TP52 World Championship
Harm Müller Spreer’s German flagged Platoon team clinched the 2023 Rolex TP52 World Championship title with a thrilling comeback in the final minutes of the final race off Barcelona. From fourth at the last windward mark of the championship, they passed two boats in the closing moments of the downwind, one of them being outgoing 2022 champions Quantum Racing powered by American Magic, to finish second behind Provezza the team which had led the regatta since the end of the first day of competition.
While there was a measure of heartbreak for Ergin Imré’s Turkish flagged team which was on the verge of their first world championship title and their third regatta title of the season, there was a huge outburst of emotions for the hugely experienced Platoon team as they won the world title for the third time after triumphing in 2017 in Scarlino and 2019 in Puerto Portals.
The last pair of races today, contested for the first time in an E’ly breeze of 7-10kts and nasty Barcelona choppy sea – proved to be a fitting, high octane climax to what has proven an especially high pressure, intense championship compacted to only three days of racing because of insufficient wind at the start of the event.
Starting the day with a three points lead over their German rivals, Provezza handed the advantage back to Platoon when they opened their final charge with a sixth place – their worst race of the regatta. At the same time, when they really needed it Platoon unfurled an impressive victory ahead of Gladiator which had ETNZ’s Ray Davies guesting as tactician.
Circuit leaders since winning the first event of the season in Saint-Tropez, Provezza then showed their mettle, delivering a clinically efficient, fast gun to gun win. All the way round the windward-leeward course they seemed to have the 2023 world title in the bag.
But on the last downwind Platoon stayed right whilst both Quantum – which has Terry Hutchinson calling tactics this week and Interlodge erred left. The windshift and pressure favoured Müller Spreer’s team and they surged through to cross second, not far behind their red hulled rivals, wresting the title from under their noses.
It is also Platoon’s second regatta win of 2023, coming on the heels of lifting the Royal Cup in Mahon, Menorca last month. It is the second Rolex TP52 World Championship title for Platoon’s tactician Vasco Vascotto who again attributed some of the late gains to divine intervention from his recently passed dad.
“I think maybe my dad was up there encouraging Terry to go left and me to stay right!”
grinned an emotional Vascotto who paid tribute to the while Platoon crew not least Spanish Olympic and America’s Cup hero Jordi Calafat.
“Before the day started Jordi and I had agreed that we needed most of all to stay calm and patient and the opportunity would come, as it did.”
Platoon’s owner-driver Müller-Spreer was elated,
“For sure this world title was the hardest. We were up and down the whole week first of all waiting two days for wind. We struggled on the first day and in the third race we got two red flags and ended up with a ninth. We had a strong comeback and the performance of the team and the boat was really really good.”
“It feels great, it’s not something you can do easily. To achieve world titles in this class – it’s a big honour. But we have to point out that Provezza is doing such a good job. They are so consistent it’s really hard to beat them.”
After getting two red flag penalties in Race 3, the last of a long, hot, sweaty three race day, Platoon delivered a 2,2,3,1,2 finish but still head to Puerto Portals for the season finale still with the same 18 points deficit they have behind leaders Provezza.
Provezza’s helm John Cutler grimaced,
“It was tough to win the race and still not win the regatta but it’s the accumulated points that count and we just had a couple too many I guess. Now we have just got to focus now on the overall for the season and keep chipping away. If we keep sailing the way we have been doing hopefully that will be enough for Portals. But normally you should feel pretty pleased with a second at the worlds but we actually all feel a little bit like…. “aaaaaargh” because like everybody we left a few points on the table round the race track in the eight races we did so you always regret that. But once I’ve had a beer I’ll cheer up and it’ll be good.”
The breeze moved around to the east and despite some rather ominous filled in nicely for an ontime start just after noon, local time. The velocity was consistent with the previous days, but the change of wind direction created a confused sea with the current running counter to the wind.
Gladiator took the committee boat end and bounced right immediately while Quantum Racing owned the leeward end and was content to play on the left side. In the middle were the two main protagonists for the world title, Provezza and Platoon. The Turkish team was able to hold a land on starboard while Platoon tacked to the right side and then tacked back. In the end there wasn’t necessarily a favored size with Phoenix coming in from the left to lead at the first mark, followed closely by Gladiator and Platoon. For Provezza, what had seemed promising early in the leg resulted in a seventh around the first mark.
Platoon methodically chipped away, picking off Gladiator around the leeward mark when the latter had a poor spinnaker douse and then Phoenix on the second upwind leg. On the final run, Phoenix would tumble to fifth, one spot in front ot Provezza, which was never able to find a passing lane. Gladiator took second, a resurgent Quantum Racing was third and Vayu fourth. Interlodge, Sled, Alpha + and Alegre, which incurred a penalty at the leeward mark rounding, rounded out the standings.
Entering the final race, Platoon had a two-point lead in hand and the tiebreak, provided Provezza didn’t win the race. But then Provezza jumped off the line and played the first beat to perfection, rounding with a lead they wouldn’t not relinquish. Interlodge committed hard to the left side and rounded second, with Quantum Racing and Phoenix in third and fourth. Then came Platoon with three boats standing between them and the world title.
At the leeward mark, Provezza took the right hand gate and ownership of the left side. Platoon, left with the difficult choice to follow or to split, seemed slightly indecisive before taking a left hand turn, though they did appear to pick one of the three boats they needed.
The first part of the last beat of the world championship was fairly routine, but as the boat’s closed on the windward mark, Provezza did everything it could to inflict some pain on their rivals on Platoon, tacking on Interlodge and Quantum Racing and hoping one of them would pay forward, so to speak, the pain on Platoon.
The lead at the windward mark was comfortable for Provezza, which had displayed good downwind speed all regatta. But it was somewhat out of their hands as Ergin Imre’s team needed either Quantum Racing, which slipped into second at the final mark, or Interlodge to stay in front of Platoon.
Quantum Racing was quick to jibe away to the left-hand size, looking downwind, which opened the door. Platoon then used its downwind speed to position itself to leeward of Interlodge and then make the pass when boat boats jibed toward the finish. Now it was up to the wind gods and they decided in favor of the German team as Platoon surged past Quantum Racing into second and clinched the world championship. Quantum Racing took third, Interlodge fourth. Phoenix and Gladiator went fifth and sixth respectively, then Algre, Vayu, Sled and Alpha +.
Rolex TP52 World Championship Final Standings
1-PLATOON (GER), Harm Müller-Spreer, 1+5+9+2+2+3+1+2= 25
2 PROVEZZA (TUR), Ergin Imre, 5+3+1+1+5 +4+6+1= 26
3- GLADIATOR (GBR), Tony Langley, 2+7+2+10+4+1+1+2+6=34
4- PHOENIX (RSA) Hasso Plattner 7+2+6+5+1+8+5+=39
5- QUANTUM RACING POWERED BY AMERICAN MAGIC (USA), Doug DeVos, 8+4+7+6+10+2+3+3=43
6- ALEGRE (GBR), Andy Soriano, 3+6+3+7+3+5+10+7 =44
7- SLED (USA), Takashi Okura, 6+1+8+3+6+10+8+9+= 51
8- VAYU (THA), Whitcraft Family, 4+9+4+9+9+7+4+8+=54
9- INTERLODGE (USA) Augustin – Gwen Fragomen – 9+8+10+4+7+9+7+4+=58
10-ALPHA+ (HKG), Shawn and Tina Kang, 10+10+5+8+8+6+9+10=66