Mar 16, 2022
F1? Dudes, the drinks are free!
So, I’m at the TP52 Super Series Regatta in Mallorca. And everyone is saying, “This is the F1 of sailing.” But is it? I’m not sure. Well, it’s kind of like Formula One back in the 1950s. Back then, wealthy men bought racing cars and had their mates come along to help fettle with the cars in the pits. There were dozens of paid shore crew fettling in the pits at the regatta. Sir Stirling Moss’s first race car was bought by his dad. Back then, the drivers would pull into the pits and have a gulp of wine and smoke a ciggy as they were being refueled. So, yea, it’s the F1 of sailing from the ’50s.
At the TP52 regatta, my press pass got me into the VIP lounge. I walked up to the bar and asked for a beer. Shortly, I realized that all the drinks were complimentary. That’s when I switched to Veuve Clicquot, one of the regatta sponsors. I looked around the cushy lounge and saw all the TP52 teams having crew meetings, taking notes, and drinking cappuccinos. I wanted to say, “Dudes, the drinks are free!” but they knew that, I’m sure. Every crew on every TP52 is a professional. It’s a day job for them.
Is this F1?
Let’s look at sailing as it compares to motorsports. The Vendee Globe? That’s got to be the Paris-Dakar Rally. When a single-handed sailor pushes it to the limit over months, that’s endurance racing. I’ve met several single-handed offshore sailors and they are a special breed. I’m not sure what drives them other than wind. But they seem to be motivated by a desire for cold coffee, stale food, and ripping off-wind at thirty knots. What is the F1 of sailing? You could say it’s the America’s Cup; big money, young athletes, lots of logos, and spectacular crashes. Yea, it could be.
Don’t get me wrong; TP52s are seriously cool. They are pushing the envelope and developing seriously groovy new technology. They have systems that suck the chute down the forehatch seconds before the bottom mark. I’m working on building a similar system for my own boat. They have inflatable airbags that seal the forehatch upwind. Yea, really. They have blank-cheque sail development budgets. And that development benefits the rest of us mere mortal sailors.
I enjoyed my visit to the beautiful Island of Mallorca. If you’ve never been, you should go. And rubbing shoulders with some of the best sailors in the world is always fun. The TP52s are built for inshore sailing in a moderate breeze. That’s just not that exciting to watch. I spent one day in the press boat and then spent the rest of the regatta in the VIP lounge. These boats are massively high-tech and sailed by professionals. But the F1 of sailing? Nope.
D. Danger, aka Richard ‘Dee’ Mitchele, is a foredeck-based troublemaker, lover of 8-Metres, and raconteur. He has sailed extensively in Toronto, Bedford NS and anywhere there are gybes to be done or shenanigans to be conducted. He is currently hiding and rebuilding a sports boat/science project in Spain.