Consistency key as Provezza power to Saint-Tropez title win
Ergin Imre’s Turkish flagged Provezza team kept their nerve and used their excellent light airs boat speed on the Gulf of Saint-Tropez today to lift the first title of the 2023 season as winners of the 52 SUPER SERIES Saint-Tropez Sailing Week.
While six different teams of the 11 competing won races from the eight sailed, Provezza were not among them. Rather it was their consistency across winds which ranged from 5 to 20kts which proved decisive. Going into the final race today tied on points with the 2022 champions, Doug DeVos’s Quantum Racing powered by American Magic, Provezza started well enough to earn a share of the favoured right side of the course and with a second place win the French regatta by six clear points.
With Kiwi Olympic bronze medallist John Cutler steering and compatriot Hamish Pepper calling tactics Provezza stayed focused today when their nearest challengers – who have a new afterguard this season – mistimed the light wind start and dropped to second place overall, sharing the same aggregate points tally as Tony Langley’s Gladiator who take third on countback.
Back from the brink of giving up
It is the first regatta win for Imre’s team since 2019 when they triumphed in Puerto Sherry, Andalucia and their third event triumph after Puerto Portals, Mallorca in 2017. Over recent years they have shown huge potential but technical breakdowns have often cost them. Last year at the opening regatta in Baiona, Galicia helm Cutler had to stand down with a viral infection and they broke their forestay so had to miss two races. Indeed it is no secret that Imre, after more than 30 years competing, was considering giving up grand prix sailing last season. But they finished 2022 with two podium finishes and the Turkish owner’s passion was reignited. They were considered possible podium finishers here.
A winter of work optimising and making changes appears to have paid off for Provezza. They have a new keel fin giving more grip for light airs manoeuvring and building speed and lift quicker, new sail designers, setting up the rig differently and after losing Juan Meseguer to the America’s Cup have a new, key sail trimmer in Kiwi Grant Loretz, an America’s Cup winning trimmer and sail program coordinator. They started well and generally managed to take places if they were deep in the pack, three second places being their best scores.
Imre smiled, “I first came to Saint Tropez 43 years ago and it was the sexiest place in the world and today it still is the sexiest place in the world. But this was a light winds regatta and we had made changes through the winter. We changed the keel, we changed our sail trimmers, we have new sail designers. Everything seems to have worked though. We did not have any race wins but neither did we have any bad ones.”
Experience in depth
Spanish navigator Nacho Postigo has been racing TP52s since 2005 when he won the inaugural Med fleet regatta with Pisco Sour. He enthused, “This is great for the team. We did not come here expecting to win. We have a lot of new things, new people in the team a new keel, new sail designers, changes to the boat. We were approaching this regatta really just thinking to learn where we are. But we were performing very, very well. We had some nervous moments but we just said ‘let us keep cool. The course was very one sided and the thing is now there are no weak boats, it is very difficult to pass boats. You have to get off the start and we did well there.”
Quantum Racing powered by American Magic won two races and had one third but also count three eighths in their scoreline. Considering they have four new, young crew members and a new tactician in John Kostecki they gelled faster than many outsiders expected and until the final race today were actually on the threshold of carrying on the winning momentum of last year when they took victories at four of last season’s events.
Young Victor Diaz de Leon is settling into the dual role of navigator/strategist alongside Kostecki. A sportsboat and small keelboat racer, Sail GP and M32 racer with multiple world championship titles to his name he had never served as a race navigator at any level until starting to learn at the Valencia Easter training camp. Indeed he did not own a computer until recently. He paid a tribute to rival Postigo who has been grounding him in the dark arts and science of the role.
“It was a great experience. We got better through the week and this is now a long, hard season and we just want to keep getting better and better. We need to work a little on our light airs starting. We seemed to get better in the medium to light airs starting we need to work on the light airs starts. I did not have any real expectations coming here because I have never sailed these boats before with this team and so my objective coming here was to come here, work hard and do my best. The vibe on board is great and so I am really looking forward to the rest of the season. I do want to give a special thanks to Nacho Postigo on the winning boat Provezza. I have never navigated before and Nacho has been very generous with his time teaching me how to work the Expedition software, I am indebted to him.” He grinned.
The Parada factor?
And four times 52 SUPER SERIES champion skipper Guillermo Parada seems to be the catalyst of positive improvements on Gladiator. They finished with a flourish today, winning the final race to take third overall, their first podium since the season decider in Menorca in 2017 when they finished second, tying on points with champions Azzurra.
Trimmer Simon Fry said, “It is a fantastic start to the season for us. The team are tight, we dropped a couple of points early in the regatta, we said ‘trust the process’, we did and it worked for us. The ‘Parada Factor?’ Guille is great, he is passionate, he is talented, you would have him on any team.”
And Parada himself comments, “This is a big boost to our confidence and our motivation for Scarlino and to have a good regatta there. We were gifted the conditions, light airs suit our style. We made the most of the opportunity that was given to us. Probably some of the other teams were looking a bit at each other. We gave it everything we had to make sure finish in the best positions all the time. So we are happy to be tied for second on points with Quantum, third on countback.”
The 52 SUPER SERIES moves next to Scarlino, Tuscany for the 52 SUPER SERIES Scarlino Sailing Week May 29th to June 3rd.
Final standings 52 SUPER SERIES Saint-Tropez Sailing Week after eight races:
1- PROVEZZA (TUR), Ergin Imre, 2+5+4+6+2+6+7+2 = 34pts
2- QUANTUM RACING POWERED BY AMERICAN MAGIC (USA), Doug DeVos, 6+8+8+1+3+1+5+8 = 40pts
3- GLADIATOR (GBR), Tony Langley, 5+3+3+11+10+3+4+1 = 40pts
4- ALEGRE (GBR), Andy Soriano, 4+4+7+4+5+2+11+6 = 43pts
5- INTERLODGE (USA), Austin and Gwen Fragomen, 1+1+6+8+7+9+10+3 = 45pts
6- SLED (USA), Takashi Okura, 8+7+9+2+1+11+3+4 = 45pts
7- PLATOON (GER), Harm Müller-Spreer, 7+9+1+3+9+4+2+10 = 45pts
8- PAPREC (FRA), Jean Luc Petithuguenin, 11+6+2+7+6+7+6+11 = 56pts
9- PHOENIX (RSA), Hasso and Tina Plattner, 9+10+11+9+4+8+1+5 = 57pts
10- VAYU (THA), Whitcraft Family, 10+2+5+10+11+5+8+7 = 58pts
11- ALPHA+ (HKG), Shawn and Tina Kang, 3+11+10+5+8+10+9+9 = 65pts