Despite great expectations the start of the 2022 52 Super Series was pretty awful for Provezza. Between afterguard illness requiring reshuffles and a broken forestay at the first event in Baiona they had to fight back hard most of the season thereafter.
Turkish owner Ergin Imre had already stated he planned to finally give up international grand prix racing after some 40 years. But his loyal, hardworking team stuck to the task and delivered two third places from the last three regattas of the season, again underlining their determination.
The winter saw the keel fin changed, new rigging and, following the departure of designer-trimmer Juan Meseguer to American Magic, an updated sail programme under North designer Robert Hook working with America’s Cup winner Grant Loretz. Provezza served notice at Easter training in Valencia that they were quick but few there would have put money on them winning the first two regattas of the season…
Loretz is back working closely with another ex-Azzurra alumnus, Argentinian Mariano ‘Cole’ Parada, one of the quiet, unsung talents of the circuit. Not unexpectedly Mariano was usually in the shadow of his brother, Azzurra helm Guillermo. ‘Guille’ – who won the Cadet Worlds with his brother – has meantime proved a potent catalyst in Tony Langley’s Gladiator camp. Indeed when the dockside chat in Saint Tropez was of the ‘Parada factor’ – Guille steering Gladiator to third at the opening regatta – it was Cole who this time stole brotherly bragging rights as part of the victorious Provezza crew.
Cole Parada gives an insight into the Provezza uptick: ‘Many things have contributed: the keel change, the rigging change, we have turnbuckles on deck now so we can change for every condition, we have many, many different settings. The keel has had the biggest impact. But overall you start doing things and they click suddenly, and the ball starts rolling. Plus the mood of the team changed a lot from last year. For the better!’
He adds, ‘The keel change is huge. Last season we struggled holding lanes and now we have no problems at all. We were supposed to lose light-air speed and lose a little running but the first two regattas have been light airs and we won both! I think we are among the two or three fastest boats on the water.’
Parada is runner-trimmer and is responsible for helping set up the rig as he was on Azzurra. There is considerable anticipation looking forwards to Mahon as the rule changes there to allow 5mm more lateral mast movement at deck level, the idea being to allow the rig to sag to leeward more in light air. He explains, ‘The lateral movement will give more ability to power up the boat in the light stuff. So now you play a lot with the shims, and with the rake with more movement allowed at the step.
‘Normally you add more depth into the mainsail by raking forward but that has the downside of bringing the draft forward; by sagging the rig you can keep the draft back which is what you want in light airs. And also it closes the sail in the middle leech, giving a lot of power in the light.
‘Normally the crossover is around 12kt. Above that you want the rig straight and in the upper range you want it slightly pulled up in the middle but ideally with the tip falling off a bit to leeward. The current sails were designed to the old rule but we have a new mainsail in Mahon to exploit the new way of setting the rig.’
And this new main? ‘Perhaps you can push the draft slightly forward because the sag will allow you to reduce it a little bit, it is a matter of balance how you would set up the rig and how you have the sail designed; but obviously it is new for everyone and perhaps we won’t end up using the extra “gap” if we don’t like it!’
Parada is also pleased to be back working alongside Kiwi Loretz: ‘I cannot speak highly enough about him, the amount of technical knowledge he has is amazing. He is a normal Kiwi, blunt and straight to the point. No bullshit. But he focuses on a few priorities and makes sure that they get done. We have now done eight big campaigns together, him on the jib, me on the backstay…
‘Overall now the sails are more powerful. The entry angles, draft positions, cambers. And all is much better in sync. What we noticed this time is that we really covered a lot of ground during the winter. We had the breakage in Galicia last year which cost us two races, then we could not put on enough backstay, we got to Cascais and discovered the jib luff-curves were wrong. So last season we were always catching up. This winter we prepared better and we really notice the differences.
‘On Azzurra we were such a tight group of friends that I hated it when the programme stopped. But today I am enjoying new challenges, I think you grow up both as a professional and as a sailor.’
As well as sailing on the J Class Topaz and racing a Swan 45 Parada is very busy coaching Santi Lange in the Nacra 17 (he took him to Olympic gold in 2016). Parada has won two Snipe Worlds as crew with Lange and raced as his Tornado crew in the 2000 Olympics in Athens. So they are very close.
‘It is a lot, it is a bit like trying to run an America’s Cup project with just four people! You have to be adaptable. I am shooting video, cooking, psychologist some days without the title. The most important thing is to keep up with the day-to-day stuff, but not every day goes how you want it to! And the technical side of the Nacra is extremely demanding, more so than ever before.
‘With all Santi’s campaigns I am co-coaching with a younger coach who does the routine management stuff. I then come in for major events and “try” to help with the guidance and overall strategy… As I say, you have to be adaptable!!’
Andi Robertson – 52 Super Series communications director