After two days of practise races on the Bay of Palma, the Puerto Portals 52 SUPER SERIES Sailing Week & 20th Anniversary Invitational fleet is primed for action and ready to start racing for points and prizes Tuesday.
The atmosphere around the dock and the sailors lounge in glitzy Puerto Portals, Mallorca has been almost festive. After more than 18 months with no 52 SUPER SERIES racing there is a definite hunger to be back out competing at this highest level. The practice courses have already re-ignited old rivalries, restoring and reinvigorating partnerships and – of course – buffing off the inevitable signs of rust.
And the mood of anticipation is certainly heightened by the presence of the nine 20thAnniversary Invitational regatta 52s. For some of them it is their first time with the world’s leading performance monohull circuit, for others among these crews it is a great chance to relive happy memories and maybe be inspired for the future.
But seeing 16 TP52s starting on the same line and racing on the same course Sunday and today is, in part, what this event is all about. Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste – built as Onda – has Gavin Brady and Ken Read combining their talents in the afterguard and they have been consistently up with the 52 SUPER SERIES boats and lifted the informal prize for the all-in fleet practice race today winning on the water ahead of Harm Muller-Spreer’s Platoon and Hasso Plattner’s Phoenix, which has been consistent with project manager Tony Norris steering and Cameron Dunn and Tom Slingsby on strategy and tactics respectively.
Honours have been shared during formal and informal racing. Owner Doug DeVos flew in today to take the helm of Quantum Racing a team which as four times champions has lost nothing of its lustre, and welcomes the return of their talisman Terry Hutchinson, who is delighted to be back in the class where he has prospered since the first Quantum Racing competed here in 2008, clinching the tenth title on these waters.
“It’s awesome to be back.” Grinned Hutchinson, “Doug and I were talking here about the opportunities we’ve had over the last few years to experience completely different aspects of our sport. Yet you come back and start racing these TP52s and realise how refined the boats are and how good all the teams are and every inch that you earn is exactly that. It is an earned gain.”
Absent for two years on America’s Cup business, Hutchinson observes, “ I think the things that you see if that all the boats have evolved and everyone is at a higher level. The thing that’s the most noticeable is how even the fleet is. More so than ever the game of inches in critical.”
And, as it is for the likes of Cup afterguard sailors Giles Scott and Paul Goodison Cup sailors from opposing teams joining forces at the back of Tony Langley’s Gladiator and Hutchinson, recalibrating their brains from America’s Cup flying speeds to TP52 velocities and feelings is not super easy,
“Yes, the change is hard.” The Quantum Racing tactician notes, “We’re really lucky to have Michele and Lucas (new strategist Lucas Calabrese), they’re helping a lot in the prestart. Getting your head back round the timings is difficult. All the other teams are hot on that. And everybody’s good here- the boats are littered with Olympic medalists and America’s Cup sailors, that’s exactly what you want. Racing at the highest level of the sport with incredible owners and an incredible fleet. I love it here.”
Hutchinson recalls, “When we came in 2008 with the very first Quantum Racing the Puerto Portals regatta was the difference maker of the season. We came into it and all the teams were really close. The coastal race was a double counter in those days. We won it and went from being 6 or 7 points behind Mean Machine who were winning it to being 50 ahead in one day in one race!”
Britain’s double Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott has raced a few regattas with the Gladiator but this is his first 52 SUPER SERIES experience,
“It is nice to be out doing some big boat racing again. This is good racing , for sure. We made a few silly little errors today but we are on the upward trend now hopefully. But racing around with 15 boats is very cool there are a lot of good guys here, a lot of good teams. But we feel like the underdogs, we’d like to beat a few good boats throughout with week, hopefully we can do alright.”