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Rolex TP52 World Championship Preview: Precision and performance

by Quinag 7 Jul 2018 08:34 PDT 17-21 July 2018
Rolex TP52 World Championship © Nico Martinez / MartinezStudio

The 2018 Rolex TP52 World Championship, taking place from 17 -21 July in Cascais, Portugal, will feature nine of the top yacht racing teams on the planet.

The five-day event will be marked by intense competition on the water, where every start, every mark-rounding and every finish will be fiercely contested. Only one crew will triumph; only one crew will be awarded the world champion's title; and, only one will be rewarded with a Rolex timepiece.

Hosted by Clube Naval de Cascais, racing will be held on the waters off the Portuguese Atlantic coast. Participants will need to be prepared for the challenging conditions typical of one of the world's best yacht racing venues. The competing teams represent Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. The roster includes some of the most famous, pedigree names in grand prix yachting.

The defending champion, Harm Müller Spreer's Platoon from Germany, will have its work cut out to retain the title won last year. Nine teams, including Platoon, have launched new boats this season in an effort to ensure their racing platform is at its competitive best. At this level of sailing, the pursuit of perfection in both man and machine is unrelenting. The Rolex TP52 World Championship forms part of the 52 SUPER SERIES, for which Rolex is the Official Timepiece, and across the first two events of the season in Croatia only one boat failed to post a top-three finish over the 16 races sailed proving the fleet's fierce competitiveness.

The winners of first event of the year were five-time world champions Quantum Racing. Already featuring a stellar cast in its crew line-up, the American team has been boosted by the addition of the America's Cup star Dean Barker. Another team to boast serious talent in its ranks is Onda from Brazil. The team owner, Eduardo de Souza Ramos, is a double Olympian in his own right and his all-Brazilian crew features five-time Olympic medallist, twice Rolex World Sailor of the Year and Rolex Testimonee, Robert Scheidt as tactician.

Hasso and Tina Plattner, co-owners of the South African entry Phoenix, are relative newcomers to the TP52 circuit and, on the surface, exhibit more experience in a different racing arena: the maxi yacht world. The Plattners have accumulated overall wins at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 1997 and 2007, and, Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2006, together with Line Honours at the Rolex Sydney Hobart in 1996. However, the Phoenix crew includes three-time 52 SUPER SERIES winning skipper Ed Baird, another former Rolex World Sailor of the Year, and, second place overall at the second regatta this season suggests the immediate appearance is deceptive.

The TP52 Class is based upon on a rule that governs certain design, materials and equipment parameters. Within those parameters is room for optimization. The new boat launches this year reflect an accelerating and constant process of evolution and refinement. Every element that affects performance is analysed on an ongoing basis, the quest for perfection unceasing. Hull design, keel design and position, mast construction, sail control systems, the sails themselves; any stone left unturned is a potential rock that will impact boat speed and manoeuvrability.

Alongside determining what changes in equipment are required, teams have looked closely at the human aspect. Training programmes, daily routines, onboard choreography: everything is stripped to its core, reassessed and rebuilt. On the water, the fine-tuning continues. Data feeds from the boats are used in conjunction with drone footage to identify weaknesses and isolate performance-influencing crew errors. The teams know that time spent ironing out the smallest of imperfections will be rewarded in the race results.

For those with an eye on one of the major titles in yachting, no effort is too much. The stage is set for a truly memorable event. Racing at the 2018 Rolex TP52 World Championship begins on Tuesday 17 July. The new world champion will be declared at the prize giving on Saturday 21 July.

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