Defending world champions Rán Racing stepped up their title defence at the Audi TP52 World Championships off Porto Cervo, Sardinia when they won the closest of four way battles which had raged all the way around the classic 31 miles coastal course out to Spargi Island and back.
Niklas and Catherine Zennström’s crew held off the challenge from Quantum Racing to the finish line as all four top boats finished within a minute and indeed only 35 seconds separated Rán Racing, second placed Quantum Racing and Eduardo de Souza Ramos’ Phoenix in third.
After three hours of sailing during which there was no let up in the action at all, ranking as one of the closest coastal racing yet on the Barclays 52 Super Series, any one of the top four boats could have won. Rán Racing’s coastal triumph brings them to within one point of regatta leaders Quantum Racing which has scored a first and second to Rán Racing’s first and third.
Local favourites Azzurra dropped to a disappointing fifth place today to lie third overall.
If the course was not quite as breezy as last year’s blast up and down ‘Bomb Alley’, it offered more opportunities with a diet of wind shifts and changes of pressure around the many headlands and as the channel successively widens and narrows.
A short delay until the wind settled in the west was well worth it, as was the choice to eliminate an initial short leg. Instead the fleet was straight into the cut and thrust of close quarters hand-to-hand combat negotiating the first funnelling effect.
Ergin Imre’s Turkish flagged team on Provezza sailed an immaculate long beat to the turn. After baling out from the pin end of the start they were able to lift away to the right in an early controlling position, leading for more than half of the course. They lost Quantum Racing at the island turn when the defending 52 Super Series champions just managed to slide down inside them on the kite hoist.
But the Provezza team kept their shoulder to the wheel and when Quantum Racing and Phoenix erred right into lighter, lifted pressure they were able to come back and lead again. They stayed doggedly in the mix, just losing out at the Tre Monte mark where they shed some metres to the top three, finishing a bittersweet fourth. Though it is good, solid result for the team, tactician Tony Rey explained their mixed feelings:
'At Spargi I said to the guys don’t be afraid of a close race in this class, keep doing what we are doing well, we responded and then we got jumped on at the bottom, we had the wrong kite up, there were probably a dozen small things and in the end then we ended up like a puppy at the side of the road that had just been rolled by three big trucks. But we managed to hang on to the place. But in the big picture….it was a great day for us, a really good day.'
Rán Racing worked consistently hard to take all the opportunities that came their way. In the early part of the course they were as low as fifth, and some distance from fourth. Up to Caprera and just beyond they were in the mix but were forced to the right into lighter breeze which lost them distance. But Ado Stead and strategist Nic Asher made their best calls on the downwind, having gotten themselves into a position to attack. They used a couple of good heading gusts well off the pretty town of Palau – where the breeze swirled to a mix of light spots and very useful puffs - and were able to roll down past Provezza and Quantum Racing. From there they kept cool heads and made no mistakes to the line.
Zennström smiled: 'It was a fantastic race. For a three hours course there were four boats finishing within a minute, and it was full on for three hours, so lots of concentration, lots of hard work. Great fun. Quantum Racing were right behind at the last mark and at that point if they tacked we tacked. The run from the rock all the way back was very close.'
Racing continues Friday and Saturday with windward-leeward courses. Standings: Audi TP52 World Championship - Porto Cervo, Italy
Overall after two races
1. Quantum Racing, USA, (Doug De Vos USA) (1,2) 3pts
2. Rán Racing, SWE, (Niklas Zennström SWE) (3,1) 4pts
3. Azzurra, ITA, (Alberto Roemmers ARG) (2,5) 7pts
4. Phoenix, BRA, (Eduardo de Souza Ramos BRA) (4,3) 7pts
5. Provezza 7, TUR, (Ergin Imre TUR) (6,4) 10pts
6. Gladiator, GBR, (Tony Langley GBR) (5,7) 12pts
7. Paprec, FRA, (Jean Luc Petithugenin FRA) (8,6) 14pts
8. Hurakan, ITA, (Giuseppe Parodi ITA) (7,8) 15pts
9. B2, ITA, (Michele Galli ITA) (9,DNF) 19pts
Niklas Zennström (SWE) owner-driver Rán Racing (SWE): 'It was a fantastic race. For a three hours course there were four boats finishing within a minute, and it was full on for three hours, so lots of concentration, lots of hard work. Great fun. Quantum Racing were right behind at the last mark and at that point if they tacked we tacked. The run from the rock all the way back was very close. This was an amazing coastal race with lots of changes of positions. Ado Stead called some fantastic shots on the downwind getting us into some good positions.'
Tony Rey (USA) tactician Provezza (TUR): 'If we had been in ninth place and had caught up to third then we would have been thrilled right now but in fact we had said before the start I bet someone gets a bad start on the pin, tacks to the right and ends up winning…..and that what happened. We did not get the start that we wanted but we got the first beat. I was really proud of the team for staying ahead of the good guys for as long as we did. And the best part is we ended up second and third for a while and then got back to first and we were in the fight. At Spargi I said to the guys don’t be afraid of a close race in this class, keep doing what we are doing well, we responded and then we jumped on at the bottom, we had the wrong kite up, there were probably a dozen small things and then we ended up like a puppy at the side of the road that had just been rolled by three big trucks. But we managed to hang on to the place. But in the big picture….it was a great day for us, a really good day.'
Tom Burnham (USA) strategist and pit Quantum Racing (USA): 'It was a great race, different to last years in that there was less pressure, it was shiftier, and many lead changes. In that flat water in these wind conditions everyone is going at the same speed. It was big battle, a tough one. Rán Racing got one really nice puff at Palau and got through to lead. We gybed away thinking we were on the preferred gybe and they just sailed it straight and got around us. Rán did a nice job form there and got ahead a bit, we did a good job getting inside coming to Tre Monte (the last mark in the channel) and we got through the Phoenix. But it was a full on battle all the way around the race course, with four boats in it to win it and at any moment any one of the four could have won it.' 52 Super Series