Thursday, 13 May 2010

Audi MedCup: Cascais Changes? Cristabella wins the Portugal Trophy practice race

The practice race for the Portugal Trophy Cascais enjoyed excellent conditions which proved challenging for tacticians of the 11 TP52 Series competitors which will embark on the 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit in earnest Wednesday. Britain's Cristabella won the practice race

Practice race start. Portugal Trophy, Cascais, 11 05 2010 © Stefano Gattini_Studio Borlenghi/Audi MedCup.

by Sabina Mollart-Rogerson

The British flagged team on Cristabella proved that good boat speed, smart starting and solid tactics can be the match for any of what would be considered the 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit season's top seeded teams when they won the first official practice race of the season at the Portugal Trophy, Cascais.

Cristabella is one of the oldest boats in the 11 strong TP52 Series fleet but they were able to slip past 2009's defending champions Emirates Team New Zealand on the final run, to take first gun.

Changes to the crew line up, a new rig and a change of sail brand may have contributed to Cristabella's success today - one which will not only be an early season morale-boost to owner John Cook and his team - but it proves that race wins in this fleet need not only be restricted to top budget teams with very recent boats, particularly on this race very open race course which was peppered with wind shifts, gusts and changes in wind pressure.

TEAMORIGIN 1851 and Audi powered by ALL4ONE Challenge. Portugal Trophy, Cascais, 11 05 2010 © Nico Martinez/Audi MedCup.

Champions Emirates Team New Zealand looked ominous and were never out of the top two except when they ducked sterns to get to the slightly favoured right of the first beat. They lead around the final windward mark but gybed slightly early, mid way down the final leg, giving opportunity to Cristabella to profit by holding on longer.

Newcomers TeamOrigin (GBR) made an excellent start to their first official practice race in the fleet with their boat which was only named officially this morning. With four times Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie (GBR) steering, and reigning Star Olympic champions Iain Percy (GBR) and Andrew Simpson (GBR) conspiring to make the tactical calls, TeamOrigin 1851 was in contention until the leeward gate at the end of the first round of the 2.1 miles windward-leeward track. A fouled retrieval line on their spinnaker dropped them back into the body of the pack and they crossed in eighth.

Audi powered by ALL4ONE Challenge. Portugal Trophy, Cascais, 11 05 2010 © Ainhoa Sanchez/Audi MedCup.

The race course area falls under the combined influences of the Cascais shoreline and the stronger gradient NW'ly breeze further out to sea, making for interesting differences in wind pressure between the leeward and windward marks.

On this more inshore of Cascais' two possible course arenas, today proved that afterguard members, charged with making the tactical calls, will either relish and rise to the challenges, or live to rue missed opportunities.

As Cristabella's tactician John Cutler noted sagely: " I think all the tacticians are going to be pretty tired after this week. It is a pretty tough race course with big shifts. And that makes it a hard place to sail. If that is where we are going to sail then we can come first or last and it will be pretty easy to do both."

Wednesday sees the first live broadcast of Audi MedCup TV on which will show all the action from the race course as from 12:50h. The GP42 Series have their first practice race of the season and were all on the water training today, except defending champion Puerto Calero (ESP), who only arrived this afternoon after a difficult delivery passage from the Canary Islands.

Portugal Trophy, Cascais
Official Training Race
TP52 Series
1. Cristabella (GBR), 01:03:24
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), +00:08
3. Matador (ARG), +00:20
4. Bribón (ESP), +00:43
5. Luna Rossa (ITA), +00:48
6. Bigamist 7 (POR), +00:50
7. Quantum Racing (USA), +01:00
8. TeamOrigin (GBR), +01:16
9. Audi A1 powered by ALL4ONE (FRA/GER), +01:21
10. Synergy (RUS), DNF
11. Artemis (SWE), DNF

GP42 Series
Official Training Race scheduled for Wednesday.

Luna Rossa. Portugal Trophy, Cascais, 11 05 2010 © Nico Martinez/Audi MedCup.

John Cutler (GBR/NZL), tactician Cristabella (GBR):

" We have made changes throughout the boat and with the crew, and we have had some practice and we are taking it seriously. But that was an incredibly shifty practice race, it is not like winning a race or an event.
"I am doing tactics, Tim Powell is driving Roberto Bermudez is strategist looking after me, giving me local knowledge and what is going on on the race course. That is all good stuff which helps and works out well. That is the first time we have sailed together, and it should be worthwhile.
" Realistically this season we just want to make sure that we are competing in the event. I don't think we were last year. I don't know where we are aiming to finish this season, I just want o make sure we are competing. We are starting well now, we are going the right way and that makes a difference.
" For us a new mast and new sails are big help.
" It is incredibly shifty. I don't really like it? I think all the tacticians are going to be pretty tired after this week. It is a pretty tough race course, big shifts. And that is a hard place to sail. If that is where we are going to sail then we can come first or last and it will be pretty easy to do both."

Ray Davies (NZL), tactician Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
"It was a nice solid breeze, but very shifty towards the top mark. Wind speed was 10-17 knots. And that made for very interesting beats. Coming into the top marks there were a lot of changes, and that really kept passing lanes open, plenty of puffs and opportunities.
Shifts were up to 25 degrees and the right was generally strong but some boats were stuck too far to the right.
" We had a really good first beat, playing the shifts and that was what was exciting about that course. There was a lot of opportunity towards the end. And then downwind we went offshore for more breeze and it looked really, really good for the first half but coming back into the bottom mark it was a lot softer.
" There were a lot of puffs coming through. Get on the front side of a puff you could make huge gains downwind.
" I like that kind of stuff, more heads out of the boat sailing rather than a drag race.
We were good for speed upwind and downwind. Downwind we are going really well, and ? like last year ? the boat just locks in going upwind.
" Cristabella are going really well. They have made a real improvement, they have wheels this year. They looked faster than they were last year. Lining up they can hold in some tough positions. The way these boats are now, mistakes cost a lot."

Francesco Bruni (ITA) tactician Matador (ARG):
"The race course is in a place which makes the racing interesting. The shifts were good. I mostly like that, except when we get passed! It is the kind of conditions that everyone likes, they are dynamic it is not just a one way course.
"I am happy with the team, with the way the boat is going. I think we are well prepared for this season, and this season just looks incredible.
" It is a good thing for the team having Santi Lange (double Olympic bronze medallist) on board, he brings a very open minded approach to the performance. He knows a lot of different kinds of sailing, and is a very good sailor tactically and so he is very good at reading the wind on the race course. To have extra eyes is great. I think that Santi also does a good job on the boat, he knows what to do with his hands and so in manouvres he is always on top of the game. Plus we have a combination with our crew which means, I think, we are the only team with 13 guys and so one extra."

Ben Ainslie (GBR) skipper-helm TeamOrigin (GBR):
" It was good, nice to get some starting practice in and a good first beat. The story for us is really trying to hang on downwind, which we just about did. Then we had a bit of a problem with the take down line, which happens sometimes, but better it happens today than happening tomorrow.
" That is a boat handling thing which we need to get on top of as quickly as possible. And the downwind speed issue which we need to address. Short term there is not much we can do, because we are in this configuration now, but we will have to work really hard on trimming, crew weight and kinetics."

Audi MedCup