[Source: Rolex TP52 Global Championship] With the dogs well and truly blown off the chains, racing at the Rolex TP52 Global Championship was very sensibly cancelled for the day. The sense of relief amongst the experienced crews was palpable; with gusts in the Straits of Bonifacio clocking 50 knots and winds gusting more than 30 forecast to extend over the entire available race area by this afternoon, these are boat and crew breaking conditions.
A quick look out to sea at breakfast time this morning was enough to get even the most hardened ocean-racers choking on their cornflakes. By lunch-time it was even worse and the whistling in the rigging was beginning to get on everyone’s nerves. For Principal Race Officer, Peter Craig, who has run grand-prix racing at the top level for many years it was a very simple decision, finally made at 10.30 this morning, “when we looked at the situation first thing it was blowing 20-25 knots in the race area and more up in the Straits. We sent a boat out a short while ago to get an update and winds had increased to gusts of 30 just off Porto Cervo. The local experts advise that the pressure seen in the Straits will move over us during the day, so it will just get windier.” Craig and event organizers, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, have already got five races in the bag and with good racing conditions predicted for tomorrow and beyond, there was no pressure to get any racing in today. “It’s better to have all boats on the start line tomorrow,” added Craig.
John Cook, owner of Cristabella (GBR) and newly elected President of the TP52 Class Association, agreed wholeheartedly with the decision to preserve the fleet, “I have no doubt it is a sensible decision, we’re out here to race and to enjoy ourselves, not to break our boats. Racing on the Costa Smeralda is always very exciting because often the wind blows off the land and you’ve got flat water, which makes for highly competitive racing. On the other hand it can blow like hell and you don’t want to break your boat, so I’m sure the decision was very wise.”
Ray Davies, a Volvo Ocean Race winner and weather expert on ETNZ at the Cup, is tactician on Peter de Ridder’s Mean Machine (MON), which currently lies in third overall after two steady days of racing. Davies was equally supportive of the decision, “I completely agree with the decision taken by the race committee to cancel the coastal race today. The weather forecast predicts a really windy day and to go racing would simply mean broken gear.” Not ones for sitting by the pool on an enforced rest day, Davies and crew have other ideas, “the Mean Machine team has an alternative plan: go windsurfing this afternoon and make the most fun of these conditions!”
Weather expert, Major Filippo Petrucci forecasts improved conditions tomorrow. The wind is expected to drop in strength as it rotates left to the southwest, but will still be in the 15-20 knot range. The wind direction will return to the northwest in the afternoon, increasing in strength by the evening, but hopefully not to today’s extreme level.
Last night the owners gathered for the TP52 Class Association annual meeting. A number of significant measures were adopted aimed at preserving the success and longevity of the class by providing a stable platform for the future. Of note, changes to the bylaws and a rules were approved that will allow further discussion with ISAF to enable the TP52 to become a recognised Class. A new structure has been put in place to move the Class smoothly from an Executive Director led organisation to one that is fully member owned and run. In recognition of his efforts on behalf of the Class, since its inception, Tom Pollack was voted the first Honorary Life Member. At the same point in proceedings, an Executive Committee was formed and John Cook was voted unanimously to be the first Class President. Other moves made will see the Class take steps to fully manage its commercial and image rights for the benefit of owners, sponsors and event organizers. The Class is to embark upon a yearlong research process into the updating of the TP52 box rule, with a view to establishing a revised version for the next ten years. The research will be far reaching and involve input from selected designers, who will be given a brief on the areas of the box rule that need consideration. Any changes adopted are unlikely to be finalised before 2009 or implemented before 2010. Of particular relevance to the future of this event, there was unanimous agreement to lift the restriction on the eligibility of helmsman. The Class rules will become Open on this point, although there will be a Corinthian Driver category within Class competitions.