Nov 11, 2021
The Rolex TP52 World Championship brought ten teams from seven countries in Palma de Mallorca, Spain November 2-6 for five days of competition. After eight races, Takashi Okura’s Sled, from the United States, emerged victorious to claim a well-deserved title. The 2021 regatta was played out in demanding and changeable conditions, quite different to the more traditional, stable winds.
Former Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Tom Slingsby, the Australian tactician racing on the Plattner family’s entry, Phoenix:
“This time of the year is very tough, since we get the offshore breezes. Palma can be a bit predictable in summer, but in November it’s an open game and boat speed alone is not always going to win. That said, everything you need to know is on the water in front of you, you just have to take a good look and figure out the best course.”
“It is very hard sometimes to go from approaching the start line at 40 knots in SailGP to joining the TP52 class, where we are approaching the line at six or seven knots. Changing my mindset can take a day or two before I get my head into it and get my timing and distances.”
Slingsby’s adjustment was evidently rapid. The South African team started with a perfect first day to claim the top of the leaderboard. Defending its pole position on days two and three, an increase in wind strength on the penultimate day of racing added a new element to the equation. The dramatic explosion of Phoenix’s spinnaker in the final leg of Race 7 opened the door for her closest rivals. Errors are always expensive luxuries in such a tight fleet.
After claiming a third victory of the week in Race 8, Sled, with three-time Olympian and America’s Cup helm Francesco Bruni from Italy on tactics, crept into the overall lead. The American crew had a one point advantage over Quantum Racing (USA) and Platoon, with Phoenix a further point behind. The battle for the world championship title was wide open and an exciting final day beckoned. Unfortunately, extreme north-easterly winds over the racing area led to the cancellation of the last scheduled races. Sled’s late burst proved perfectly timed to secure the 2021 Rolex TP52 World Championship. Bruni, who also competes on the SailGP circuit, confirmed it had been a true test, especially for the tacticians:
“We’ve never seen Palma like this. It was unbelievable, in one hundred metres you could lose two hundred metres.”
Consistency was so difficult to maintain that commitment and crew spirit became the critical components, he explained:
“We were not very consistent. We were up and down a lot, but every boat was the same. Every boat had bad moments and good moments. We were very tight as a team, and I think that’s why we won: concentration and really nice teamwork.”
The 2021 Rolex TP52 World Championship confirmed its status as the apex of grand prix monohull sailing. All ten teams showed the highest level of skill and determination required to compete within this finest selection of sailing talent. Maximizing the tiniest of margins and excelling when it counted the most made the difference.