Menorca, The Little Island, Offers Particular Challenges to Kick Off A Big Year for the 52 SUPER SERIES.
(Monday 20th May, Mahón) – Azzurra, the team that finished strongest at the PalmaVela warm up regatta just over a week ago, proved they have a good grasp of what promises to be a challenging race course area when they led the Official Practice Race on the eve of the Menorca 52 SUPER SERIES Sailing Week – the highly anticipated first regatta of the 2019 52 SUPER SERIES.
As is usual for the Italian-Argentine crew, superstition prevailed and even with a comfortable lead they made a small detour to miss the finish line, so adhering to their belief: “winning the practice race may jinx the regatta.”
The three-time 52 SUPER SERIES champions left the “victory” to Tony Langley’s Gladiator, which has double Dragon world champion Andy Beadsworth steering with – uniquely in this fleet at least – the owner calling the tactics.
The race arena out from the Menorcan capital is one that carries many subtle changes, which can be difficult to read, hence it is rich in opportunities for any team to win at this first regatta of the season.
On this littler Balearic island there is less of a land mass and not as much high land to create the thermal effects than the larger, higher Mallorca enjoys (“Menorca” derives from Minor Ica meaning “smaller island”). With largely light winds expected this week, being able to string together a consistent set of scores will be key to getting the season off to the best possible start.
“There is always a lot of things going on here [on the race course]. It is quite a dynamic place. It is not big enough to really create much of a sea breeze and the Med is quite unstable at the moment.” explains Jules Salter, the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator who joins the hotly-tipped German-flagged team on Platoon this season. “There is a bit of current out there and the wind can wrap around either side of the island when the gradient wind is out of the north west. It could be very interesting.”
“We have to interpret the different forecasts correctly and try and see the patterns and the trends and really keep looking out the boat. But it looks like a light week. It will be different. We are happy in most conditions and some of the teams have changed their boats quite a bit so it will be interesting,” concludes Salter.
“There is not a pattern here. You really have to predict what is going to happen. It is all about the gradient wind, not much about the effects in the corners and the thermal effects. It is very, very, very hard to predict,” says Argentinian gold medallist Santi Lange, the tactician on Azzurra.
“It is challenging, but that gives plenty of opportunities,” says Juan Vila, the ace Spanish navigator who this season returns to to the 2018 champions Quantum Racing after a Volvo Ocean Race on Mapfre. “The flow just now is westerly and so we are pretty much in the lee of the island so the puffs might come from one side or another.” Vila observes, “We feel pretty good. We have had good practice in Valencia and Palma and a few days here and we are still working on just being up to the level of communication that this boat is used to but we are getting here.”
Croatia’s Olympic gold medallist Sime Fantela will steer the brand new Bronenosec at the new boat’s debut 52 SUPER SERIES regatta as a trial, sharing the helm with owner Vladimir Liubomirov.
“That is a plus,” says project manager Alberto Barovier. “Sime is a super sailor with a gold medal, and we are happy about that. Obviously our expectations are high, we have all the tools now to do the job. We want the best for the team and Vladimir makes sure what we do is best for the team, we want to see Gazprom Sailing Team Bronensec at the top of the leaderboard. The boat is really fine and is going well. We are happy with the speed of the boat. Now it can only be faster, we have plenty of margin to get faster.”
Eleven boats will race this week on a refined diet of windward-leeward races. Only at the end of the season in Porto Cervo are there a couple of coastal races on the schedule. After a break in 2018 the circuit returns to Menorca for the third time, Quantum Racing winning the Rolex TP52 World Championship here when the class visited for the first time in 2016.
It will be the first 52 SUPER SERIES regatta for the amateur French team on Team Vision Future. If they could repeat today’s practice race performance – fifth around the course – during Tuesday’s first points races they would be delighted.
“That would be a like a win for us. We made good choices today but most importantly we were mainly able to hold on to boats. We lost Alegre but they are quicker, so let’s see. Any day we are not last we will be happy,” said skipper-helm Mikael Mergui.
The regatta was officially launched at the host Club Marítimo Mahón this lunch time.
Maite Salord said:
“This is a very important event for the island that fits with our policy of out-of-season tourism, and with the diversification of tourism experiences. Projecting Menorca as a place for top-level sports activities opens up a way for people to see that you can come here to do sports.”
Héctor Pons from the city council commented:
“For the city council, it is an immense privilege to be able to take advantage of what natural assets we have here, the main one of which is the sea. We know that Mahón has a very important potential and we should maximise that with a globally renowned event that the 52 SUPER SERIES is, it is like the Formula 1 of the nautical world, an event that always yields spectacular images”.
Alegre – Andy Soriano (USA/GBR), 2018 Botin
Azzurra – Roemmers Family (ARG/ITA), 2018 Botin
Bronenosec – Vladimir Liubomirov (RUS), 2019 Botin
Gladiator – Tony Langley (GBR), 2017 Botin
Phoenix 11 – Hasso/Tina Plattner (RSA), 2018 Botin
Phoenix 12 – Hasso/Tina Plattner (RSA), 2014 Botin
Platoon – Harm Müller-Spreer (GER), 2018 Judel/Vrolijk
Provezza – Ergin Imre (TUR), 2018 Judel/Vrolijk
Quantum Racing – Doug DeVos (USA), 2018 Botin
Sled – Takashi Okura (USA), 2018 Botin
Team Vision Future – Jean Jacques Chaubard (FRA), 2015 Botin
Racing at the Menorca 52 SUPER SERIES Sailing Week starts on Tuesday 21st May and finishes on Saturday 25th May. The boats can be tracked online or via the 52 SUPER SERIES app with live commentary and expert analysis throughout each race.
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