Rolex TP52s prepare for tough fight in Scarlino
17 May, 2017
The crews of ten finely-tuned all-carbon racing machines are settle to do battle and match wits in the breakwater surrounding Marina di Scarlino. The 2017 Rolex TP52 World Championship promises five days of intense competition as competitors vie for one of grand-prix yacht-racing’s most-esteemed titles.
At first glance, Scarlino is perhaps an unlikely venue for a contest of such stature.
Situated in Tuscany, about 100km southwest of Florence, a region most famous for the wines it produces and the quality of its cuisine, the town sits in a landscape dominated by forested hills behind and a glorious coastline stretching north and south. More a location for relaxing than competition. Scarlino, though, holds a secret. Its bay is perfectly formed by distinct headlands. The island of Elba lies across the mouth, siting the event’s sailing ground within a natural stadium. The resultant wind patterns are constantly changing, offering fresh challenges each day and even from race to race.
The ten teams gathered know each other extremely well. The Rolex TP52 Worlds forms part of the 52 SUPER SERIES, an annual circuit, which in 2017 comprises six events in the USA and Europe. The two events so far – Key West Race Week and the Miami Royal Cup, both in the USA – have given no clear indication as to which team has the best chance to lift the coveted world championship trophy. This event has no firm favourite.
Ed Baird, the former America’s Cup winner and 2007 Rolex World Sailor of the Year, racing as tactician on Tony Langley’s Gladiator sees clear reasons for the closeness between the teams coming into this regatta: “It is a highly competitive
class because these are all the highest-level competitors. The owners and teams put tremendous effort into being at the very top, and we all enjoy being pushed to the very best of our abilities.
The fleet is incredibly close. The boats are all meticulously maintained, the teams have been together for a long time and there are very few surprises. Each team knows what their boat is capable of, what are the strong and weak points. Equally, we know each other very well. We know what to expect when we are next to any of our competitors and consequently the racing is extremely close. That makes it exciting and difficult for anyone to be consistently out in front.
The racing programme schedules five days of competition, comprising four days of short course, windward-leeward racing where slick maneuvers combined with quick, decisive tactics and total concentration will reveal who has brought their best form. One day is reserved for a 35 – 45 nm coastal course lasting around 3.5 hours. Here the fast-paced skills of the crews will need to be matched with longer-term strategic thinking and even a touch of endurance.
Ahead of the first race, perhaps the person with the most pressure on her shoulders is Principal Race Officer, Maria Torrijo, from Spain. She has been with the TP52 Class for almost 10 years and knows well what is expected of her: “The teams are very demanding. They are very precise; for example, the start line needs to be absolutely perfect.”
Torrijo believes fleet can look forward a good week of racing, not least because the geography of the region makes it a challenging sailing environment: “The forecast for the week is good. We are expecting wind – not too strong, not too light.
Because it is already very warm here, we expect a significant sea-breeze every day, certainly according to the locals! For example, today we had 12 -15 knots.”
“This is a tricky place to race,” Torrijo continues. “There is no regularly favoured side to the course, so the tacticians will be very, very busy just controlling the little wind shifts. The shape of the bay with hills behind and islands out to sea help create these conditions. It is a beautiful place to race because there are so many changes in the wind. Position on the course is so important.”
Close competition boat for boat and crew for crew; conditions to test the best minds in the sport. The 2017 Rolex TP52 World Championship looks to have all the ingredients for a spectacular contest. Above all, the eventual winner will be fully deserving of their success and the recognition that follows from their peers and at the prize giving.
As well as being crowned World Champion, the winner of the 2017 Rolex TP52 Worlds will receive a Rolex timepiece, the recognized symbol of achievement in yachting, awarded to the winners of many of sailing’s most prestigious events,
including the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.