The 52 SUPER SERIES fleet warmed up for Tuesday’s start of the 2022 season with three good practice races today on the beautiful ría de Vigo off Baiona where the world’s leading grand prix monohull circuit is visiting for the very first time in its ten year history.
As if to underline how open this five-regatta season is likely to be, there were three different race winners, Harm Müller Spreer’s Platoon, the Plattner family’s Phoenix with Tom Slingsby calling tactics and Ergin Imré’s Provezza which has Argentinian aces Santi Lange and Cole Parada backing up tactician Hamish Pepper at this regatta.
The morning rain and low hanging cloud cleared away to leave light to moderate breezes (9-11kts) and flat water which offered near perfect conditions for the final practice session at this challenging new venue, but Quantum Racing’s navigator Michele Ivaldi believes the first three days could see brisk N’ly winds which should challenge all aspects of the crews’ teamwork right from the very first races of the season.
Ivaldi said after training, “The weather will characterised by the Azores High pressure coming towards us and then sliding up towards the Bay of Biscay and so we will have a Northerly gradient going to NE’ly and going to N’ly going to NW’ly gradient, pretty decent strength the next two or three days, so 15-20kts, and then as the high moves north to Biscay it will be lighter for the last two days, a lot lighter with potentially some sea breeze.”
Platoon’s local hero Victor Mariño – who grew up racing here – concurs, “The first two days of the week will be north-westerly, similar to today but without the early rain. After that it will be quite warm, so the wind will drop and it will be more changeable. But the mouth of the estuary always has good conditions for sailing. I think it’s going to be a good week of racing.”
And while the new racing waters will be a challenge to decipher, all of the crews are loving the beautiful scenery, the clear waters and lush, verdant coastline and stunning beaches on this rugged NW corner of Spain.
“People don’t expect this, they are not used to coming to Spain and seeing such green scenery. Here we have already spent more hours training over these last few days than in the whole of last season, and that’s because they enjoy it, they like it, because it’s nice to sail in the ría de Vigo.”, said Mariño.
And Phoenix’s on-form Tom Slingsby on his first visit to the area is already entranced, “This is really one of the most beautiful places I have sailed. It is stunning coastline with big mountains, there are beautiful islands with crystal clear water and beautiful beaches. If we ever got a day off we would go and explore the beaches but that is not the way it works!”
Slingsby feels he has a bit of a handle on the race area, “The race track is definitely challenging and tricky. I think it is really going to be a place of backing your judgment, either the left or right hand side could work. But you really have to dig into that side. There seems to be a little bit of a transition zone in the middle. You have to really work your side and use the geographical shifts either side and if you get caught in the middle then you could be in a bit of trouble.”
After disappointment in Palma where they narrowly missed out on both titles, Slingsby says they are ready to take up where they left off last November, “I think we are in good shape. I think myself and Phoenix feel like we have unfinished business after missing out on the world championships and the season championship, so we are excited to be able to get back out there and get that one or two steps up. I feel like this team’s boat handling and speed has always been pretty good, we have to work on our course management, reduce the mistakes and keep the spinnakers together and we will be in there.”
The champions, Takashi Okura’s Sled, have their talismanic owner-driver back on the helm and are ready to start their title defence at a venue which was a happy hunting ground for their Italian tactician Francesco Bruni who won the Master de España de Match Race Internacional here in 2009. Don Cowie, project manager and mainsheet trimmer, says that last season was so close the dice rolled in their favour, “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.”
Giving it their everything will be the Thailand crew on Vayu who are seeking to simply improve with each regatta. This will be the first full season for the pro-am Whitcraft family crew – which has five family members racing here and two young Thai sailors enjoying their new experience on this high octane grand prix circuit. Vayu have moved to Quantum Sails and while they will have the full back up package it will take some getting used to the new designs and shapes but Vayu – with Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers on tactics and local pro ace Antonio ‘Neti’ Cuevas Mons adding muscle power and local knowledge – were very much in the mix today.
“We had good fun races today, were in the mix and had good starts.” Co-owner Kevin Whitcraft commented, “It was good to be up there. We will see how we go and just want to improve over the season and basically feel like we are constantly getting better. We are with Quantum now and they are helping with data but these are new sails and shapes and so will take some getting used to. We have had some coaching last week in Vigo and will have a coach from Quantum with us this season and are looking to just improving and having in fun in the class and doing all the five events this season. All the Asian events are still cancelled so we have not done any serious sailing at home. We have Neti (Antonio Cuevas Mons) who is local sailing with us here and in Cascais and otherwise we have mostly the same crew as last year.”