Sled Up to Speed For Title Defence
Sled, the 2021 52 SUPER SERIES champions welcome back their owner-driver Mr Okura – who could not travel last season and have their core Japanese sailors back but have the same core team as clinched the season championship and the Rolex TP52 World Championship in Palma last November.
All too aware of the strength and depth of the TP52 fleet this season they are going into the 10th anniversary season with a totally objective perspective. As project manager/mainsheet trimmer Don Cowie points out they had a great season but a title win by one point means there is absolutely no room to take anything for granted.
“I think that being honest we sailed a good season last year but a couple of times we were fortunate to be leading the regattas when it became either too light or too windy, that was the dice rolling in our favour, but it could have rolled the other way and ended up third or fourth just as easily. I think the fleet has got so much depth you would be a pretty arrogant person to go out there and think ‘we are going to finish in the top two,’ But we would like to finish on the podium but most of all just to not have bad regattas, but we are certainly not here puffing our chests out because we are the world champs.”
With good, consistent all round speed they have chosen to continue with the same set up but always making small evolutionary changes where needed:
“We have not changed much, we did not go for anything radical. With having Murray who is a bit of a rig guru then we have a few new ideas from a couple of TP52s we have in Auckland. We will apply that. We looked at the new fin option but could not really justify it for half a second a mile or whatever the designers say it will give us. Sure it might come back and bite us on the ass but look we have no issues with the cost Mr Okura is very good at letting us get new things. But we just want to hit the ground running and do what we can. This is a new venue for everyone and so we are happy spending three or four days learning it. Mr Okura is such a good driver he won’t take much to get back up to speed, but we have to remember he has not driven this boat for a couple of years.”
The complementary personalities – veteran Kiwi Murray Jones is back to his role as strategist with Francesco Bruni as tactician – worked well last year Cowie smiles:
“Bruni is tactician and Murray strategist. And the boat will be a lot quicker with Mr Okura driving and not Murray! We are so excited to have Mr Okura back. It was a great season last year but it is kind of hollow when you don’t have the boss there.”
Of course the circuit is back to a five regatta season finishing in late October.
“For us I think the main thing is keeping the team enthusiastic. It is very easy to do long stints overseas (for the Kiwis) doing five regattas back to back and doing RC44 and Superyacht regattas and getting pretty tired towards the end. I think it is about keeping the excitement and focus going all the way through the season. Our thing with our guys is this is number 1 priority and we have a team which has Sled as the number 1 priority. We love also the 12 Metre programme (Mr Okura has the 12 Metre Freedom in Newport) with the key event between the first and second events. The 12s are so different and a bit more light hearted than the TP52s.”
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