Audi MedCup Region of Murcia Trophy being held in Cartagena, Spain between 23rd and 28th August, is the fourth regatta out of five events in the Audi MedCup Circuit.
For the two Audi MedCup Circuit series fleets the home straight may not quite be looming into sight yet, but the expectation of September’s grand finale in Barcelona is growing by the day.
On each of the three previous visits to the friendly, passionate city in the south east of Spain, the racing conditions have developed a whole range of challenges. The race arena itself has high, scrubby, rocky hills on three sides which influence the breezes and the sudden change in sea depth as well as the long fetch to the south east can make for some spectacular sea conditions, short, aggressive steep waves which test the machinery as much as the crews. Over the years it has become a race area that teams have grown to love or hate, but almost universally the sailors cherish the welcome and the passion which the local Cartagena residents and hosts have developed for the Audi MedCup Circuit.
The 52 Series arrives in Murcia with the Ed Baird skippered Quantum Racing (USA) atop the leader, not so much sitting pretty but maintaining a steady lead of seven points over Germany’s Container. Both of the season’s consistent standout teams did not perform to the same high level in Cagliari as they both did in Portugal and France, finishing fifth and fourth respectively and they will be looking to bounce back on to the Murcia podium.
Already this season three different 52 Series teams have won Trophy Regattas, Quantum Racing, Container and, in Sardinia, Audi Sailing Team powered by All4one (FRA/GER). Sardinia saw the more powerful Vrolijk designed twins, Audi Sailing Team powered by All4one and Audi Azzurra Sailing Team prevail in first and second. The Italian flagged Audi Azzurra were the strongest finishers in the second half of the regatta. Might they maintain that impetus through to become the fourth boat to win a Trophy Regatta? As Matador, the core of the Audi Azzurra crew have been on the podium twice in three years in Murcia.
'Our team is in better shape now, eager to keep fighting and sail well in Murcia with the main objective that can get to Barcelona next month with a chances to win the Circuit, that has always been our goal' emphasises Guilermo Parada (ARG), Audi Azzurra Sailing Team’s very experienced skipper-helm.
'We´ve made a really deep analysis of what the season has been like so far in order to see what our real strengths are, and to find out the other team´s weaknesses and strengths for these next two events. As well as the routine stuff on the boat, we have refined the set-up. We also have two new sails that we still have to use for the first time. We are going to Cartagena with a few new things to test and see if we can make a leap from a competitiveness point of view'.
Parada continues, 'Cartagena can be a demanding regatta arena because if the wind is blowing it can be very wavy, something like we experienced in 2009. The same happened in 2010, when we also saw that the currents and the depth there generate waves every time it is breezy. This will make us sail in a different way than how we´done so far this season. But you can see days with no wind and flat water as well, and that will imply not so many boat changes regarding previous events. We have to know how to read the race track, measure the current and find the right side to sail. We hope to perform well because we have sailed there before.'
Jose Cusi’s Bribon have also got an excellent record in Cartagena, winning in 2008 and reaching Murcia on the heels of their first podium of the season, third in Cagliari and also just winning the Copa del Rey on their home waters off Palma.
Most off all Quantum Racing will be keen to get back to race and regatta winning ways to build their cushion again, but Cagliari proved that the 52 Series fleet is only getting closer and tighter.
The 52 Series is back to full strength with the return of the British team on Tony Langley’s Gladiator.
So too is the 40 Series with the Audi MedCup Circuit’s first ever all Australian team in the shape of Patagonia which will be raced as Mulberry Estate under skipper Brent Fowler. XXII will be helmed by a local team under the guidance of Toni Guiu while Iberdrola Sailing Team lead the series with a seemingly comfortable margin of 26 points.
'Individually, our crew has been sailing on different boats, from the America´s Cup in Cascais to maxis or monohulls. Aside from this, we´ve also had to repair the boat´s damages after our crash with a media boat, and that has taken us quite some time in our base in Valencia', says Agustin Zulueta, project manager of the Spanish Soto 40 Iberdrola Sailing Team. 'In August, Cartagena´s race area usually has strong winds and waves, demanding a lot of effort physically and delivering spectacular races. The season has been characterized by strong winds so far, making our upper range sails go through rough times, so we´ll have to be careful with this issue'.
'We´ve achieved three back-to-back victories, performing at a high level. Also, the runner-up in each event has always been a different team, allowing us to have a 26 point difference with the next team in the general standings, which gives us room to stay calm. We have to keep winning regattas and continue learning about the boat, thinking about next year', he adds. Audi MedCup website