Article republished from 52 SUPER SERIES website
Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s US flagged Interlodge team returned to the 52 SUPER SERIES in Europe last season after an absence going on five years. The opportune purchase of the 2019 championship winning Azzurra was the catalyst for their stepping back into the world’s leading grand prix monohull circuit.
And while they had to change their proposed crew line up a few times to stay in step with travel limitations and requirements they had a successful, enjoyable experience and the Fragomens’ crew are in for a full 2022 season now -like Platoon – using Doyle Sails and now with many times 52 SUPER SERIES champion skipper Ed Baird leading the afterguard.
The opportunity to compete in a couple of US winter regattas has, they believe, set up the team well for the coming 2022 regattas and gave them an early chance to try the new Doyle Sails along with designer Jordi Calafat and long time crew member, trimmer Dave Armitage.
Interlodge project manager and pitman Kris Matthews recalls,
“We did two events in Key West this winter which was great, the traditional Key West Race Week and then a week where we had the GL52s (ed note Great Lakes 52s) we had five of us do a three day event over the February School holidays which was great. In January at Key West Austin sailed the TP52 for a couple of days and Gwen sailed the 44 (the team have a smaller Botin 44). We were the only boat in TP52 class trim and so it was kind of a bit tough and we had a mix of Super Series ‘allstars’ as a crew as we decided to do it pretty late. As you know we have switched to Doyle Sails along with Platoon and so we had Jordi Calafat out with us and so that was a chance to test a bunch of new sails and had our whole practice inventory on line during these two events. We took the opportunity to test and train where it was a bit more convenient for Austin rather than go March or April sailing.”
They are very much objective about their hopes and expectations for the season, the primary aims being to keep improving and ensure owner-driver Austin Fragomen enjoys the challenge.
“Really last season for us was mostly about getting back out there and doing it again for the first time for a while and obviously the competition is significant and so we are just looking to be there and chip away and feel like we are making progress, make sure Austin and Gwen have a good time and be as competitive as we can be. We just want to put our best foot forwards and to feel we are doing the best we can. We want to keep getting better. We have a great tool in the boat we have, with a little more preparation we can do better. Last year was a bit of a challenge, having to change the team a few times due to different rules for different countries, so now we are starting with a proper sail package and will be giving it a full effort.”
Ed Baird comes in to lead the afterguard while young San Francisco match racer Michael Menninger who is now with American Magic has been signed up for Interlodge. Rod Dawson will do mainsheet, outside of that it is the same, well established Interlodge team.
“We will come into Baiona six days early and go training. We have ticked off all our practice sails which amounts to 14 days of sailing this winter. We are adding in a driven runner system before the boat goes to Baiona, the boat had a new keel fin before we bought it. Jordi is doing the sail side of both programmes and so we will likely do some tuning up with Platoon but nothing is set yet, we will fit in where we do.”
The Atlantic coast events are exciting Matthews and the crew,
“I think we are really looking forwards to going to a new venue. It has been a while since the 52s went anywhere new and so that will be interesting. And it will be the first time in 15 years of Interlodge boats’ history that we have ever gone to Cascais, so that is top of the list of new adventures for the programme.”
As Americans, they are, predictably fans of the idea of having the 52 SUPER SERIES returning to the USA to race some time in the not too distant future.
“You would not find us complain about that. There are Sled, Gladiator and us Interlodge who are all associated with Newport in some way for example, USA tied, and we would like to sail here again. To do it you maybe have to tie into Key West and do something May-June in New England and ship in July-August and then finish the season in September-October in Europe. Or do two events this side of the Atlantic and three in Europe. For us it was amazing to be sailing back in Key West and it made a lot of sense why we all sailed there and we could haul the boats out there now. We would be happy to go to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach as with these robot marks it makes it better. I think the realistic thing would be to do something similar to an Invitational maybe in Newport. I think if we did something in Newport we could see 8-10 IRC 52s the same as we did in Puerto Portals last year.”