“In the world of sailing, if you strive to be the best, the 52 SUPER SERIES class can offer it”
The 52 SUPER SERIES championship concluded in Majorca with the victory of German real estate magnate Harm Müller-Spreer last September. This provides an opportunity to understand why this series has chosen to continue sailing with classic monohulls, even as foiling sailboats have become the prevailing trend.
By Cristina D’Agostino26 octobre 2023
As the wind, on this first autumn morning, is already making the halyards snap on the eleven racing monohulls moored at the main pier of the Puerto Portals marina, the first fans eagerly gather to witness the precise ballet of the crews. On the dock, busy preparing the boats, hoisting sails, and fine-tuning the last adjustments, everyone exchanges their viewpoints, analyzes the previous day's races, and playfully jests about the good and bad scores of some. Rivals on the water but long-time comrades on land, they constitute this distinctive class, the 52 Super Series, which sailing enthusiasts often label as the most beautiful championship in the world of classic sailing.
The boats are often helmed by the owners themselves. The monohulls are built according to certain rules that allow flexibility, imagination, creativity, and, thus, fun
Lars Böcking, 52 Super Series Marketing and Sustainability Manager
At a time when the 37th America's Cup 2024 unveils its second-generation foiling AC75 monohulls, sleek as sea-going Formula 1 cars, and when the SailGP championship with its high-speed, flying catamarans recently offered a breathtaking spectacle, the 52 SUPER SERIES remains the pinnacle of sailing for those who dream of the sea, pleasure, and competition. "Measuring yourself against others is the rule; all are equal at the starting line. These are not match races but fleet races, where only ingenuity, talent, and experience make the difference at the finish," explains Lars Böcking, the marketing and sustainability manager of the 52 SUPER SERIES since its inception. In many ways, the world of sailing seems to be taking two distinct paths today. One, dominated by speed and extremes, demands unwavering decision-making, communication, and reaction abilities, while the other, elevated as the Holy Grail of strategic navigation, resembles a three-dimensional chess game.
A Class That Has Existed Since the 2000s
Designed as a championship in five acts, the 52 Super Series season consists of five regattas, each with about ten races over five days, featuring a mix of upwind and coastal courses depending on the location. The highlight often gathers fans from around the world: the Rolex TP52 World Championship, one of the five regattas, whose prestigious victory is passionately coveted by all, like a championship within the championship. Held this year in Barcelona and won by Platoon - the German team in the fleet - it will take place in Newport, USA, from July 15 to 20, 2024. Rolex has been the title sponsor of the world championship and the official timepiece of the 52 SUPER SERIES since 2017 as part of a partnership with the world of sailing stretching back six decades.
The locations change every year, although historically, half of the regattas are often organized in Spain. "The acronym TP comes from Transpacific because the boats were originally built to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Then, in 2004, the sailboats came to the Mediterranean. At that time, Spain was on the rise, and the king loved this category. Valencia had hosted the 32nd America's Cup in 2007, raced with classic monohull sailboats. Many cup sailors later joined the 52 SUPER SERIES category. Then, gradually, the championship had to be rethought. We completely revised the organization's foundations in 2012, giving new life to the 52 SUPER SERIES in its current form, thanks in part to the support of some founding members, including Niklas Zennström, the co-founder of Skype. Today, we favor races in places with proven hosting capabilities, of high quality, where boat owners enjoy sailing," explains Lars Böcking.
So, off the coast of Majorca, in Puerto Portals, the final phase of the 2023 season began, determining the overall winner of the championship: the German boat Platoon, skippered by wealthy Hamburg real estate entrepreneur Harm Müller-Spreer. This home stretch saw crews from eight nations, including newcomers from Hong Kong, competing. The fervor that continues to energize enthusiasts is seeing more nations join the championship and further develop the class with new boats and sailors. Lars Böcking continues: "You know, sailing on a foiling monohull race boat like the America's Cup AC75 has become extremely complex, almost impossible for an owner. That's what makes the 52 SUPER SERIES exciting. The boats are often helmed by the owners themselves. The monohulls are built according to certain rules that allow flexibility, imagination, creativity, and, thus, fun. We maintain the enthusiasm through the editions. Next year, the championship will return to the United States, to Newport. It's important to include American boats, just as it will be essential to go to Asia. We already have a boat from Hong Kong and another from Thailand in the fleet. Owners want new adventures, to sail on seas they are less familiar with. The 52 SUPER SERIES’ position is strong today, especially after the changes to the America's Cup foils. I believe in the beauty of classic monohull sailing, where the joy of sailing, sharing experiences in a certain way of life, also matters, beyond competition."
A Budget of €12 Million Over Three Years
How far can the ambition to grow the fleet go while maintaining the quality of the races? According to those in charge, about fifteen boats - the series had eleven in 2023 - would be the ideal number. Having more would be too risky at the starting line. Not to mention the capacity of a marina to accommodate boats, containers, and crews (about twenty members per boat). As for the budget, according to our information, it amounts to 12 million euros for participation over three years. The construction of a boat will cost between €3.5 and €4 million, with a resale value of between €800,000 and €1 million.
Winning the season championship and the world championship as an owner and skipper is the highest achievement in international monohull racing.
Harm Müller-Spreer, winner of the 2023 edition
Concentrated over a shorter period, typically from May to September, the races are also more manageable in terms of availability for businesspeople on the boats. For most other sailing competitions, owners do not personally get involved in the competition, which is what sets the 52 SUPER SERIES apart, exemplified by Harm Müller-Spreer, the grand winner of the 2023 edition: "My team is made up entirely of professionals; I'm the only amateur. If you want to be the best, it's the 52 SUPER SERIES class that can offer it to you. Winning the season championship and the world championship as an owner and skipper is the highest achievement in international monohull racing. Of course, it involves giving yourself the means to win. We just sold the boat to build a new one for the 2024 season. We can still improve our results and gain a few seconds per mile, a very small margin, but in this class, you have to look at every detail to improve performance."
The 52 SUPER SERIES brings prestige to the marina because it's the most ambitious sports championship in this category, and we're proud to have hosted one of the championship's stages since its inception.
Corinna Graf, owner and general manager of Puerto Portals marina
All the owners of the 52 SUPER SERIES boats are successful businessmen accustomed to winning. Wanting the best team and the most performing boat is what fuels their interest in this class. But it's also the pleasure of coming together at the dock to share their passion. In fact, that was the case at the Puerto Portals marina, where one of the owners even invited all the others to dine on his yacht moored in the harbor. Corinna Graf, owner and general manager of the Puerto Portals marina, confirms: "The 52 SUPER SERIES brings prestige to the marina because it's the most ambitious sports championship in this category, and we're proud to have hosted one of the championship's stages since its inception. But for that, we must constantly improve our infrastructure and services. Majorca's clientele is affluent but prefers to remain discreet. That's why the Puerto Portals marina does not aim for a show-off. Our customers want high quality without flaunting it. Luxury is providing all customers with the same level of excellence, regardless of their socio-economic status. We want to offer them the best services in one place, without wasting time."
The 52 Super Series 2024 championship will start at PalmaVela in Palma de Mallorca on April 27, 2024, then continue in the United States at Newport for two regattas before returning to Spain for two more events, concluding on September 28, 2024.
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