The Rolex TP52 World Championship represents the highest echelon of monohull grand prix competition. It is also the pinnacle event of the annual 52 SUPER SERIES. Rolex has been the Title Sponsor of the championship and Official Timepiece of the series since 2017.
The championship takes place in a different location each year. The 2023 edition will be held from 21–26 August in Barcelona, Spain, and is expected to welcome a highly competitive fleet from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.
With races often decided by a few metres or seconds, mistakes are mercilessly punished. Teams must perform to a consistently high level throughout a testing schedule. A single bad race can compromise an entire championship. The overall winner is regularly the most consistent team across the intense five-day, maximum 10-race regatta.
Rolex Testimonee and five-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt, a former tactician at the event, confirms the magnitude of the challenge:
“There is no room for error at any point in the racing. The level of competition is world class. Concentration, tactics and crew work need to be perfect. The ideal of constantly striving for excellence makes the championship a natural fit within the Rolex yachting portfolio.”
The requirement for flawless teamwork means focus and commitment are essential in every race. Synergy is derived from many hours spent sailing together, establishing effective communication, absolute trust and a willingness to do what is required in support of one’s crewmates.
TP52 owners are committed, passionate sailors. They may be amateurs, but to compete at such an elevated level they must be highly skilled. While the owners may count on the expertise of their top-level crew, many of whom have competed in SailGP, at the Olympics or the America’s Cup, they must also deliver in their role as the helm.
Tom Slingsby, a two-time Rolex World Sailor of the Year and three-time winner of the SailGP Grand Final, is a regular tactician at the event. He explains why crews need to perform at the optimum level:
"You are up against the world’s best sailing teams and tacticians. It’s a very fine line and that is only the racing part of it. You also have to think about the course: where is the better current, what side is the better wind, what is the better wind shift. There are so many pieces of the puzzle to put together if you want to get it right.”
One of the advantages of the racing is its clear format. The event is contested by an evenly matched international fleet of 52-foot (15.85 metre) long monohull yachts known as TP52s. There is no handicapping. The first yacht over the finish line wins the race.
The TP52 class was created in 2001 to provide high-quality racing that is exciting, safe and reliable. For more than 20 years, this focus has never wavered. The class has remained at the forefront of grand prix yachting due to its exemplary management and controlled development that keeps pace with advancements in materials and technology. The foundation stone is a “box rule”. To be eligible, a boat must fit into a box of dimensions that cover, among other elements, length, draught and sail area.
Races at the Rolex TP52 World Championship last between 45 minutes and one hour. Close-fought and thrilling to watch, their starts are fierce and impressive, and an early advantage can prove decisive. When the fleet converges at each mark rounding, boat-handling skills are tested under extreme pressure. On the final dash to the finish, crews are frequently forced to take calculated tactical risks to secure a top result.
Throughout each championship, it is typical for more than half the fleet to win at least one of the 10 races, clear proof of the high-level competition. Only one team, however, can win the coveted and prestigious world title each year. The past three editions have been won by three different crews – German yacht Platoon (2019), Sled from the United States (2021) and defending champion Quantum Racing also from the United States (2022). All ably demonstrated the passion, professionalism and determination required to triumph in this illustrious environment.