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A disrupting cut off low and celebrating diversity at the Rolex TP52 World Championship Cascais 2022

by 52 Super Series 20 Jun 18:15 PDT 20-25 June 2022
Rolex TP52 World Championship © Nico Martinez

The Rolex TP52 World Championship Cascais 2022 regatta starts Tuesday on the Atlantic waters off Cascais where Takashi Okura's Sled team will seek to defend the 2021 title they won in Palma in November. But while the nine boat fleet has largely come to Portugal in search of Cascais' usual diet of big winds and waves, in contrast these coming days seem set to offer mainly light to moderate breezes.

A cut off low pressure system in the Atlantic off Cape Finisterre continues to disrupt the Nortada, the Portuguese trade winds which normally supply Cascais with its typical, plentiful supply of brisk breezes. And so light to moderate airs could open up the game even more than expected, not least for Harm Müller Spreer's double world champions Platoon a team which has won both their titles in light to moderate winds and flat waters on the Mediterranean.

Today's practice races were contested in a wind which puffed up to 17 kts at times but was mainly in the range 12-13kts. And as if to underline they are back to full strength and just as much chance of winning their first world title Ergin Imre's Provezza took one of today's practice race winning guns.

Navigator Nacho Postigo predicts, "This is looking like it might not be a typical Cascais week. It was relatively windy today but we saw long periods of 12-13kts. You have to be able to change gears smartly today. But it looks like it will be light this week and that will open up the field a lot. The low pressure is coming down again and that will cut off the winds. By the end of the week that low will disappear and the trades will re-establish but not as strong as we normally have. Friday could be light and Saturday could be more like we normal Cascais."

Postigo expands, "A cut off low like this is a low pressure which is cut off from the effect of the high altitude winds and so gets detached from the conveyor belt. One it falls off the conveyor belt it can stay there for ever. For sailors it a nightmare because offshore you have to go north of it, or stay inshore and take a risk of getting stuck. It is not common in the summer."

Celebrating diversity

These next few days will see TP52 racing at the very highest level with the ROLEX TP52 World Championship title at stake. Everyone raises their game a notch or two and risks more in the pursuit of one of grand prix sailing's most coveted titles. But it is great to reflect that the TP52 class and the ROLEX TP52 World Championship remains the grand prix class where the world's top professional sailors still love the boats and competition most. It is the benchmark circuit year-in, year-out because the racing is so close, there is still scope for technical and design developments and the TP52 is fast, fun and the perfect size.

Top professionals convene in Cascais arriving from an incredibly diverse range of classes and events. At one extreme Australia's Tom Slingsby returns to Phoenix, fresh - or maybe not so fresh - from a stunning Sail GP win in Chicago on the high speed, high octane F50 foiling catamarans. Simon Fry joins British flagged Gladiator directly from second place in the Dragon world championships, whilst Platoon's Victor Marino, Dirk De Ridder and Ross Halcrow are part of the just crowned 6M world championships winning Momo crew. They are also regular winners on the ClubSwan 50 circuit and favourites to defend their 2020 and 2021 world championship title in Valencia.

Double Moth World Champion and back-to-back SailGP season winning skipper Slingsby steps between classes with seeming ease, winning consistently. He says, "It is tough changes classes all the time. I probably have the biggest jump coming straight from SailGP. For me I flew in at midday, got picked up, straight to the marina."

And, asked how long it takes to re-calibrate, Slingsby smiles, "I wish it came back to me just like that but I got one practice race in now and two practice starts but I feel confident enough going forwards. The TP52 is the top grand prix yachting fleet in the world right now for sure. The best sailors are here. It is great."

Gladiator trimmer Fry, a past Dragon world champion whose Provezza Dragon team just finished world runners up says, "The most important thing is that everyone of us still migrates to and wants to come to the 52 SUPER SERIES and whatever else is on we plan our calendars around this, coming back to the TP52 and the 52 SUPER SERIES. "

He explains, "In some respects it is easy to come back here and recalibrate because I have done this for such a very long time but going from a three man boat, sailing a Dragon where you have an amazing amount of autonomy, to sailing in these boats where you are just a very small part in a big machine and you have to do your job exceptionally well, and on board we all have to do our jobs exceptionally well to win. And doing your job perfectly allows the other person to do their job perfectly."

Fry observes, "The key for me is to maintain the highest level of your skill, do a lot of different sailing in different classes so you stay sharp in your sailing. There are people we took off the SailGP boats which would not be that great on the TP52 because they don't have the skillset but we can't go and sail SailGP because we don't have the skillset and the capabilities. The other thing about the TP52 is that 50 foot boats with 12,13,14 people is a magical combination, everybody has to do something and the boat is just big enough that it will bite you but it is just small enough that you can kick it round the course. "

Platoon's America's Cup winning trimmer Ross Halcrow came straight to Cascais from winning the 6M worlds in Galicia and is a key member of the dominant ClubSwan 50 team of the moment, "It is good to be sailing in big fleets like the Swan 50 but the TP52 is more high performance and technical, the apparent wind is forward and so you sail a different tactical game to get downwind. I have fun with what I do, like the 6 Metre is old school, square the pole back downwind, the Swan the apparent wind is aft and I enjoy these diverse sailing techniques. That is what makes our sport so much fun."

Among the numerous 52 SUPER SERIES sailors who tasted success at the recent New York YC's 168th Annual Regatta, Takashi Okura and some of his core Sled crew just won the 12M class on Mr Okura's 12M Freedom, the original 1980 America's Cup winner. Sled's mainsheet trimmer Don Cowie reflects,

"The TP52 class is such close racing and it gets tighter every year. It is harder to win. And by comparison sailing the 12 Metre was quite relaxing. It was fantastic, very enjoyable. They are cool boats, there we were on the 1980 America's Cup winner Freedom. I felt quite young compared to having Grant Simmer and Murray Jones. Coming back here is relatively easy but going back in time on to the 12M was hard, this TP52 racing is normal. Squaring the pole back and sailing 175 degrees, that is kinda different."

Racing is billed to start Tuesday with a 1300hrs (local time, CET minus 1hr) warning signal.

More information at 52superseries.com.

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