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Will the proven Phoenix TP52 team be back in the frame in Newport?

by 52 Super Series 27 May 13:29 PDT 10-16 June 2024
52 Super Series arrival in Newport © Stephen R Cloutier / 52 Super Series

After missing out on the first regatta of the 2024 52 SUPER SERIES season Hasso and Tina Plattner's Phoenix will be back in action at the upcoming XS 52 SUPER SEREIS Newport Trophy regatta in Newport RI.

With talismanic tactician, America's Cup winner Ed Baird calling the shots for the South African flagged crew, all are hoping they might return to something close to the wining form they ended 2023 on.

Runaway victors at the final event last year that high flying triumph topped the excellent fourth place at the preceding regatta in Barcelona, the Rolex TP52 World Championship, which marked had seen Baird's recall to the Phoenix fold.

But whilst Ed Baird and the hugely talented crew are determined to get back among the top positions in the white hot TP52 fleet, so too they are very much looking forwards to welcoming back on board the Plattner father-daughter duo Hasso and Tina who are the driving force behind one of the circuit's leading teams. Both have had an extended break from racing on the circuit.

With three 52 SUPER SERIES titles and three Rolex TP52 World Championship wins as skipper, helm and/or strategist with Quantum Racing, he is one of the most experienced and successful sailors on the circuit. Baird, who has been with the Plattner family team since their first steps into TP52 campaigning, enthuses: "With Phoenix have a great team and hopefully the conditions are good in Newport to get Hasso back sailing as that would be the very best scenario for us. That is the plan. The boat is nicely set up now, like Gladiator and Interlodge where we can have wheels on for Hasso. Tina will be with us and it will be down to the conditions. If it is rugged Hasso might pass on the odd day, but most conditions in Newport he will enjoy and do a good job."

In late April Phoenix trained with Provezza and Alegre out of Valencia, so although they missed out on Palma earlier this month, the crew have had time on the boat which has a new keel fin, rigging and sails for 2024. In South African former Shosholoza sailor David Rae they have a new mainsail trimmer, otherwise the crew line up is the same, with Baird working with Kiwi strategist Cameron Dunn and South African navigator Shane Elliot.

Baird and the Phoenix crew are very much looking forwards to racing in Newport and seizing all the opportunities which might come their way at a venue which is new to the class: "Newport will be interesting depending on whether they sail inside or outside. It will be so different to all the venues we have become so familiar with in Europe. Inside there is a lot of current, little islands, lobster pots and the shoreline will affect what the wind is doing. There are a couple of different areas." Baird notes, "You can have very different conditions day to day out there. You have to be ready for each day to be different."

And, like many, many top sailors on the 52 SUPER SERIES, Baird knows the Newport waters well but, he cautions: "There are an awful lot of people who live there who have sailed there a lot. I have sailed there plenty of times. But it is always a learning process when you are racing different boats on different courses. I have raced Melges 32s, J/24s, Solings, things like that. I have won in Newport in the Soling and J/24 and did well at the Melges 32 Worlds there. It is a very interesting venue for sure."

And he believes the variety can be good for their team and boat, "I think a lot will depend on where the race courses are. There are certain areas where boatspeed is critical, there are others where you have to play the shifts. So it depends how we set up. But we are all looking forwards to racing there. It is very much the mecca for sailing in North America if not the world, such an amazing place with so many cool boats and a great history. It will be fun."

Whilst all are hopeful they can pick up now where they left off in Puerto Portals, on top of the podium, Baird's vast experience tempers their outlook with a healthy dose of objectivity, "We are out there to do the best we can and wherever that leaves us we will see. We got together with me on the boat for the first time at the Worlds in Barcelona and we had our moments and ended up fourth, and I think everybody was happy, but a little disappointed with that as we did leave a little bit on the table.

"But we were still pretty happy to be in the hunt. And then on the Bay of Palma out of Puerto Portals we had a magical week when everything went our way - and that is not the case all the time as we know - but now here we are one event behind the other guys... so we have some catching up to do."

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