Telefonica Black have struck the first blow in the battle for bragging rights by winning a practice in-port race in Alicante Thursday. Fernando Echavarri’s crew led from the start and eventually completed the four-mile course in 51 minutes and 10 seconds, 56 seconds ahead of second-placed PUMA Ocean Racing.
Ericsson 4, skippered by Torben Grael, were 61 second behind Puma in third, while Green Dragon crossed the line 13 seconds after Grael.
Telefonica Blue finished fifth after spending 53 minutes and 27 seconds on the course, but Ericsson 3, the young Nordic crew led by Andres Lewander, could only manage sixth having held second going into the final downwind sprint.
Team Russia crossed after 55 minutes and 35 seconds – 25 seconds behind Ericsson 3 – while Team Delta Lloyd opted to continue their own individual preparations rather than taking part.
It was an intriguing first insight into the state of play ahead of Saturday’s curtain-raiser, but ultimately it counts for nothing but pride.
'We weren’t racing for points, but no one likes to lose,' said PUMA skipper Ken Read. 'I think everyone was giving 100% out there.'
His team were hamstrung by a penalty turn on the second beat, but battled back superbly to reverse a 46-second deficit on Ericsson 3 at the third mark and beat Ericsson 4 by one minute and one second at the finish.
It was in part due to the misfortune of Lewander’s team, who were third at the first two marks and second at the third, but suddenly lost four positions as they approached the gate midway through the final run.
Lewander explained: 'It happened a while before we got to the gate. We had a sheet wrapped around the back of the boat and it took a while to sort it out.'
Echavarri was reserved in victory. He said: 'We won, which is very good because I think all the crews tried hard. It’s obviously good to see that all the boats are quite similar in speed, but we did not get points so it cannot mean much.
'The most important thing is that we got practice because we are still making a lot of mistakes.'