Out of the Blue – Champions Azzurra start their 52 season in Key West.
In September last year Azzurra, the iconic sailing team which represents the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, clinched the first 52 SUPER SERIES title on the strength of talent, guile and ultimately a huge measure of sheer self-belief.
The crew which sails the Roemmers family owned TP52 that is skippered and steered by Guillermo Parada (ARG) had previously been close to winning the MedCup title on several occasions, but when the chips were down in Valencia, the final regatta of the season, they responded positively to the pressure, backed themselves and each other, and delivered the overall circuit win for the first time.
Now, thirty years after the Azzurra team first went to Newport to represent the YCCS as the first Italian challenger for the America’s Cup, it will be in the USA, at Quantum Key West 2013, sailing the emblematic blue hulled Botin Partners design, that the Azzurra crew will start their 52 SUPER SERIES season, looking to carry on where they left off last year.
When Azzurra and their 12 Metre arrived in Newport in 1983 Italy’s sporting first loves were football and F1. To be fair not much has changed there, but the Azzurra team ignited an enduring passion for grand prix sailing at home in Italy, winning 24 of their 39 races to finish third in the Louis Vuitton Cup. Only when they came up against England’s Victory ’83 were they defeated in the Semi-Finals. The challenge was promoted by H.H. the Aga Khan and Gianni Agnelli. It was lead by skipper Cino Ricci and helmsman Mauro Pelaschier – supported by an organisation by Gianfranco Alberini, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and Riccardo Bonadeo.
A full review
Under skipper-helm Parada (ARG), the winning team reviewed their 2012 season achieving a full understanding of what they did well, and what they did not do so well. He maintains they have made few changes to the winning formula. Minor changes to their set up and sail programme have been made through the winter, but – as might be expected – wily Parada is playing his cards close to his chest.
“We really have done nothing major at all. We have made some very little changes here and there, just really concentrated on the routine maintenance and some updates to the sail programme.”
The absence at most regattas of Francesco Bruni (ITA), one half of the winning double act partnering tactician Vasco Vascotto (ITA), will be a new challenge for the team. Croatian Tomislav Basic steps in to Bruni’s role, with Bruno Zirilli (ITA) the bedrock as navigator.
“We are looking forwards to the season and what it will bring for us. Last year the 52 SUPER SERIES was put together with very little time and less resources. Everything will be a little better this time I am sure, and with six regattas over the season it is longer and will be that bit tougher. Out main focus will be winning the World Championships and the European season, but this is a good incentive to be at 100%.”
“Last season what we did best was to really stay focussed when it mattered, when the pressure was on towards the end of the season. That is what made the difference and we are looking to start with that same level of focus.” Says skipper Parada, “And our weakness, conversely, was that in the middle of the season we maybe let the surroundings and things get to us a bit too much. In the end we handled it all properly and are proud of what we achieved.”
“What we have learned over the years, and especially last year, is that winning in this fleet is very hard. And so this time we have really concentrated in coming into 2013 just a little bit stronger in every area. One particular area is our strength and physical training, making sure we are all stronger and fitter. Otherwise the changes are sails and minor improvements.”
“I think we are looking at moderate to fresh conditions with some waves and chop which can be good for us, so all in all we are looking forwards to a good week.”
Racing starts for the 52 US SUPER SERIES Monday 21st January at Quantum Key West 2103 regatta
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