History of the TP52 Class
The beginning by Tom Pollack
The TP52 Class Association was started in 2001 by owners who wanted to race a Grand Prix sailboat that is fun, safe and reliable. TP52’s are flat out racing platforms, fully crewed, high performance monohulls capable of racing in both buoy regattas and offshore races. The 2800 pound weight limit provides for approximately 14 crew members with the flexibility to bring along a guest or a sponsor in the back of the boat and out of harms way. TP52’s race in true time, the first boat across the finish line wins. TP52’s are designed to be raced by both amateur and professional sailors alike. TP52’s elected not to use water ballast, canting keels, running back stays; preferring to keep it simple, safe & reliable. There is no time credit to build a slow TP52. They can easily exceed 25 knots off the wind with the record being 32 knots in a race set by 4 TP52’s racing down the California coast in 2003. Upwind, they are very stiff and fast as approximately 60% of the weight of the boat is in the metal fin & lead bulb. TP52’s have won most every bluewater regatta they have entered including; overall wins in the 2004 Bermuda Race, 2004 Chicago to Mackinac and the 2003 Transpac race to Hawaii. In buoy racing, they have won the 2005 Key West Race week, 2003 Miami SORC and the 2002-04 St. Francis Big Boat Series against the best boats in the world.
The TP52 Class has grown steadily over the last 4 years. In 2004, World Class sailor Ken Read was instrumental in guiding new East Coast based owners into the class. The “Esmeralda” program Ken was associated with swept all the regattas she entered making her owner, Makoto Uematsu of Japan, a very happy man. In the summer of 2004, H.M. Juan Carlos, the King of Spain and his friend Jose Cusi, decided to join the TP52 class propelling many new owners and sponsors into the class for 2005. As a direct result of the King of Spain’s involvement, 27 of these carbon fiber machines will be racing all over the globe by the end of 2005. At last count, there will be 27 TP52’s on four continents in 13 countries; (China (1), Japan(1), USA(12), Chile(1), Greece(1), Ireland(1), Great Britain(1), Spain(4), Netherlands(1), Monaco(1), Italy(1), Austria(1) & Norway(1). No doubt, more are on the way for 2006. King Harald of Norway will be joining the TP52 class in 2006 with his top notch “Fram” team.
The TP52 Class permits sponsors to take advantage of advertising their names & products on what has become perhaps the greatest grand prix media sailing platform in the 50’ size range the world has ever seen. The media in the Mediterranean is eagerly anticipating a new type of Grand Prix racing and the TP52 Class represents a breath of fresh air. Sponsors and the general public will have instant results when a TP52 crosses the finish line. No more complicated handicap formulas to explain. In one wave of a scepter, the face of Grand Prix racing in the Mediterranean has been changed forever. For the first time in history, everybody is on the same page when it comes to level racing in the 50’ size range. While rule making authorities held endless meetings on who was going to control the next big thing, the TP52 Class took root and has spread like wildfire.
Construction and planning
TP52’s are tough carbon fiber machines custom designed & built to the TP52 Rule & ABS requirements. Owners hire their own builders and designers. The competition among the designers & builders is fierce, but also very healthy for the class, and sailing, as a whole. In addition, owners may select their sail maker, spar builder, winch maker and electronics packages. Owners are also free to hire professional crews or invite their friends aboard. The TP52 Class regulates the person at the helm in class events outside the Mediterranean. Owners and Category 1 sailors have traditionally been at the helm of TP52’s for the past three years. In September 2004, the TP52 MedFleet asked for, and received unanimous permission by the TP52 Class to allow professional Category 3 sailors on the helm in the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean, the TP52 fleet will offer trophies for both amateurs as well as professionals. The owners in the TP52 Class are a fantastic group of people who thrive on competition in formats more challenging than just 2 mile windward leeward races. The TP52 Class does not limit the number of professionals aboard, cockpit layout, equipment, the flexibility of having a support boat. If so required for specific events or on request of Regional Fleets the TP52 Class allows restrictions on professionals, sails and other issues.
All TP52’s worldwide must comply with the box rule in terms of length overall, beam, displacement, draft, construction, sail area, make of engine & saildrive, etc. The TP52 Class Association was formed by owners who wanted to control their own destiny. Every member of the TP52 Class has a vote and the box rule will only change if 2/3ds of the owners agree. Stability of the TP52 Box Rule has been a key ingredient to the class’s growth worldwide. No rule making body has the authority to change the TP52 Box Rule, except the owners themselves. However, the box rule is not inflexible should the need arise.
