Germany’s Platoon victorious at Rolex TP52 World Championship
Published: Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Harm Müller-Spreer’s Platoon from Germany triumphed at the 10-fleet 2017 Rolex TP52 World Championship (May 15-20) in Scarlino, Italy, winning by a 7-point margin from Quantum Racing.
(Photos: Nico Martinez / Martinez Studio - 2017 Rolex TP52 World Championship winner Platoon)
Müller-Spreer commented on his win: “It means a lot. This regatta is so hard to win. I’ve been sailing for more than forty years, but this is a different level.”
The Rolex TP52 Worlds is part of the 52 Super Series. 2017 marks the first year of its partnership with Rolex.
Prior to the regatta, Niklas Zennström, a former world champion in the TP52 and the Mini Maxi classes and whose Ran Racing would end the event in sixth, said of the Rolex TP52 World Championship: “This is the regatta of the year to be really good, this is the one to win.”
Ed Reynolds, Director of defending world champions, Quantum Racing, said: “This is the most competitive 52 Super Series fleet I can remember.” Quantum Racing’s score averaged 3.6 and they finished second.
The worst result in Platoon’s score line in the eight-race series was a single sixth – their only finish off the podium. With many years of sailing experience that includes three Dragon Gold Cups, Müller-Spreer is a knowledgeable owner-helmsman. He knows what it takes to succeed and how difficult it is to construct a win like this: “All the teams are more or less the same, with Olympic medallists and America’s Cup winners in the crew. This class is very hard to win.
“There is a huge human factor in winning. The group has to fit together. It is very, very important. They have to accept each other, they have to learn the boat, how to make it go fast, sail development, mast development. All this goes to make a winning team.”
Reynolds whole-heartedly endorses this assessment. Platoon’s tactician is American, John Kostecki – the only sailor to have achieved the sport’s pinnacle trifecta, winning Olympic silver in 1988, winning the Volvo Ocean Race in 2001-2 and winning the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010.
According to Reynolds, Kostecki was one of the several keys: “Most importantly, Platoon avoided the big number. Alongside that, they had a really good mode for whatever condition they were in. When they were bow-forward they were able to go fast and extend. When they needed to hold a tight lane in a tough situation, they were able to until things cleared out. They had patience and their situational boat speed was impeccable.”
The TP52 Class Manager is Rob Weiland. He has watched the class develop, and witnessed serious acceleration in both human and technical performance in recent years: “The rule governing the TP52 design is relatively simple. Boats must fit into the parameters of a box. Within those parameters is room for optimisation and there is a constant process of refinement that is crucial.
“Crew members have to be highly skilled in more than one area. It is not good enough to be a grinder or a trimmer. You need to be in the industry – like a sail maker – so you can bring technical knowledge into the team.”
Weiland goes on to explain that the crews competing at the Rolex TP52 Worlds are hand-picked for their skill and compatibility. “They are the very tip of the iceberg. The racing crew needs to be able to concentrate on their primary job. They are a pro-sporting team; it is very physical. They train every day, running, cycling, working out even when at regattas. They spend long sessions analysing races and performance. They also need recovery time.”
Achieving the balance requires an equally-skilled shore or pit crew. “The shore crew are the first on the dock in the morning and the last home at night,” says Weiland. “They prepare the boat first thing and when it comes back in at the end of racing they clean it down, check everything, rig, ropes, systems."
Pablo Roemmers, the member of the Argentinian sailing dynasty and co-owner of the Azzurra team, which represents the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, said: “On the one hand, our crew are true friends, who have been together for many years, so we have a familiar relationship. On the other hand, we have to achieve results, so everyone has to be as professional as possible. This requires separation from the emotional part to be strict when the results are not what are expected.”
Azzurra seemed to have laid down an early marker for the 2017 Rolex TP52 World Championship when they led all the way around the course during the practice race ahead of the main event. Mixed results mid-series put the team on the back foot.
Roemmers commented: "It is much easier to accept winning than defeat, especially when you have given everything to be at the top. It is important not to get too upset, but go back to the basics, do what one normally does. This is the top league. If you are doing everything you can, the results will come. You have to look at your mistakes and try to learn every single day. And, of course, enjoy the times you do well!” Adopting this approach, Azzurra eventually finished third, winning the final race to overhaul Alegre in the standings.
Nacho Postigo is the navigator on the Turkish yacht Provezza which finished in eighth. “There are two reasons we are here. First it is the level. You are constantly testing your personal skills and the skill of your team against the very best. A small mistake will drop you from the fleet. It is very challenging and you learn a tremendous amount each race.
“Second, we constantly analysing performance, how to improve ourselves and the boat. Small variations are significant. This is stimulating and challenging.”
There is a third aspect that Postigo said the crews appreciate: “The owners engaged in this type of racing are very successful people. Successful in business and with their lives. They want to succeed in sailing in the same way. To do so, they have to understand that winning here is about hard work and perfecting things.” They also have to possess a level of humility to understand the rest of the fleet are also very good: “You have to realise that to beat them is a big achievement and if they beat you it is because they sailed better.
“You have to be a true sportsman to survive. You have to have a lot of respect for the opposition. Try to win, of course, but understand you are against very, very good teams. It is not always possible, someone has to lose.”
The prize giving ceremony was held at Marina di Scarlino, where Müller-Spreer was awarded a Rolex timepiece, along with the 2017 Rolex TP52 World Championship trophy.