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Pressure coming on! The 2023 52 Super Series starts Tuesday in Saint-Tropez, France

by 52 Super Series 28 Apr 2023 08:11 PDT 2-7 May 2023
52 Super Series Saint-Tropez Sailing Week © 52 Super Series

For the 11 teams which will race under seven different national flags at next week's 52 SUPER SERIES Saint-Tropez Sailing Week, the long months of optimisation and preparation end Wednesday when the first points races of the five regatta 2023 season get under way on the Côte d'Azur's Gulf of Saint-Tropez.

By comparison to most previous years this season starts a little earlier. Often there would have been a full on warm up regatta early May, but this time, as the 52 SUPER SERIES goes to France for the very first time, we are straight into it. And as is always the case on the world's leading grand prix monohull circuit from Day 1 there is no margin for error.

There are no discards. Every race counts. Every point counts and so it is absolutely essential to be on the money from Race 1, Day 1.

The cliché that you can't win the season at the first regatta but you can lose it has likely never been truer.

After a winter optimising, an ad hoc training week in Valencia over Easter saw seven teams tuning and testing against each other. Afterwards the universal conclusion was that the fleet has never been closer. The season's championship title - the 11th since the 52 SUPER SERIES started in 2012 - has never been more open. The official practice race is on Tuesday and racing starts Wednesday.

Changes

The defending World and circuit champions have rebranded and reconfigured to become Quantum Racing powered by American Magic. Team owner Doug DeVos, one of the prime movers behind the American Magic America's Cup team, is looking to use their 52 SUPER SERIES programme to develop new young talent. And so while winning owner driver DeVos will be more 'hands on' with the Cup team and titles winning skipper Terry Hutchinson and others are also fully engaged with the Cup programme, American John Kostecki is on now board as tactician, Harry Melges IV will drive with Victor Diaz de Leon fulfilling a role as strategist-navigator. Three other younger sailors get the opportunity to learn from what is widely regarded as the circuit's most successful, experienced speed team which is the heart of the machine.

Newcomers this season are the Hong Kong flagged Alpha+ crew. To some extent inspired by the obvious enjoyment and success of Thailand's Whitcraft family and their Vayu programme, the Alpha + crew now arrive in Saint Tropez with the former Luna Rossa TP52 which they campaigned in Asia. Like Vayu their crew are a mix of young amateurs, semi pros and seasoned top professionals such as GBR's double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker as tactician along with a pro core comprising Simon Daubney, Craig Monk and Paul Westlake.

Other key crew changes in the fleet include four times circuit winning helm Guillermo Parada, formerly of Azzurra set to steer Gladiator with owner Tony Langley as tactician. US 2020 49er FX Olympian Stephanie Roble will sail as strategist on Gwen and Austin Fragomen's Interlodge along with Cameron Appleton as tactician. Italy's Michele Ivaldi who won the 2022 title with Quantum Racing joins the Sled afterguard along with incumbents Murray Jones and Andrea Visintini.

2022 circuit runners up, Hasso and Tina Plattner's Phoenix, will not have Tom Slingsby this season, increased commitments to American Magic mean he is not available, but the South African flagged team have Santi Lange in as tactician.

In terms of set up changes both the Vrolijk designs Platoon and Provezza have new keel fins, believed to be very slightly different from each other.

Expect anything and everything

This circuit opens next week on the Gulf of Saint-Tropez when the fleet is hosted by the famous Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez. This early in the season there is no particular wind system expected. There could be the strong Northerly Mistral which often blows for several days at over 25kts, there can be a decent sea-breeze or it can be very light and variable.

Also this season there is no venue which could be expected to deliver big winds and big waves - such as Cascais. The biggest chance of strong breeze might be Saint-Tropez. The circuit goes to Scarlino, Tuscany May 29th to June 3rd, to Menorca for the Royal Cup July 4th to 9th. August 21st to 26th are the Rolex TP52 World Championships in Barcelona and the climax of the year is Puerto Portals, Mallorca September 18th to 23rd. www.52superseries.com/events/2023/all

Postigo's perspective

Veteran Spanish navigator Nacho Postigo is one of the originators of the TP52 class in the Mediterranean and continues to be at the forefront of the action on board Ergin Imre's Provezza. He offers his view on the season ahead:

"The one thing we learned in Valencia was that there are no weak boats, many of the boats have made changes to their boats or crews, but the level is higher than ever and it is so impressive to see how little differences there are. I think we will be surprised how little change there is in the Quantum performance even with the new guys coming in. First, they are keeping the speed team and those guys are excellent. And one of the attributes of that boat is it has always, always been fast and that is not going to change. And the other thing is the people who have come in are extremely talented - I am thinking of JK (John Kostecki), Victor as navigator-strategist and Harry was already good in Valencia. That team will come together quickly, it maybe takes one event and the other teams can profit as they get starts and their communication sorted but they will be at the top level very soon."

Postigo believes, "Otherwise at the end of the season I think it might be the usual suspects, who were all impressive in Valencia, Platoon Sled and Phoenix, with Santi sailing with them, he is a boost to the performance of any boat he steps on...and maybe us on Provezza...who knows? I will tell you at the end of the season!"

Guillermo Parada observes, "I think this could be Platoon's season. Quantum with their changes will take time to settle. Phoenix will be strong with Santi but I expect different helms in the season will pay a price and they were the two most consistent teams from last season. I think the two top teams this season will be Platoon and Sled and then maybe Provezza may have a chance to improve as they did not have a very good early season last year and we did not see the best of them."

Teams entered for the 52 SUPER SERIES Saint-Tropez Sailing Week:

  • Alegre GBR (Andy Soriano)
  • Alpha + HKG (Shawn & Tina Kang)
  • Gladiator GBR (Tony Langley)
  • Interlodge USA (Austin & Gwen Fragomen)
  • Paprec FRA (Jean Luc Petithuguenin)
  • Phoenix RSA (Hasso & Tina Plattner)
  • Platoon GER (Harm Müller Spreer)
  • Provezza TUR (Ergin Imré)
  • Quantum Racing powered by American Magic USA (Doug DeVos)
  • Sled USA (Takashi Okura)
  • Vayu THA (Whitcraft family)

Find out more at www.52superseries.com

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