In order to promote close racing, the TP52 displacement range is 500 pounds (16,500-17,000lbs.) and the class has a Vertical Center of Gravity (VCG) limit of -2.70 feet above measured waterline. The VCG limit (on both hull & mast) is intended to encourage a longer Grand Prix shelf life by not turning the class into a hull construction competition. The owners are free to modify their boats within the limits of the box rule. All boats must have a class issued TP52 official measurement certificate in order to race. A rigorous measurement process controlled by TP52 Class Chief Measurer Andrew Williams and class approved fleet measurers insure that all the boats are “in the box.” Mr. Williams is an ISAF & ORC certified measurer and most recently was in charge of measurement of the sailboat classes at the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece.
By setting a fairly tight “Box”, TP52’s have very similar performance characteristics, yet the owner has some room to customize for local conditions. TP52’s are built with carbon hulls and honeycomb cores. The carbon fiber masts are built very strong to carry the masthead roller furling jib loads. TP52’s are beautiful examples of modern boat design and construction
techniques coalescing to produce an excellent, all around, grand prix racing yacht. Unlike the America’s Cup or Volvo Around the World race boats which only race once every 4 or 5 years, the TP52’s schedule is year round on a global scale providing the owners, sailors and sponsors a lot of value for their time & money. Approximately 70% of the races on the TP52 schedule are allocated for traditional buoy racing with the remaining races being coastal, point to point and/or offshore.
Every sailor who has been on the helm of a TP52 agrees these are fantastic boats to drive upwind and downwind. They feel like a giant dinghy. Due to their light weight, the steering on the twin carbon wheels or tiller is finger tip control. TP52’s are as fast as good 60’ footer upwind and a fast 70’ footer off the wind. Around the buoys they are great fun to sail as they have no runners or overlapping jibs and use the forestay’s hydraulic cylinder to maintain consistent mainsail shape. Whether it’s blowing 5 knots or 30 knots, the mainsails of the TP52’s always look perfect! Off the wind, the passing lane is huge as the TP52’s sail hot angles which creates a lot of leverage. Closing speeds on opposite gybes downwind can approach 40 knots giving the crews and spectators a real thrill.
Being only 52’ long, “first to finish” is not a priority. TP52’s do not race against the clock like some of the larger Maxi’s (boring), they race against each other. No one can simply build a larger TP52 and win in this class. Owners know they are buying into a controlled development class and understand how to play the grand prix game. The TP52 Class is for owners & sponsors who want to play a top end game. The owners in this class have all been around the block before and want to be part of an organized class with strong management that has their long term interest at heart. The TP52 Class is not for the faint of heart, but you don’t have to be a billionaire to win
The philosophy of the class is to provide a platform the market supports and not to legislate down to the nitty gritty detail that drives everybody nuts. It is a warm open class that allows both professionals and amateurs to compete on the same venue. The TP52 Class welcomes the participation of sailors from all walks of life to compete in class events according to class rules and the universal TP52 box rule.
Tom Pollack has been the Executive Director of the TP52 Class for 6 years.
In october 2007 Tom retired from this function and was awarded by the TP52 Members the Honarary Membership title. Tom was a member of the US Sailing Team in Flying Dutchman Class (1984-88) and has sailed since he was 5 qualifying him as a “Sailing Aficionado”. Tom is known as a “no nonsense, result oriented manager” who the owners have depended on to successfully steer the class.
Recent history by Rob Weiland
2007 certainly was the “intermediate year”. With the epic centre of TP52 racing moved solidly to the Med and the racing and all that comes with that reaching new levels of quality a new requirements and standards were felt to be needed by the Class Members. In 2006 it was decided that the TP52 Bylaws and Class Rule were in need of updating and so it came that the Members voted in favour of a revamped TP52 Bylaws and TP52 Rule at the October 2007 Annual Meeting.
From then on the official names are TP52 Class, the TP52 Bylaws, the TP52 Rule, the TP52 Annual Class Meeting as the supreme governing body of the class made up by the Regular Members, who from their midst choose the Class President and the TP52 Executive Committee.
2007 certainly not was an “intermediate year” when it comes to the activities on the water. A highly succesful MedCup with as many as 21 TP52’s racing was followed by the best TP52 Globals sofar. In Porto Cervo 16 TP’s competed under challenging circumstances to see Artemis take the well deserved title.
As it was it is the last TP52 Global Championship. The Class received the ISAF recognized status late 2007 and from now on their main event will carry the title World Championship.
