Credit is due, once again, to Alegre owner Andy Soriano. In summer 2017 he was first to commit to building a new TP52 for 2018 and now he is the first to sign on the dotted line to build new for what promises to be a very exciting 2024 52 Super Series season.
In such a highly competitive world when one owner starts the ball rolling others follow. Germany’s Harm Müller-Spreer has given the green light for a new Botín design of his own, built in Valencia also by King Marine from the same mould as Alegre.
And now there is widespread speculation about a new Sled and maybe even a new Quantum Racing… but with all that Doug DeVos has going on over the next 12 months with American Magic it seems more likely that he will move to a new boat for 2025.
Sled’s Don Cowie also observes, ‘We have a good fast, super-competitive boat right now which we need to be sailing better and when we are sailing better we might merit a new one. There is also a shortage of capacity at good grand prix boatbuilders and building a boat like this is not something to be rushed.’
The new Alegre is already well advanced at King Marine. ‘The goal is to be sailing at the end of March,’ says Sebastian Tenghage, Alegre project manager. Of the decision to press the go button the Swede explains, ‘We talked the idea over, tossed it back and forwards, but in the end it is down to Andy who wants to move things up a level and see just what we can do.
‘It is five years since we built last and things have moved forwards quite a bit in all the different areas – especially with the latest AC-influenced design tools; the class rule has remained much the same, but there are definite gains to be had.
‘Also our new choices will be very much team-driven, where we want to go with sail and rig design, mast position and rake, there are so many things to look at when you start afresh.
‘Like all the top designers Botín Partners have obviously updated all their tools, but will a new boat look very different? I don’t believe so… but the data and the numbers we have seen for sure suggest it is a step forwards.
‘There is a cycle you go through – structure, loads, the stiffness of the boat and so on – it is all about where you want to end up and the iterations you do along the way,’ Tenghage explains.
Alegre stay with their previous suppliers – sail design through North Sails UK, whose Kevin George is a longstanding crew with Soriano’s team, rig from Southern Spars, winch system from Jon Williams’ Stayinphase, Cariboni for hydraulics, Pure Engineering and of course the Botín office.
As a rule when it comes to systems today’s Alegre team subscribe to the ‘less is best’ maxim and Tenghage notes that they are seeking to go even simpler on the new boat. ‘That is our philosophy. Even with the existing boat we like to keep it as simple as possible because in the end you put all these things in and you hardly use them. We’ve learnt it is not worth the weight penalty, especially carrying weight in unfavoured positions, and so we are pushing that way again. Less is definitely still better!’
Soriano’s team have been knocking on the door this season, appearing well-equipped to win a regatta soon. The new boat is seen as the logical next step. ‘Andy enjoys the process of building a new boat, that is one part of it, he is hands-on with everything and he likes to push. We are always pushing looking for more speed, hence the keel and other major changes recently; but for the rest of this year we are now pretty locked in with the set-up we have.
‘Also, we kind of suspected that if we pushed the button on a new boat others will build too. It’s good for the class too, since we also get another couple of very good boats coming on the market.’
For all his years in grand prix racing Soriano is as driven and passionate as he has ever been and, correspondingly, the Alegre team have never been as cohesive and competitive. The addition of sparky Italian navigator Francesco Mongelli, freed from his support team role with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, and Aussie two-time 470 Olympic medallist Will Ryan as strategist supporting Brit tactician Nic Asher now sees the group more consistent on the water… and better equipped to deal with the down days.
Tenghage continues, ‘Andy absolutely has the best interests of the class and the circuit at heart. He obviously wants to win, to do well and to keep improving, but he realises also that building new boats is important for the class. And, let’s be honest, it keeps good marine industry people in jobs for another few years.’
Then there’s the new Platoon for multiple TP52 champion Harm Müller-Spreer. ‘It is quite funny,’ says the German skipper, ‘because when I went to the Mahón event this year I was not having a new boat and when I left the island I was. But I had a chat with a few people, including the guys from King Marine and it seemed like a good opportunity! I had two options – to stay with the boat we have, or not – and it felt like the right time to move on.
‘Everyone knows I am a Vrolijk guy, but they had not started a new design and with Botín there was a design spot that was available alongside Alegre. But only two designs were possible in the time so I moved quickly. This was the only way to have a new boat ready for March, so I grabbed the second spot before anyone else… Now already everything is really moving fast…’
Obviously new boats for 2024 are great news for the class and for the Super Series. The existing boats will be up for sale and according to class manager Rob Weiland there is no shortage of interest. And so the wheels keep turning and a strong future seems assured for another few years at least. Taking the circuit to Newport and the New York Yacht Club for the first time feels overdue and the hope is that some of the existing US-based TP52s will put a toe or two into the waters and join a debut event there next year.
The 2021 Invitational Regatta in Puerto Portals, Majorca was a great success and there are still owners who tasted the Super Series there who even now, some two years on, intend to get involved should the right boat comes along. Of course the Invitational was also the first exposure for the Whitcraft family’s Thai Team Vayu, and they have gone from strength to strength ever since joining the circuit shortly after their ‘taster’ regatta.
So from 10 to 16 June next year there will be a second TP52 Invitational Regatta integrated into the second 52 Super Series event of 2024, the series’ first of two events in Newport, RI which itself will be part of the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta. The hope is that at least five US TP52s of varying vintages and designs will join for the Invitational start which will run alongside the 52 Super Series, as worked so well in Majorca.
Ed Reynolds, director at the NYYC-flagged Quantum Racing Powered by American Magic, is of course, enthusiastic about bringing the Super Series back to the USA where there remains a solid congregation of active TP52s. ‘I hope we can see maybe seven or eight American boats join the Super Series 52s in Newport.
‘When we look back at how excited everyone was in Puerto Portals and what a good time they all had I think the Invitational is a great initiative. But alongside that one of the most important tools we have is to keep investing in the live TV broadcast which is added value for everyone; maybe not all owners appreciate the attention, but it reaches a key relevant audience. And the only way we will keep growing is to inspire and excite more teams to come and join us. Look at where Vayu are now.’
To join the second event in Newport, RI, the Rolex TP52 World Championship, running as part of the NYYC Race Week, the American USA 52s will have to be TP52 class compliant which not all currently are. But surely a TP52 World Championship on your own doorstep will be enough incentive to make the adjustments necessary to take part…