The TP52 Class Association was started in 2001 by owners who wanted to race a Grand Prix sailboat that is fun, safe and reliable. TP52’s are flat out racing platforms, fully crewed, high performance monohulls capable of racing in both buoy regattas and offshore races. The 2800 pound weight limit provides for approximately 14 crew members with the flexibility to bring along a guest or a sponsor in the back of the boat and out of harms way. TP52’s race in true time, the first boat across the finish line wins. TP52’s are designed to be raced by both amateur and professional sailors alike. TP52’s elected not to use water ballast, canting keels, running back stays; preferring to keep it simple, safe & reliable. There is no time credit to build a slow TP52. They can easily exceed 25 knots off the wind with the record being 32 knots in a race set by 4 TP52’s racing down the California coast in 2003. Upwind, they are very stiff and fast as approximately 60% of the weight of the boat is in the metal fin & lead bulb. TP52’s have won most every bluewater regatta they have entered including; overall wins in the 2004 Bermuda Race, 2004 Chicago to Mackinac and the 2003 Transpac race to Hawaii. In buoy racing, they have won the 2005 Key West Race week, 2003 Miami SORC and the 2002-04 St. Francis Big Boat Series against the best boats in the world.
The TP52 Class has grown steadily over the last 4 years. In 2004, World Class sailor Ken Read was instrumental in guiding new East Coast based owners into the class. The “Esmeralda” program Ken was associated with swept all the regattas she entered making her owner, Makoto Uematsu of Japan, a very happy man. In the summer of 2004, H.M. Juan Carlos, the King of Spain and his friend Jose Cusi, decided to join the TP52 class propelling many new owners and sponsors into the class for 2005. As a direct result of the King of Spain’s involvement, 27 of these carbon fiber machines will be racing all over the globe by the end of 2005. At last count, there will be 27 TP52’s on four continents in 13 countries; (China (1), Japan(1), USA(12), Chile(1), Greece(1), Ireland(1), Great Britain(1), Spain(4), Netherlands(1), Monaco(1), Italy(1), Austria(1) & Norway(1). No doubt, more are on the way for 2006. King Harald of Norway will be joining the TP52 class in 2006 with his top notch “Fram” team.
The TP52 Class permits sponsors to take advantage of advertising their names & products on what has become perhaps the greatest grand prix media sailing platform in the 50’ size range the world has ever seen. The media in the Mediterranean is eagerly anticipating a new type of Grand Prix racing and the TP52 Class represents a breath of fresh air. Sponsors and the general public will have instant results when a TP52 crosses the finish line. No more complicated handicap formulas to explain. In one wave of a scepter, the face of Grand Prix racing in the Mediterranean has been changed forever. For the first time in history, everybody is on the same page when it comes to level racing in the 50’ size range. While rule making authorities held endless meetings on who was going to control the next big thing, the TP52 Class took root and has spread like wildfire.
Construction and planning
TP52’s are tough carbon fiber machines custom designed & built to the TP52 Rule & ABS requirements. Owners hire their own builders and designers. The competition among the designers & builders is fierce, but also very healthy for the class, and sailing, as a whole. In addition, owners may select their sail maker, spar builder, winch maker and electronics packages. Owners are also free to hire professional crews or invite their friends aboard. The TP52 Class regulates the person at the helm in class events outside the Mediterranean. Owners and Category 1 sailors have traditionally been at the helm of TP52’s for the past three years. In September 2004, the TP52 MedFleet asked for, and received unanimous permission by the TP52 Class to allow professional Category 3 sailors on the helm in the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean, the TP52 fleet will offer trophies for both amateurs as well as professionals. The owners in the TP52 Class are a fantastic group of people who thrive on competition in formats more challenging than just 2 mile windward leeward races. The TP52 Class does not limit the number of professionals aboard, cockpit layout, equipment, the flexibility of having a support boat. If so required for specific events or on request of Regional Fleets the TP52 Class allows restrictions on professionals, sails and other issues.
