31st of March, 2015

Botin Partners Adolfo Carau on the latest generation of TP52’s

Of the nine new TP52s which will join the 52 SUPER SERIES this season, five are from the Botin Partners studio, the Spanish design office which has designed the season title winners for the last seven consecutive season.

The latest generation of TP52s step up the performance to an unprecedented level and all eyes are on the boats and the teams as they launch and work up to the first regatta of the season. 
Adolfo Carrau, partner and designer at Botin, admits the challenges presented by each evolution and the subsequent demands of the teams – especially those who have been on the circuit for a few years – makes their jobs ever more exciting and inspiring. They are working hard on the America’s Cup right now but Adolfo says the soul of the design office rests with the 52 Class where they have tasted so much success:

So now that most of the new boats are on the water, are you still as involved, or is your job largely done?
“ We are very involved, if anything more involved than usual. The level of the teams is now so high, especially in terms of what they want in systems. This is the third boat for Quantum Racing, the second boat for Azzurra, but Phoenix was in between, with the same builders and the same project manager. And so now the communication is very refined, very good. We go in to a level of detail that we never had before. Before you would define the deck layout, spec a couple of winches and that was it. And now it is everything, and of course there is less and less structure in the boats, so every passage is being thought, many times over. It is pretty amazing the level of detail.”

Have the launches gone very much to plan?

“ I suppose it is like I said before, you kind of worry now where there is to go for the next years! The development of communication and the level of understanding between the crews, the designers and the builders is so good. I would say there are so very few issues now. We can plan very accurately. We were managing many builds in parallel, the level of communication was high and things were very well defined to make it happen. Already to do one custom boat when you don’t have things clear can be difficult, it is complex.”

And how similar are the boats?

“ The boats are very similar in the end. The hulls are identical between the five boats. Then every team has the freedom to choose their appendages and deck layout and systems. The rigs are all a bit different, but the hulls are identical. We do our best shot for everyone.”

… everyone wants to win, but I think it is more that everyone wants to line up and see how they go.
Adolfo Carrau on Palma Vela

And is there much different from Phoenix which was the forbear of the new generation?

“ What we learned from Phoenix we applied to these boats. They are all closer to Phoenix than to previous boats. Phoenix is the clear father of all these boats. There are many things similar to Phoenix, we had the luxury of learning from Phoenix.”

What are the differences then?

“ The teams had a good idea how the new rule works with the decks, the freedom in the cockpit volume. And so everyone has gone in a different direction there. They have used that freedom and so the decks are all different. The sister ships have the same deck concept, so we have three deck concepts. The primary structure is similar but there are a few things we learned from Phoenix, we knew we could better. And now we have the deflectors on the mast, so how you attach the ram inside the boat. That has been improved. The appendages are different. The internal structure is similar in concept but a lot more refined. The appendages are different. Amazingly there are still different ways of doing things. Internally the five boats have five completely different internal systems, and so everyone has their own way of doing things. That has been very complex and they will be kept secret. That was a challenge for us, having boats built at the same builders. Every team has been keeping their own secrets as it should be. Azzurra and Phoenix collaborate, they share the same designer, the same project manager. They do their two boat testing and so on, at least proving systems. But the rest of the teams have done things really differently.”

Do the teams have clear ideas what they want? Are they really all after the same things?

“ I think they rely a lot on Marcelino and my recommendations and they have their own ideas, but because they know the boat so well, and the fleet. Then the decisions, let us say everyone knew where they wanted to be, I would say that largely everyone is looking for the same things. Everyone wants to be higher and faster off the line and faster downwind. That is the first brief and then we see what we can achieve. But now the fleet is growing again, so the moding will be different. The first regattas of the season will be interesting, everyone will be learning their boats. And as the season progresses they will learn their best settings. It is not start from zero, but the changes to the rule were pretty big and so there is plenty to learn. The fleet is larger and so it is going back to the 2008-2009 thinking where there many boats in the fleet. Recently it has been more about going fast at the line and putting the bow down. It will be interesting to see how it develops, how the teams get the best out of the boats.”

… but the soul of our office is with the 52’s that is our class, let’s say.
Adolfo Carrau on the excitment in his office regarding the new season

Do you expect much difference in performance between the new boats on Day 1 of racing in 2015?
“ What it will depend on is how much training they will do, that is the key. Palma Vela will see most of the boat validating their systems. It is more like a full scale sea trials, that everything first and works, doing their recuts and so on. It is really a test regatta, everyone wants to win, but I think it is more that everyone wants to line up and see how they go. It is a test event.”

So will anyone have a silver bullet?

“ I don’t know. Let’s see. Palma Vela there are usually one or two teams which are a lot better prepared than others. And then along the season then the teams get a bit more even. Some teams learn their boats a lot better than others. Palma Vela we will see the level at which each team is at, in terms of preparation more than actual boatspeed, more there than anything to do with boatspeed. Every team is taking the full package no one is giving away anything in terms of performance to make it easy.”

And even after all these years and the success, do you still get excited as individuals and an office when the new season starts?

“ We are excited, for sure. We are very involved with the America’s Cup, but the soul of our office is with the 52’s that is our class, let’s say. We follow the boats daily and all keep learning. The good news for the class is that it keeps growing. I think the class is very healthy. The second hand market is very active. Our boats don’t last in the market more than a couple of week. The owners can see that they can have fun and then sell the boat. It proves why so many boats have been designed and sold over the years. It is a good boat. The crews love the boats too!”

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