Practice Race shows good form Azzurra in home waters.

June 8, 2015

But Platoon Take the Gun

As they do more often than not Azzurra yielded to superstition and bypassed the finish line of today’s official practice race for the second regatta of the 52 SUPER SERIES, Costa Smeralda’s Settimana delle Bocche. Instead of taking the gun Azzurra passed the line and with that delivered the practice race win to Harm Müller-Spreer German flagged team on Platoon who, predictably, marched across the line to take the win.

Beliefs of good luck, bad luck or just indifference may be important in different ways to different teams, but with the pressure is on Azzurra, the home team favourites, racing on their own waters where they have yet to win a 52 SUPER SERIES regatta. Today the crew lead by Guillermo Parada and Vasco Vascotto were taking no chances. They had read the shifting breeze best and had a good lead over Platoon when they approached the finish and pulled away. But it proved that all is good on board the team which race in the hosts’ colours, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.

The second regatta of the 52 SUPER SERIES, which has attracted nine TP52s, encompasses one of the renowned club’s most famous regatta weeks:
“The Settimana delle Bocche was the first regatta that the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda organized and hosted back in 1972,” said the YCCS Commodore Riccardo Bonadeo. “I’m especially proud that this event is part of the 52 SUPER SERIES, the top racing circuit that our boat Azzurra competes in. In welcoming all the competitors I can’t help saying that I hope our team will put on a good show here in the Costa Smeralda.”

Although today’s practice race was marked by a big wind shift, there seems to be the prospect of good breezes right through the week. In recent years Costa Smeralda has often dealt the TP52 fleet too much or too little wind, but there are high hopes that a full programme of races can be completed. Provezza’s Spanish navigator Nacho Postigo – who has been racing in the TP52 fleet since 2005 and won in 2006 – evaluates the possible conditions:

“There is still very high pressure dominating the north of Europe what that means is that by the middle and towards the end of the week we are going to have SE’ly gradients which will come in at 15kts and how that will mix with the sea breeze effect, will it enhance or cancel the other is what we will wait to see. Sometimes what the heat does is help the wind aloft come down to the surface and it gets stronger. Some of the times it can conflict. Tomorrow will be like today with a little bit of NW’ly flow, maybe fighting with the sea breeze. It was very tricky on the race track today. But this year we will start with two days of lighter winds but after that it will be very good.”

Postigo, like many others, is relishing the two or three coastal races which are on the plan this week, enjoying how it puts the navigators in the hot seat:
“This is just the best place in the world to do coastal races. The scenery is just fantastic, even if we don’t see it. But it is always very tricky to predict what the wind is going to do at the next corner, where the rocks are, and how close we can go. There are always a lot of questions and answers in Costa Smeralda. Sometimes it makes a real difference how close you can get to the rocks, especially when you are upwind or downwind and you can tack or gybe clear of them just because you can go another couple of boat lengths closer to the shore. That can make a big difference.”

Azzurra are out to overturn Quantum Racing’s perfect record here on the Costa Smeralda. The 2014 52 SUPER SERIES champions have won three from three since 2012. But owner-helm Doug DeVos only set eyes on his new 2015 boat for the first time today and built his first two hours helm time prior to and during the practice race. Of course he was a real time observer during last month’s Valencia regatta and was in regular contact with son Dalton who steered, but that is of very limited practical use. But, as ever, DeVos is as highly competitive and motivated as he always is, winning and losing with the same smile. Terry Hutchinson was also on Day 1 with the new boat today, paying tribute to the input and continuity from strategist Ado Stead:

“Doug is just two hours into sailing this boat and I am just eight hours into it.” Cautioned Hutchinson who did not sail in Valencia, “The fleet is more compressed now and it is fun sailing the new boats. There is a lot to learn. It is a big challenge and that is the fun part of this job. We have to learn this new boat in a quick fashion. It is great to have Adrian Stead with us to keep us honest with things we have learned from the last event.”

“There are subtle things we can do to sail better, we are looking for a better height mode, and understanding the differences between the appendages in the Botin boats, there are three boats with a slightly different appendage than the two other boats. So there is that aspect, and then understanding how we go against the other boats.” Considers Hutchinson: “It is a very different boat, very different. It is very impressive how much of a gain has been made.”

“I love this challenge, but it is going to be hard. The other teams are very, very good. They are stacked with talent. And we are sailing in Azzurra’s home waters and we expect them to be on form. We know that, having beaten them here, that they don’t like it. They are hungry to win in their home waters.”

Veteran Postigo, who sailed for many years as navigator to Azzurra’s tactician Vasco Vscotto believes this can be Azzurra’s week:

“I think Azzurra can do it and want to prove they can do well on their home waters. And if they don’t do it they know they hear the criticism here, directly from the club members. They are my favourites for the week and I hope to see Quantum Racing getting better here. In Valencia they were good but just inconsistent. I think Terry will help with that consistency. I have also been very impressed with Bronenosec and Alegre too, either of them could have a good week.”