Quantum Racing comes out on top
Winning five races from ten for the 52 Super Series at Quantum Key West, Doug DeVos and the Quantum Racing team secured the first title of the new 2014 season.
Starting Friday’s one final race of the series, the 2013 season champions needed only a solid top four finish to win overall.
A steady third behind Azzurra and Rán Racing in the lively 19-24 knot northeasterly breeze and bouncy, short seas, ensured DeVos’ crew lifted the Key West, three points ahead of Niklas Zennström’s Rán Racing team.
In the strongest breezes of the five day event, the task for Quantum Racing was made easier from the outset when both Sled and Hooligan were called OCS. DeVos' crew elevated itself to its strongest possible position to lead around the top mark and down a fast, exciting run, but Rán Racing came through at the leeward gate rounding, and was at the front on the second of three beats.
Sailing markedly better in the strong breezes in which she has historically always been at her best, Azzurra sustained her challenge down the second run. Sailing at least as fast and sometimes faster than Rán and Quantum was a great platform from which to attack Rán Racing. Working the right early, the Italian 52 caught a better shift which saw her go bow to bow with the leader for a matter of minutes upwind. The power of the right prevailed and by the finish line she had eased ahead to give the Italians a confidence boost at the end of an event which has otherwise been too irregular for them.
Strategist Francesco Bruni considers they were slowed badly in the first legs of the race, perhaps with a plastic bag or weed, but when they hit their straps they were as fast as any 52 on the water: “The boat was going very well in the second part of the race but we were really struggling in the first upwind, we still don’t know what was happening then, we think we had something around the keel, 10% under performance, very slow.
"From the first downwind onwards the boat was going very well. We made some good calls tactically it was a really nice race to win. We got back to Rán Racing metre by metre, to pass Quantum Racing was good and then the last upwind against Rán Racing, the boat was going very well. We managed to keep the right and then just before the last lay line we had a piece of them, using starboard advantage to win the race.
"We like the strong breeze and the breeze increased during the race, going from 20 knots to 22 knots and at times stronger. The windier it is the better this boat goes. Definitely Rán Racing made some changes to the boat. Last year they were super fast downwind and a little bit slower upwind, but this year they have stepped up upwind and downwind are not unbeatable. Today was so much windier, we were on the number four jib and usually downwind Rán Racing were unbeatable in this downwind."
Tactician on the winning Quantum Racing Terry Hutchinson praised the whole team effort, dedicating their win to the fantastic support of their owner-driver Doug DeVos, a key driving force for the 52 Super Series. Having come close last year when they led into the final day, only to suffer a costly jib breakdown winning this year doubtless feels sweeter.
“Conditions were outstanding and the racing was great, everyone is so competitive and I think we won three of the days, Interlodge won a day and Azzurra won a day. It seemed a lot harder than the scoreline shows. The lobster pot incident really set us back, but beyond that we sailed well and hats off to everyone for the effort they have put in. Today we had some late calls and some really well executed boat handling in the middle and front of the boat, it was a real team effort. We sailed in these respective roles in 2011 and won here. Doug is a competitive guy, he is athletic and he pushes me, he absolutely expects a level as I do too and he knows there no harder critic on me than me, and that keeps everyone working hard on the boat. We keep moving forwards.
"Azzurra always goes well. And early on in the piece we jagged a few. If you say where was the regatta won it was probably won on the first race where we went from fourth to first up the second beat of the race. Today was a different day. Our plan was to stay close to Rán Racing and not give them any opportunities. We found ourselves in the lead at the top. At the leeward gate we just did not lay into the left hand gate, that is just the way things worked. Azzurra was always right there, it is a very good team and they have been doing this a very long time. They have been doing this for as long as we have and so it is a pretty polished group. I think their week was uncharacteristic for them.”
Quantum Racing owner-driver Doug DeVos (above) added: “We have been sailing here for so many years and a lot of times we have not even been close to the leaderboard. We love the event, we love the location and we love the sailing, and so it feels great to come back here and be able to sail with everyone and to do well. And here of course we are not just racing for the regatta but for the 52 Super Series and so of course every race matters. It feels good to win because it is about the team coming together, all the team put in so much, it is nice to be able to celebrate, but like in life never for too long because the next regatta is just around the corner.”
Quantum Racing won the regatta by three points ahead of Rán Racing which in turn was three points up on Azzurra after the ten races.
Rán Racing ended up second. Niklas Zennstrom owner-driver said: “To finish in these conditions when the boats are just flying downwind is just fantastic sailing. We had a great day, but Azzurra were just ahead on the finish line, but we went out today just wanting to make sure we sailed the best we could and make sure we had a good result, so to finish with a second is good. The differences are so small. For us when we look and debrief this regatta it will be the lows which are holding us back. Being OCS, over the start line yesterday and having to go back cost us, and we had another start which was not so good, you need to avoid those lows. We know we can win races, we know we can get the good results, but we need to avoid the lows."
Of the six boats racing, half the fleet won individual races. The two new teams to the 52 Super Series, Sled and Hooligan, had their moments of greatness and their really challenging times. But both teams finished with a better handle on their weaknesses and looking forward to the second regatta, in Miami in early March. In this fleet in the strong winds today any small error was heavily punished.
Hooligan’s Tony Rey, tactician and project manager summed up their enthusiasm: “The results are not what we wanted, but I have just told the guys I have never felt so good about a team and yet finished so poorly. We made the most of the tools we had in the tool box. We managed to hit six crab pots, two in one race. We had a few kite shrimps at the leeward mark. We had a few tough moments but generally we improved enormously over the week. But the key thing is the owner is thrilled and cant wait to get to Miami to improve the tools in the toolbox and we just cant wait to get started against the best guys in the world.
"We were over the line early, then recovered, but were slow up the beat with a bag or some weed, but then had a great run and passed Sled on the run. At the leeward mark the kite came most of the way down and in other boats most of the way down would have been fine, but not in a TP52 when you are surfing at fifteen knots. A bit of the kite went in the water, under the boat and we had to send a guy in. That made a bit of a mess, we will rebuild our spinnaker and our egos and move on to Miami.”
Ross MacDonald, tactician on Sled concluded: “We learned a lot and improved every day which may not show on the results board but we feel we are getting more and more competitive as a team and working well. There are a whole bunch of small things to improve, to refine. There is nothing major, a few systems. We will have a few days practice before Miami and we will work on things then."
Results after ten races:
1. Quantum Racing (USA) Doug DeVos (USA)1,1,1,6,3,4,1,2,1,3 Total 23pts
2. Rán Racing (SWE), Niklas Zennström (SWE) 2,2,3,4,1,2,4,1,5,2 Total 26
3. Azzurra (ITA), Guillermo Parada (ARG) 3,3,2,2,4,1,3,6,4,1 Total 29
4. Interlodge (USA), Austin Fragomen (USA) 4,5,6,1,2,3,2,3,3,4 Total 33
5. Sled (USA), Takashi Okura (USA 5,4,5,5,6,5,6,4,2,5 Total 46
6. Hooligan (USA), Gunther Buerman (USA) 6,6,4,3,5,6,5,5,6,6 Total 53