Niklas Zennström and the Rán Racing team secured the Gaastra 52 World Championship title on the final run of the last race of the series after a thrilling showdown off Miami's South Beach up against former world champions Azzurra.
Although Rán Racing
started the three race finale with a lead of four points and increased that to six points after they placed second in the first contest of the day with Azzurra
fourth, Zennström's team then had what he later described as a 'shocker'.
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Early in the penultimate race they missed the key windshift and could only manage seventh as the Azzurra
team sailed to a relatively comfortable win.
That left the pair tied on points going in to the final race. Head to head, the odds were perhaps stacked in favour of the Azzurra
team with slightly more match racing experience.
Sure enough when the start gun went Azzurra
had hounded Rán
out to the extreme left side of the line, almost into the spectator fleet. But the Swedish owner and his crew kept cool heads and did a great job of damage limitation.
retained control of Rán
around the course but Zennström's crew kept pushing and, in sixth and seventh place at the final top mark, the team which has lead the championship for longest were in a position to pounce.
As a small gust hit Azzurra
appeared to broach and lose control allowing Rán
to slide past only centimetres to windward. Reports as to what actually happened differ. Rán
believe their rivals were trying to luff and force a penalty. Azzurra's
skipper Guillermo Parada later explained that it was a combination of small errors of timing which caused their costly broach.
coolness paid off and they held on to cross the line just ahead of Azzurra
to clinch the title by one single point.
Owner Doug DeVos steered Quantum Racing
to win the tenth and final race of the regatta, in so doing narrowing their points deficit in third place to finish only one point behind Azzurra
and two off new world champions Rán Racing
As was forecast at the beginning of the five day regatta, Miami dealt up a great range of different wind conditions and so Zennström and his team can be considered very worthy champions. They become the third team in the history of the event to win the world title after Quantum Racing. The tall Swedish owner-driver admitted later it was 'one of the most stressful days of my life'.
"It is fantastic,"
he said. "I am relieved after one of the most stressful days of my life I think. We went into the day with a six points lead but we knew that anything could happen. We started with a very good second place and gained a few more points. Then in the second race it was a shocker. It came down to the last race and whoever would win between. In the pre-start Azzurra had their match racing helmsman on the start and they took advantage of that and they did a bit of a match racing trick on us. We don't do match racing on our boats. But we managed to stay close and in a position to attack. They tried to luff is and broached out and we could just sail past them. They tried to trick us and force a penalty situation but they broached."
For tactician Adrian Stead it is his third 52 World title as tactician, "It was a brilliant team effort from everyone in Rán Racing. We showed what we are made of. We kept fighting and came back from some tough positions. Coming out as world champions is just awesome. I love sailing here in Miami. We are only in early March in the season and we have won our first regatta of the year and it happens to be a world championship. We are ecstatic."
Gaastra 52 World Championships, Results after 10 races.
1 Rán Racing (Zennström, SWE) 32pts (7,1,1,1,4,2,1,7,6)
2 Azzurra (Roemmers, ITA) 33 pts (1,2,3,5,2,5,3,4,1,7)
3 Quantum Racing (DeVos, USA) 34pts (3,4,2,3,3,4,6,3,5,1)
4 Vesper (Swartz, USA) 39pts (5,5,7,2,6,1,4,1,4,4)
5 Gladiator (Langley, GBR) 43pts (2,6,5,4,1,3,8,6,3,5)
6 Interlodge (Fragomen, USA) 49pts (4,7,4,7,5,8,2,8,2,2)
7 Rio (Moshayedi, USA) 61pts (8,3,8,6,8,7,7,5,6,3)
8 Gaastra-Pro (Blees, NED) 69pts (6,8,6,8,7,6,5,7,8,8)