades, but integrating Bora will be one of the most critical challenges. We are fortunate to have Doug [DeVos] steering in Key West, where we won last year with him on the helm. We have learned that winning the 52 Super Series is about minimising our weaknesses over a 50-race series.”

Azzurra skipper-helm Guillermo Parada (ARG) sums up their status going into Key West:

“Make no mistake last season was a tough, complicated one for us. We made good progress in the second half of the season and hopefully we can use the four or five days before we start racing to check in with our new sails. We were a lot closer to Quantum Racing, which for us is still the benchmark team. But if we can start the season with good speed, that will let Vasco [Vascotto], our tactician do his job and hopefully we can carry on. We are looking to win this season and will do all that we can to do so.”

Adrian Stead (GBR) comments:

“In some respects it is surprising how quickly the time has gone through the winter. Our aspirations are to be on the podium again and to make sure we are at least one step higher up. There is lots to be done and for me one of the key things is, in this high quality fleet where eight or nine boats can win races, is being able to make a seventh or eighth from a ninth place in a bad race. And correspondingly when you go around the top mark in sixth, making sure you are going forward in the fleet. Over 50 races, that is what makes the biggest difference at the end of the season.”
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