All TP52’s worldwide must comply with the box rule in terms of length overall, beam, displacement, draft, construction, sail area, make of engine & saildrive, etc. The TP52 Class Association was formed by owners who wanted to control their own destiny. Every member of the TP52 Class has a vote and the box rule will only change if 2/3ds of the owners agree. Stability of the TP52 Box Rule has been a key ingredient to the class’s growth worldwide. No rule making body has the authority to change the TP52 Box Rule, except the owners themselves. However, the box rule is not inflexible should the need arise.
In order to promote close racing, the TP52 displacement range is 500 pounds (16,500-17,000lbs.) and the class has a Vertical Center of Gravity (VCG) limit of -2.70 feet above measured waterline. The VCG limit (on both hull & mast) is intended to encourage a longer Grand Prix shelf life by not turning the class into a hull construction competition. The owners are free to modify their boats within the limits of the box rule. All boats must have a class issued TP52 official measurement certificate in order to race. A rigorous measurement process controlled by TP52 Class Chief Measurer Andrew Williams and class approved fleet measurers insure that all the boats are “in the box.” Mr. Williams is an ISAF & ORC certified measurer and most recently was in charge of measurement of the sailboat classes at the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece.
By setting a fairly tight “Box”, TP52’s have very similar performance characteristics, yet the owner has some room to customize for local conditions. TP52’s are built with carbon hulls and honeycomb cores. The carbon fiber masts are built very strong to carry the masthead roller furling jib loads. TP52’s are beautiful examples of modern boat design and construction techniques coalescing to produce an excellent, all around, grand prix racing yacht. Unlike the America’s Cup or Volvo Around the World race boats which only race once every 4 or 5 years, the TP52’s schedule is year round on a global scale providing the owners, sailors and sponsors a lot of value for their time & money. Approximately 70% of the races on the TP52 schedule are allocated for traditional buoy racing with the remaining races being coastal, point to point and/or offshore.
Every sailor who has been on the helm of a TP52 agrees these are fantastic boats to drive upwind and downwind. They feel like a giant dinghy. Due to their light weight, the steering on the twin carbon wheels or tiller is finger tip control. TP52’s are as fast as good 60’ footer upwind and a fast 70’ footer off the wind. Around the buoys they are great fun to sail as they have no runners or overlapping jibs and use the forestay’s hydraulic cylinder to maintain consistent mainsail shape. Whether it’s blowing 5 knots or 30 knots, the mainsails of the TP52’s always look perfect! Off the wind, the passing lane is huge as the TP52’s sail hot angles which creates a lot of leverage. Closing speeds on opposite gybes downwind can approach 40 knots giving the crews and spectators a real thrill.
Being only 52’ long, “first to finish” is not a priority. TP52’s do not race against the clock like some of the larger Maxi’s (boring), they race against each other. No one can simply build a larger TP52 and win in this class. Owners know they are buying into a controlled development class and understand how to play the grand prix game. The TP52 Class is for owners & sponsors who want to play a top end game. The owners in this class have all been around the block before and want to be part of an organized class with strong management that has their long term interest at heart. The TP52 Class is not for the faint of heart, but you don’t have to be a billionaire to win either.
The philosophy of the class is to provide a platform the market supports and not to legislate down to the nitty gritty detail that drives everybody nuts. It is a warm open class that allows both professionals and amateurs to compete on the same venue. The TP52 Class welcomes the participation of sailors from all walks of life to compete in class events according to class rules and the universal TP52 box rule.
Tom Pollack has been the Executive Director of the TP52 Class for 6 years. In october 2007 Tom retired from this function and was awarded by the TP52 Members the Honarary Membership title. Tom was a member of the US Sailing Team in Flying Dutchman Class (1984-88) and has sailed since he was 5 qualifying him as a “Sailing Aficionado”. Tom is known as a “no nonsense, result oriented manager” who the owners have depended on to successfully steer the class.