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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Sled Rack Up Victory in the Coastal Race - 52 Super Series - Day 2 - Croatia

Thursday 24th May, Sibenik
Photo: © Nico Martinez / Martinez Studio / 52 Super Series
After a beautifully scenic 30-nautical-mile coastal race tour of the islands off Sibenik, third place across the finish line sees reigning TP52 World Champions Platoon step up to lead the hotly contested first regatta of the 2018 52 Super Series season, the Sibenik 52 Super Series Sailing Week.
Photo: © Nico Martinez / Martinez Studio / 52 Super Series
While there was an extremely satisfying runaway victory for Takashi Okura’s mainly Kiwi crew on Sled, a team now comprising almost all past or present Team New Zealand America’s Cup sailors, it was the third place of Harm Müller-Spreer’s team with rivals and team-mates Quantum Racing in eighth that now means the German-flagged crew lead by five points after eight races.

Quantum Racing’s long-standing love-hate relationship with the coastal race concept was in no way enhanced by today’s outing. Picturesque it may have been but they were judged to be over the start line early and after re-crossing the line they were always trying to fight back along a track that did not have any real passing lanes.

Their one divergent choice, staying right up the long beat – closer to the mainland shore – yielded no long-term profit. With many spirited boat on boat tussles going on ahead of them that was the best they could manage under the circumstances.

Sled started well, dealt an early blow to Azzurra off the start line and from there were quickly able to control the right side of the short, 1.2 mile opening windward leg. By the top mark there was already an ominous look to their 60-metre lead over Jean Luc Petithuguenin’s Paprec, which had also found themselves a nice, clean lane of breeze on the right.

The jump made early on by this duo proved conclusive. Sled were over 600 metres clear of second by the turn at the top of the first island and something of a distant speck for the last placed chasers.

There was a welcome measure of satisfaction for the Sled team that has worked diligently to a strategic programme that saw the boat beautifully built at Core Composites at ‘home’ in New Zealand, launched and sea trialled first of the nine new boats, and up to speed at PalmaVela. But for the passionate team on Paprec, second was like a win for them, ebullient owner Petithuguenin promising a few bottles of champagne for his team.

“We are here to enjoy ourselves!” laughed the delighted French owner as he stepped on to the dock.

Sled’s winning tactician Team New Zealand’s Ray Davies was a little more reserved:

“The key was the start. We got a piece of Azzurra of the start line and then we were able to control the right hand side. And from there it was a leader’s course. Everyone else was dicing with each other and we were just able to sail away. In these conditions it is relatively easy, sailing our own modes in clear air.” 
He added, 
“We are thrilled with the win and the way it went today. It is a big boost for the team. We have all sailed a lot with each other so much before it is really working well.”

Platoon’s Victor Marino was delighted with their steady gains on Platoon, typical of their step by step low risk strategy worked by John Kostekci and strategist Jordi Calafat.


“We knew that it would be a very complicated, challenging race and we needed to be solid in every department, in the start, in the boat handling and everything. We got ourselves into a solid position in the middle of the fleet and then picked our time to attack step by step. The goal in this kind of racing is to stay safe and solid in each area and be able to take your opportunities as they come to you.”

There was little joy for the Quantum Racing team or indeed the reigning 52 SUPER SERIES champions, Azzurra, though both might be disappointed for different reasons. Azzurra were fourth, overlapped with Gladiator at the first top mark but faded to cross the finish in 10th. Quantum Racing looked to have rallied on the long beat, staying right – towards the mainland shore – but it appeared that the breeze continued to lift inside them. But at least they were making places, chipping away to eighth.

Quantum Racing still lie second overall but are five points behind Platoon while the Quantum trifecta remains intact with Eduardo de Souza Ramos’s Onda still holding on to third, just one point behind Quantum Racing. Tactician Robert Scheidt explained:

“Today it was a bit like we were trying to hold off the boats behind and we had some really challenging moments, but I think the crew is coming together really nicely in the last few days so we’re really happy to get fifth. We still need to improve a lot, but since Palma, which was our first regatta, we’ve made a big step, we’re already more confident to sail boat-on-boat situations, we had a good start today, and we’re changing gears better than we were before but still a long way to go.”

Standings after three races:

1. Platoon (GER) (Harm Müller-Spreer) (1,4,3) 8 p.
2. Quantum Racing (USA) (Doug DeVos) (4,1,8) 13 p.
3. Onda (BRA) (Eduardo de Souza Ramos) (2,7,5) 14 p.
4. Sled (USA) (Takashi Okura) (12,3,1) 16 p.
5. Provezza (TUR) (Ergin Imre) (5,9,4) 18 p.
6. Paprec Recyclage (FRA) (Jean Luc Petithuguenin) (6,12,2) 20 p.
7. Gladiator (GBR) (Tony Langley) (10(+2 PEN),2,7) 21 p.
8. Luna Rossa (ITA) (Patrizio Bertelli) (7,5,9) 21 p.
9. Azzurra (ARG/ITA) (Alberto Roemmers) (3,10,10) 23 p.
10. Alegre (USA/GBR) (Andrés Soriano) (9,8,6) 23 p.
11. Phoenix (RSA) (Hasso/Tina Plattner) (8,6,11) 25 p.
12. XIO Hurakan (ITA) (Marco Serafini) (11,11,12) 34 p.

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