It may have looked like a relatively straightforward summer sea breeze on the Bay of Palma, but today’s two races contested by the ten TP52s at the Puerto Portals 52 SUPER SERIES Sailing Week proved particularly hard to read.
The fact that is was difficult to retain a high level of consistency across both races is perhaps best illustrated in today’s results of the usually super consistent Sled, who won the first race, but finished tenth in the second, and in those of the Italian America’s Cup challengers Luna Rossa, who came back from a weighty ninth in the first race to win the second race.
Over the two races, of which take the regatta past its midpoint, the best were the circuit leaders Doug DeVos’s Quantum Racing, and Tina Plattner’s Phoenix. Both scored an aggregate seven points over Races 4 and 5, and so lie first and second on the event leaderboard.
Although the Bay of Palma has a reputation for usually being very regular and almost boringly predictable due to its reliable sea breeze, today – once again – it was very “unlike Palma”. The sea breeze came in to 12kts at the peak in the second race. It was patchy, streaky, and there were changes in wind pressure from one side of the course to the other, which clearly made it difficult for the tacticians. The explanation given by many is that the super hot temperatures have warmed up the sea so much in recent week that the air over the warmer water is not drawn in with the same force as the land heats up, the temperature differential being less pronounced.
“The regatta may be halfway over, but it is Saturday’s final result that counts. Our thing is to try and keep it simple and not over complicate things. It is not typical Palma Bay right now. It is about keeping your options and working very hard to start consistently, maybe not exactly where we want to be, but close enough to execute our plan on the first beat,” explains Terry Hutchinson, tactician on the leading Quantum Racing. “I think the breeze is very unstable. There are big changes in pressure, for which there are no rhyme or reason to. You sail to them, and they evaporate. And that makes it very, very difficult.”
“I think it is very tricky this time of year because the water is really warm, because it has been so hot and that is really affecting the sea breeze,” explains Ray Davies, tactician on Sled, which lies eighth overall, but which has finished on the podium in the first two regattas of the season, and came fourth in last month’s Rolex TP52 World Championship. They have an 8,9 and a 10 in their scoreline.
Meanwhile, Tina Plattner, Ed Baird, and the Phoenix team have been quietly replicating the form they showed in Zadar when they so nearly won the Royal Cup, pipped only by Luna Rossa on the last day. Tactician Ed Baird has done an almost equally fine job of keeping out of trouble and managing the risk-reward equation, whilst clearly having a fast, well set up boat.
“We’re very happy to be in the position we are. Certainly a lot has changed here from Zadar, and the fleet has a couple more regatas under its belt. This is only Tina’s second event and its great to see her doing so well. So far, the key has been staying out of trouble. There has been a number of boats that have, for whatever reason, made choices or gotten into situations that could’ve made trouble, and its hard to get back out. The challenge is staying out of trouble, we’ve been really trying to get off the line clean, and we’ve had two good starts, and two not-so-good, and then another average one.
Tommy Burnham has been looking around the race course, and talking about the next breeze situation, and its not the normal Palma deal where you have to just go into one corner, and I think that by being able to have a little more open course it gives us more options.”
Of helm Tina Plattner who is still just at her second ever 52 SUPER SERIES regatta, he says:
“Tina is doing great. She is really going to be a great competitor in the sport as the years go by. She told us at the early part of the season that she hoped that in five years she would be able to compete at this level and that would give her another five years before she got too old! I told her, ‘its not going to take that long and you’re very far from being too old’. She’s doing great, I think she’ll be pretty strong in five years. She’s having a lot of fun.”
Quantum Racing lead by four points ahead of Phoenix, with Azzurra third, three points behind Phoenix.
Vasco Vascotto (ITA), tactician Luna Rossa (ITA):
“I feel that we are all stupid except the one who is doing just 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd. They are smarter than us! We are making so many mistakes this season, something that is not acceptable. But unfortunately that is what we are doing. So we need to analyse, be smart, go to our meetings, or maybe don’t do meetings! Maybe just go for a Gin & Tonic! Maybe that is the way to solve some problems sometimes. It’s a pity because I felt that today we had a little better speed, we analysed properly what was wrong yesterday, but we feel like sometimes we are so close to the perfection, but then it just disappears.”
Ray Davies (NZL), tactician Sled (USA):
“I think it’s a bit of the nature of the conditions out there. I think it’s quite hard to pick a side and get it correct. Even part way up the first beat of the last race it was looking like our side was going okay and then it all changed. and that was the same way in the first race, it wasn’t looking so special and then it all came good for us. It’s pretty hard, and the key is to be consistent and I guess we’re not exactly doing that. But I guess when you average out our day it was middle of the pack.”
On the race course:
It’s been quite tricky. This time of year the water is really warm here, it’s like 26 degrees, so the wind lifts off it. So it’s not the standard Palma conditions we see earlier in the year with a really nice consistent sea breeze. Now it comes in and then lifts and disappears, it comes and goes, it’s quite a dynamic type of breeze this time of year. And we’re seeing that it takes a while for the wind to get going, then eventually when it does we still haven’t seen a good solid breeze yet, it’s just sort of coming and going.
Regatta standings after five races
1. Quantum Racing (USA) (Doug DeVos) (2,4,2,5,2) 15 p.
2. Phoenix (RSA) (Hasso/Tina Plattner) (5,3,4,4,3) 19 p.
3. Azzurra (ARG/ITA) (Alberto Roemmers) (6,5,1,6,4) 22 p.
4. Luna Rossa (ITA) (Patrizio Bertelli) (7,2,6,9 Penalty 2,1) 27 p.
5. Platoon (GER) (Harm Müller-Spreer) (1,10,8,2,7) 28 p.
6. Provezza (TUR) (Ergin Imre) (4,1,7,10,6) 28 p.
7. Alegre (USA/GBR) (Andy Soriano) (3,6,3,8,8) 28 p.
8. Sled (USA) (Takashi Okura) (8,9,5,1,10) 33 p.
9. Gladiator (GBR) (Tony Langley) (10,7,9,7,5) 38 p.
10. Onda (BRA) (Eduardo de Souza Ramos) (8,9,DNF11,2,9) 40 p.