For 2008 we expect a 6 event MedCup and the Worlds in Lanzarote, Canary Islands. With more than 50 TP52’s build worldwide, all of them still racing, the Class sees two devellopments, TP52’s level racing under the TP52 Rule in the Med and TP52’s being optimised for and mainly handicap racing under IRC elsewhere. It is felt that the needs of those two options can be catered for by the TP52 Class, or at least that the TP52 Class is available for all owners of a TP52 to help them cater for their needs. Research is done and ongoing on how the interests of both options can be best served and how the TP52 can be made most suitable for both options without compromising the original concept of the TP52 Class. Also the debate is ongoing on what structure is the best to support regional racing.
The end of ABS as the scantling rule for offshore racing is foreseen and whilst the TP52 Class is certainly not the first to recognise this, it is amongst the first to look into what comes after ABS and come with proposals to that effect to its members.
In 2009 the members decided to definitely go for a complete overhaul of the TP52 Rule for 2011. The 2011 TP52 will be a faster, lighter, modern racing yacht. It will have less crew and the option to carry besides the crew a guest. In 2009 and 2010 the TP52 Class had 12 members. We hope that with the recession slowly coming to an end the TP52 Class will grow again. In 2009 and 2010 we had 5 events Audi MedCup and the TP52 Worlds organised by the MedCup organiser, WSM.
Especially in 2010, when many of the high profile AC teams choose to join the class racing, the level of racing was very high and intense. With the AC likely going the multihull route we foresee these teams to rearrange their priorities and the TP52 Class return to the mix of owner/driver and pro driver teams that we had in 2008. In a way that should help to get more teams competing. It is lonely at the top as they say. Nevertheless to become the best in a TP52 fleet will never be easy. You really are with the top of our sport if you lead in this class.
In 2011 six TP52's were build to the 2011 TP52 Rule. Proving the decisions that we made were right. The recession is still with us however and wherever you look in yacht racing it is slow progress, if not survival of the fittest. With the best show in town, the Audi MedCup, and the best vehicle to race in, the TP52, we expected to be allright.
But at the end of 2011 MedCup split from their sponsor and stopped the event. With very little time to organize ourselves for 2012 three members, Doug DeVos, Alberto Roemmers and Niklas Zennström, decided to set up a management entity to take control of our marketing and events that will be in action from mid 2012, so effectively from 2013.
For 2012 we chose to do a mix of existing events and events that we organize ourselves with the help of the leading yacht clubs in the Med. With Trofeo Conde de Godo, Sardinia Cup, Copa del Rey and the Valencia Worlds included in a series of four events, to be raced with a mix of TP52s and IRC52s on real time, this will be another entertaining as well as highly competitive season.
During the 2012 PalmaVela the three members via the recently appointed marketing manager (Jacaranda Marketing) announced the introduction of the 52 Super Series. This concept will be worked out and marketed in the months to come. For the TP52 sailing it meant that the mix of racing with IRC52s will be continued into 2013. The 2013 program was announced and as novelty included two events in the US: Key West Race Week and the Gaastra TP52 Worlds in Miami. Then 52 Super Series continued in the Med with Conde de Godo in Barcelona, the Marina Ibiza Royal Cup, Copa del Rey and the Week of the Straits in Porto Cervo. During the year it was announced that 52 Super Series appointed Agustin Zulueta as CEO and guaranteed the series to continue up till 2017.
On that basis and with the introduction of the 2015 TP52 Rule, guaranteed to be kept stable for three years, a solid basis was put in place for 2014 - 2016 as well as to order new boats to race with from 2015. The 2014 Super Series saw the first of these new boats, the brazilian flagged Phoenix, tuned down to the level of the 2014 TP52 Rule, but another stimulance to build new for 2015.
Again racing started in the US, now called the US 52 Super Series, with Key West Race Week and the US Championship in Miami. Then the Barclays 52 Super Series, a four event series, started with the Rolex Capri Sailing Week with nine boats on the line. Followed by the TP52 Worlds in Porto Cervo, Copa del Rey and the Zenith Royal Cup Marina Ibiza as great closing location.
For 2015 a five event Super Series is planned, venues are: Valencia, Porto Cervo, Portals Nous, Palma and Cascais. Eight to ten new boats are expected to race in 2015, together with three to five existing boats. The Class is back on track, now the mission is to keep it that way.
Rob is the TP52 Class Manager, a function that was created by the TP52 Executive Committee on request of the Members in 2006. This 60 year old dutchman has worked for over 25 years as project manager for the construction of racing and cruising yachts. Running the daily affairs of TP52 Class is certainly different from that, but the experience of the past comes in handy with the new job.