After an interesting, exacting and even-sided practice race in perfect light wind conditions and warm sunshine on the Algarve's Atlantic waters off Portimao, Portugal the stage is set for the final regatta of the Audi MedCup Circuit, the Portugal Trophy regatta
Ashore, the local organisers and promoters Lagos Sports have raised the bar once more creating a superb temporary regatta village adjacent to the Marina Portimao, with a luxurious crew and VIP guests dining and bar area.
On the water today’s breezes just reached double figures, 10 knots at most, but it was evident that all crews were pushing hard at each of the practice starts.
Only after two general recalls and under the hollow threat of a black flag did the practice race get under way.
The windward-leeward contest, with a leg length of 1.6 miles, proved the course area off Portimao to be relatively even sided in this SW'ly breeze, that there are a number of boats who have emerged over the last two regattas who are capable of regularly winning races, and even this late in the season there are one or two boats who are just finding a late surge of form.
Confidence and morale took a jump aboard Riccardo Simoneschi’s Audi powered by Q8 (ITA) after they took the winning gun today. With Charlie McKee (USA) making the tactical calls reinforced by the thoughts of Thierry Peponnet (FRA), the Italian boat managed to overhaul Spain’s El Desafio on the last run, getting into a strand of better breeze, winning by three boat lengths.
With Francesco Bruni (ITA) back as tactician, Alberto Roemmers’ Matador (ARG) lead Audi Q8 down the final run but at the last minute bore left to miss the finish line. Sailing superstition it was not. They had been called out as the only boat to fall foul of the black flag penalty, but chose to carry on through the race to learn all they could about their speed and the winds on the race arena.
Terry Hutchinson (USA) and the crew of Audi MedCup Circuit leading Quantum Racing (USA) did not make life easy for themselves.
A modest start saw them second-to-last at the windward mark, but Morgan Larson (USA) and Mark Mendelblatt (USA) read the changes in the breeze on the final run well to ensure Hutchinson eased Quantum Racing across the finish line in sixth place.
The crew of the American boat have a lead of 41.2 points but navigator Ian Moore (GBR/IRL) would hear nothing of suggestions of conservative sailing here, and stressed that the team’s objective in Portugal is nothing short of winning their third regatta of the season:
'We are not really thinking about the overall, we are starting like we have every other regatta.' Said Moore, 'We have won two this season and would like to make it a third. I think if we stick to our game plan – it’s been the same all season and we haven’t changed it - we are not going to go hunting the guys close to us in the overall we are just going to sail like we have always sailed and hope to try and win this regatta. The overall will take care of itself.'
José Cusí’s Bribón (ESP) won in Cartagena at the last regatta and lie second on the overall standings. They too showed their propensity to make gains in the light conditions again, rising from seventh to fourth today.
Project manager and trimmer Ignati Triay (ESP) admitted that they, too, are aiming to sail their own regatta here, and not influence or be unduly influenced by any other boat: 'It is very risky getting involved in any kind of match race situation, because the rest of the fleet is just as important.'
'Look what happened to us in Cartagena, from trying to control Matador both of us let the lead slip well away from us. You just can’t afford to get distracted like that. I don’t think we will get involved in any match race kind of wars – we will be keeping an eye on the others of course, and as the weekend gets closer more so. But I think each team is going out to finish up with the best scores possible.'
Racing for the Trophy of Portugal is scheduled to start Tuesday when three races are planned. Portugal Trophy, Practice race.
1. Audi Q8, ITA
2.El Desafío, ESP, + 35 seconds
3. Cristabella, GBR, +1 min 02 sec
4. Bribón, ESP, + 1 min 20 sec
5. Artemis, SWE, + 1 min 22 sec
Complete results: http://2008.medcup.org/results/race.php?trophy=6&race=1