The Audi Settimana del Bocche held the official practice race today for the finale of the 52 Super Series in Porto Cervo.
Preview day of Audi Settimana delle Bocche 2013 at Yacht Club Costa Smeralda on September 9th 2013 in Porto Cervo, Italy.
When the breeze piped up from 17kts to more than 25kts early this afternoon prudence prevailed and most of the nine boat fleet headed back to the haven of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda rather than risk any more breakages.
As it was, this afternoon the usually chic and immaculate YCCS Piazza was quickly festooned with ripped, sodden gennakers being hastily repaired as the wind whistled through the rigging of the race fleet of 52’s and Soto 40’s. Among the sail casualties there was one blown vang system needing attention and the bowsprit of the French Paprec Recyclage requires minor overnight surgery after their brand new bobstay broke.
With the express understanding that these first four days of the regatta, otherwise known as The Audi Week of the Straits, is likely to be windy – perhaps borderline sailable at times – and so an air of uncertainty is suddenly blown into the final equation.
While Quantum Racing have 34 points overall lead in the 52 Super Series over a few very breezy days, even that lead is not quite as impregnable as it might usually be over a light to moderate event. This fleet is no stranger to last regatta breakdowns.
And in the exciting battles for second overall, between home favourites Azzurra and Rán Racing as well as the scrap for fifth, sixth and seventh respectively between incumbents Rio, sixth placed Interlodge and seventh placed Provezza, it all becomes a bit more open if conditions are likely to expose any late season weaknesses – in equipment or crew.
'I do think it is looking like it will be a case of going out to live safely through the first four days, say, to hold it together and not break anything. And then the second half of the regatta may be about trying to squeeze in more races when it does become light to moderate. So for sure anything can happen and this season really is not over yet. There is a lot to play for here.' Andy Hemmings, trimmer on Rán Racing remarked today.
That head-to-head for second overall will be engrossing in itself. Niklas Zennström’s team, the reigning 52 World Champions, have just won the MiniMaxi World Championship on these same waters – somewhat against the odds given that theirs is a four year old boat which is being replaced.
They are just half a point behind Azzurra who clearly want to finish their season with a win on home waters. That Azzurra have Francesco Bruni back as strategist is significant, not just for the skill and experience he brings to the team, but his presence imparts a ‘breath of fresh air’ according to Hemmings’ opposite number on Azzurra, compatriot Simon Fry:
'I think he brings confidence and stability because he has been with the team for years but also he is just back from the America’s Cup in San Francisco and so you are concentrating as fiercely as possible but there is a light relief. In terms of what he brings to the boat it is much more what he brings to the whole overall programme. I think realistically we have underperformed this year. We don’t hide from that. We have to be self-critical and so subsequently we are here to really push and try and win this regatta.' Fry asserts: 'We have to be more accurate in our starting. We cannot be over the line or be doing turns. We have be smart round the course and do the basics – be on target and quick.'
'Today we were over the top of Quantum on the upwind, they got down inside us, we screwed up our layline, they had a not so great drop, then we threw six or seven tacks at each other. So, overall, there is really not much between us. We are in there and pitching.'
Michele Galli has a vastly experienced team aboard B2. They may be newcomers to the 52 Super Series, putting a toe in the water with a view to possible future participation, but they have a crack team on board including tactician Flavio Favini for the owner-driver who previously had a Mini Maxi Natalia B2: 'We have only the boat this year and so we will have to see if we can stay with this fleet, it is very strong. So we will try to be there. We did the Copa del Rey in IRC 1 and other than that we have stuck with offshore races like the Giraglia and the Middle Sea Race, so this is a bit new for us on this boat and we will just have to see how we go.' Galli explains. B2 has some inherent performance advantages from being more in IRC/ORC mode
Along with the talismanic Bruni’s return to Azzurra, Ian Moore on Quantum Racing as navigator, other personnel changes include Briton Rob Greenhalgh taking on the tactician’s role for Tony Langley on Gladiator which lies a comfortable fourth in the overall rankings.
On Manouch Moshayedi’s Rio a reshuffle at the back of the boat sees Paolo Persi as navigator with Francesco Mongelli ‘promoted’ to the role of tactician.
'When there are two coastal races this week we thought having two navigators might be the thing to do!' quipped Mongelli (ITA) who was with the boat when it was previously Synergy.
With nine boats set to start racing Tuesday this will undoubtedly be the strongest 52 fleet this season.
52 Super Series