Jesus Renedo /

Soto 40s slowly gaining strength

Nacho Postigo on the demise of the MedCup and progress with the Soto 40, while new owner Alegre's Andres Soriano shares his view

Monday May 28th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Nacho Postigo, part of the organisational triumvirate behind the Audi MedCup, that came to such a sudden demise last autumn, is looking relaxed in Barcelona at the Trofeo Conde de Godo. Organising the ambitious MedCup, that represented the pinnacle of monohull inshore fleet racing, was taking its toll and placing undue pressure on him. Now it isn’t.

“Audi has been great and the partnership through the years has been very positive and they do a lot for sailing,” confided Postigo, “but in my opinion they shouldn’t have been so ambitious and should have been more realistic, given what the times are. We proposed to them that realistically this year we could have six TP52s maybe seven, maybe five sometimes and 12 Soto 40s. We were prepared to go through the year with that fleet even if it was going to cost us money. But Audi said ‘no, we require a minimum of 10 TPs’ and they were inflexible. They said ‘either you give us 10 TP52s for sure or we will not accept it’ and in fact they proposed a contract with a penalty if there were only nine TPs and another if there was eight’. So we said ‘guys, we cannot accept this’.”

These negotiations with the German car manufacturer last autumn came at a time when the Audi MedCup’s income from cities hosting events was also drying up, says Postigo. “We were forecasting that this year would be economically very difficult for us, but we were prepared to go through it. In my opinion they were unrealistic, which is a shame.”

With the Audi MedCup now gone, Postigo has returned to his original job as a professional navigator while continuing as the European importer of the Soto 40.

The Argentinean one design is growing slowly in Europe with seven boats racing in Barcelona over the last few days at the Trofeo Conde de Godo, while the eighth boat in Europe, the new Bigamist for Portugese owner Pedro Mendonca, was recently launched in Valencia and is due to compete at the next event in the calendar – the Sardinia Cup.

“The great thing is the spirit among the owners,” says Postigo. “They agree on the plans and we have been discussing the calendar for next year and the number of events and there is harmony among them, which is a good base to build the class on.”

Of course the class suffered with the demise of the Audi MedCup and Postigo reckons they lost three Soto 40 orders as a result. However he says he remains in contact with these individuals who are monitoring how the season goes in 2012. “We still have a lot of new teams coming to test the boats, like Gunter [Javier Scherk] here in Barcelona and another charterer we had at PalmaVela. So it is not easy to be optimistic in this current economic climate, but it is getting some grip and hopefully next year we will have some more.”

This year the Soto 40 and 52s in Europe are sailing most events together, however the 40s have an extra event in Sotogrande, near Gibraltar, while the 52s are competing without the Soto 40s at the Royal Cup, just before Copa del Rey. Both class be both end the season together at the Valencia Cup over 16-23 September.

Postigo says they are looking at keeping the 40 and 52 classes together again in 2013. “Unfortunately the 52s are down now to a small number of boats, which is sad to see, so if we go together to talk to the clubs we can present a fleet of 14/15 boats, instead of just going in there with five or six boats. So it is a very positive partnership for both parties. Also since the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda owns Azzurra they are also very interested in the Soto 40s and they are supporting the class.”

An interesting development in the class is that plans are afoot to stage a Soto 40 World Championship scheduled to be held in Chile in January. According to Postigo, four European owners are thinking of taking part. The Chilean organisers are due to present the event to the European owners at the Sardinia Cup next month with alluring possibilities of chartering boats or discounted shipping. Tony Buckingham and his Ngoni team are looking into taking part.

Postigo says that there are also members of the class in South America contemplating coming to race in Europe in 2013.

According to the European dealer, a Soto 40 now costs 350-360,000 Euros while campaign costs range from 150-450,000 Euros/season, ie good value compared to a 52 budget of 1.5-1.6 million Euros for a new build and only slightly less annually in running costs. However Postigo still enthuses about the 52. “It is the best boat I have ever sailed in my life and it has been the best class. It makes so much sense to go for the TP.”

One who has responded to the call of the Soto 40 is Andres Soriano, well known owner of the Mills 68 Mini Maxi Alegre. He competed in his latest Alegre at PalmaVela and came home in fourth place this weekend at the Trofeo Conde de Godo, where the fleet was up to seven with two more boats competing since PalmaVela.

“We are still learning the boat, the set-up, etc and at times we’re fast and at times we’re not and any mistake adds up quite quickly,” says Soriano, who admits that the last time he raced a one design might be as much as 40 years ago. “The mistakes here are much more visible and accentuated. A mark rounding where you give away a boat length is a boat length you have to regain on the beat which with similarly-paced boats is not easy. Here the shifts were very very difficult to read.”

Moving into the Soto from his Swans and Mini Maxi, he has also had to get used to steering with a tiller again rather than a wheel. “It is a steep learning curve, but it is all good.”

So why did he choose the Soto 40 over any other boat? According to Soriano it was primarily cost. “And a real desire by the fleet to keep the cost down and to make it grow and ‘sympatico’ and fair and even and keep the arguments and nastiness to nothing and trying to keep a lot of open discussion, regular meetings, etc. We have had a meeting at every event and planning for next year is on-going.”

But the highlight is also the Soto 40’s performance, he adds, especially how they light up downwind. “Certainly, for now, it is great fun and for me personally I am getting a lot out of it.”

The crew of the latest Alegre comes from the Mini Maxi, with the exception of Gerry Mitchell, who already has previous in the Soto 40 class having sailed part of the 2011 season on Tony Buckingham’s Ngoni.

As to his future in the class, Soriano says this is dependent on his future with the Mini Maxis. At present his highly optimised Mills 68 is up for sale and he confirms that once it shifts he will commission a new boat: “It is a chicken and egg situation. From what I have heard on the dock at this event, I know of one or two who want to come in next season and another who wants to come in in 2014 – both brand new people. We have two new boats coming in this year and Shockwave has just gone in the water with a new keel and mast.”

If the 68 doesn’t sell then he may look at dusting her off and competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race at the end of this season and/or the Voiles de St Tropez. “It is such a pain and the race management is a disaster,” he says of the latter event. “It is dangerous quite honestly.”

Meanwhile his son, Andres Soriano Jnr, is competing in the Volvo Ocean Race as media crewman on Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya. “I hope this one pays for them,” he says of their present flier north towards the Grand Banks. “They deserve a break, but he is loving it. I’m sure there will be a ‘next time’ if he has any say in it. He’d sign up tomorrow.”


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