North Sails NEWS
2019 52 SUPER SERIES PREVIEW
North Sails TP52 Design Experts Mickey Ickert & Dave Lenz Explain Why They’re Excited About The Upcoming Season
The 2019 52 Super Series began in May 21 in Menorca, and Mickey Ickert predicts it will be even better racing than 2018. “It sounds very stereotyped, but the level of competition has increased again,” he says. “More teams are competing at the top level. Probably any team can win any race or even win this first event.” At Palma Vela, which teams used as a practice regatta, five different teams won a race. Mickey expects the intensity to only increase the season as every point collected counts toward the overall series.
After the 2018 season, North Sails designers debriefed and made a list of goals for this year, which the new inventories achieve. “North Sails made good gains in our updated structures by introducing 890 tapes in the latest 3Di RAW sails,” Mickey says. “The designers for each team have done a great job, taking baseline developments and progressing in their own way.”
Dave Lenz agrees. “Our 2019 baseline TP52 inventory includes shape libraries for the different types of sails, which gives teams a solid reference point,” he explains. “The biggest improvement was the layout for mainsails and jibs. One of the major goals in the off-season was to reduce the overall weight of the sails. The second was to increase shape retention for longer performance life. We’ve reduced the corner build up and increased the density in the mid leech, for more stability in the middle of the sail.”
“It sounds very stereotyped, but the level has raised up again. There’s more teams competitive at the top level. Probably any team can win any race or even win this first event.”
Each team with a North Sails inventory has a North designer who works with their sail coordinator to further refine the baseline inventory, Mickey adds. “It’s pretty important to have designers that are present, to throw you the feedback and see what’s going on. With tighter competition, everyone is holding their secrets closer to make small gains.”
The teams competing in the 2019 Super Series’s five events will see a range of conditions. Dave says one of the key decisions each sail coordinator will have to make is how to spend their eighteen sail cards. “It’s very venue dependent. How you might try to adjust the designs for different conditions, and mainsail crossovers and various things, definitely come into play.” Some teams traditionally do well in the stronger breeze of Cascais, while others are stronger in the lighter Med conditions. “Every team goes into the Super Series trying to eliminate their weaknesses, and some people even mode the boats differently as well, making changes to the hull and keel and fin.”
The newly launched Bronenosec came from the design desk of Botin Partners and was built by Longitude Cero. It is the only new build this year, and with each boat, the continued push for “lighter/stronger/faster” reaches new heights. 3Di RAW 890 development goes hand in hand with the latest Southern Spars TP52 rigs, which have incremental gains in stability and can handle increased rig loads to match the sail designs. “That’s what evolution does,” Mickey points out. “The boat and spar builders don’t build heavier; they build better. It’s very similar to what we do in the sails; they recognize where they may have a surplus and put it where it’s more useful.”
As a team returning to the Super Series after a hiatus in 2018, Mickey admits Bronenosec has to fast track learning their new boat to stay competitive with the fleet. “The level is increasing,” he repeats. “You look at some drone footage from Palma Vela, and you see ten boats hitting the line, not a meter between the boats, pretty impressive. Because it’s not one design, everybody optimizes their boat and systems for their needs. That pushes up the technology, but it keeps the performance of the boats more even.”
“It’s unbelievably close,” Dave Lenz agrees. “The differences are always very subtle, and sometimes it’s quite hard to put your finger on why one boat actually is going well, even when you watch it in detail.”
Even as the first regatta of 2019 begins, Mickey is already excited about possible improvements for 2020.
“With 3Di, I think we are still just scratching the surface of its potential because it’s such a different way of engineering and manufacturing a sail structure. There are potential weight gains—we’ve built some experimental sails that came out lighter than any concept of a sail you could build before this. So we have a sniff that there is still significant room for improvement – both in reduced weight and shape-holding.”
For now, though, he’s excited to watch the fleet come together in Menorca. “Super Series is the highest level of performance we have in yachting. Ten monohulls and a lot of people can sail a monohull that size reasonably well. But to sail it fast and win races is a different kettle of fish. I expect to see the intensity going threefolds up.”
Follow the Super Series beginning May 21. http://www.52superseries.com/