Zulueta: “We have a successful and non-profit circuit”

Many consider him the best sailing CEO in Spain, and Agustín Zulueta (San Sebastián, 17/0671968) has been putting the 52 SuperSeries into orbit for more than ten years. He has been the general director of the circuit since 2013 and chats with AS on the terrace of the Club Marítimo de Menorca to take stock and review his success model because each event that is organized generates a return of more than three million euros. He speaks looking at the sea because he has been dedicated to nautical sports since 1987. He has carried out three Copa América campaigns (1992, 1995 and 2000) and was proclaimed five times world champion of Ton between 1990 and 1995.

How would you explain the 52 SuperSeries?

It is a circuit model that did not exist. It is one thing to have the TP52s and the owners, but another is to manage it in such a way that the owners feel part of the decisions and have a say in where to go and how to haggle. This was the approach we gave to the circuit, which is not for profit. Everything that comes in is used for better navigation and for now we can say that it has been a successful model because we are already over ten years old and we are doing well. One of the keys that I see is that commercial management is separated from sports management and with that we make sure that the decisions made are always effective and respect the participant.

What does this circuit have that hooks shipowners so much?

I think they are happy with the result, the places where they sail, the quality of the boat and, especially, the management. We form a great duo, the TP52 class and the 52 SuperSeries circuit itself.

Why are most of your events in Spain?

Spain is a very good place to sail and we have a connection with many clubs that like this class. In the past there were many Spanish shipowners and time attracts, gastronomy and marinas make Spain the favorite country to develop this activity. In addition, it must be taken into account that the boats sail for five months and then need care. Here in Spain we have incredible facilities and that is why many teams are based in Spain, like in Valencia for example.

What does it mean for clubs to have a 52 SuperSeries event?

We have a direct economic impact of at least 3.5 million euros for the cities, clubs and marinas we visit. This goes in hotels, displacements, services in general. In the end, the regatta costs the clubs very little money. They share expenses with us and we are a non-profit society. What is obvious is that you have to make an effort to have these regattas, but I am sure that the return is much greater.

The Mahón Maritime Club, for example. Do you put these types of clubs on the map?

The Mahón Maritime Club is a special case. In the 11 years that we have been in business, we have been here five times, we come every two years. I have to say that the Menorcan institutions support us a lot and they do so economically speaking. But the team at Club Marítimo de Mahón is indescribable due to the ease of management, communication, the desire to please… you feel at home. And in the end that helps the point guards feel comfortable. It’s not always money because the technical and human support that this club gives is unbeatable.

Is the current 52 SuperSeries the ideal or could it be improved?

This is a navigation platform that is at the highest level, with America’s Cup sailors and teams. Having a fleet of ten ships is important and more than ten becomes logistically complicated. We are very happy and people are very happy. Fate will take us where we need to go.

How do you access the 52 SuperSeries circuit?

First you have to be an enthusiast, you have to like this and you have to have the financial power to do it. A team of these, per year, costs at least two million euros. It must be part of your DNA.

Is the 52 SuperSeries an elitist circuit?

Not everything is like that. Yes, it may be an elitist circuit, but we also have amateur crews. Now we have a Thai boat that has known us through social networks and the images that we share with the sailing world. The 52 SuperSeries is much more than a sailing circuit, we have sustainability activities aimed at schools. We try to create a good circuit and be among the elite of world sailing, of course. Everyone who tries it stays.

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Foils are very ‘in’ now. Will we ever see a TP52 fly?

Right now we are the leading monohull circuit in the world. Are we ever going to fly? I don’t know, I can’t assure or deny that. For now it seems not. We are happy to be a fixed keel boat and we are attached to the traditional boat.

Nico Martinez/52 SuperSeries

In 2024 a full year is coming, with the Olympic Games, Copa América… how can it affect them?

We already have the calendar for next year approved and we are going to do two regattas in the United States, in Newport, and one of them will be the World Championship. It will also go to Valencia and Palma de Mallorca (PalmaVela and Puerto Portals). Yes, it has been necessary to concentrate everything a lot, it will be a difficult year. The international calendar will be absolutely saturated, but we have known how to work and confirm our calendar before anyone else, so we already know where we will be next year.

Will the United States go by decision of the shipowners?

Yes, it is the year that we think is the best to go there and we have put it in the middle of our calendar. It will be an important experience.

They have teams from Hong Kong and Thailand. Will they visit those countries sooner rather than later?

Why not visit Asia, it would be the first time in the history of the 52 SuperSeries. We are open to any initiative and it has been an injection of enthusiasm to receive these two crews because they are also family projects. They have a high level of motivation and bring joy and another point of view to this circuit.

They have two events left (Barcelona and Puerto Portals in Palma de Mallorca) to complete the season. What balance does it make?

Couldn’t be more positive. We now have a leader (Provezza) who has not been in previous years. Each team can win any regatta. We will have ten teams in Barcelona and we have a company like Rolex that is delighted with us and is the number 1 prestigious brand worldwide. We are going to Barcelona, ​​which is the venue for the Copa América, and we will end up in our second home, which is Puerto Portals, with the best possible. There are good plans for next year, such as going to the United States. The situation is good and you have to take advantage of it.

Why isn’t there a Spanish boat with the number of Spanish and professional sailors in the 52 SuperSeries?

I wonder that too. Perhaps the years that were lived during the MedCup are not being lived now, I am talking about years of economic prosperity. But I would not like to think that this is not going to happen. Until now we have many crew members, and very good ones, on foreign ships and somehow I think that if we continue working like this, some ship owner will fall.

Why in Spain is there so little commitment, currently, to sailing?

It’s hard to reason with that question. I would tell you that Spain, in sailing, is a power. I would tell you that we are, for sure, among the five best in the world. Why isn’t there a Spanish boat in the 52 SuperSeries? That would have to be asked to the shipowners or to the companies that can bet on it. What is clear is that the economic return is more than justified, but in Spain since 2011 we have been in a crisis that makes it difficult to justify investments of two or three million euros in a regatta team.

You participated in three Copa América. What can this competition mean for Barcelona?

It will be a great event, it is very clear. The pity is that it is not used as it happened in Valencia in 2007 with a Spanish team. It’s a shame that the most important trophy in the world is only contested by five billionaires. It should be a more open competition, as it was in Valencia in 2007. But it’s a great event, the boats are impressive and they are state-of-the-art and at the forefront of absolutely everything. Although I would ask the Copa América, being the most important sailing trophy, to look for the formula to make it an event that more nations can play on equal terms.

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