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Strong mistral wind ushers in Audi 52 Super Series Sailing Week Porto Cervo

by 52 Super Series 23 Sep 13:26 PDT 24-28 September 2019
Practice Race - Audi 52 Super Series Sailing Week Porto Cervo © Nico Martinez / 52 Super Series

A breezy Official Practice Race for the Audi 52 Super Series Sailing Week Porto Cervo proved a brisk warmup for what is shaping up to be a windy opening to the five-day 2019 season finale on Sardinia's Costa Smeralda.

A Mistral breeze of up to 28 knots gave the ten-boat TP52 fleet a suitable test before racing starts Tuesday as well as serving a reminder that anything can happen. Circuit leaders Azzurra, the home club favourites, put on an impressive display, appearing to throw down the gauntlet as they lead around the short, sharp windward-leeward track before wheeling away before the finish. Rivals Platoon came in early because of damage to their training mainsail and others prudently chose to foreshorten their training to protect crew and equipment before the five-regatta-season's finale kicks off tomorrow.

The Mistral is forecast to remain for the first three days of the event according to Quantum Racing's navigator Juan Vila. With the defending circuit champions Quantum Racing trailing Azzurra by 11 points and second-placed Platoon by five points, America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator Vila is relishing the forecast big winds, seeking a return to muscular conditions similar to Cascais when they won the Rolex TP52 World Championship title in July.

"It will make it interesting for sure if the conditions are close to what they were in Cascais which seemed to be good for us. We obviously expected to be in a better position at this point in the season by here we are, it shows how good the fleet is, but we are in with a chance to be up there if we do a good regatta, hopefully we can make a turnaround. We need to make sure we are all doing things right, to the best of our ability, and then see how it pans out on the other boats," Vila said.

Underlining just how closely matched the fleet is right now, in Puerto Portals last month three boats shared the same aggregate points as second-placed Azzurra. Both Takashi Okura's Sled and Vladimir Liubomirov's Bronenosec have already proven they have what it takes to finish their season with a flourish and win the last regatta of the 2019.

"We learned this season that we have to keep pushing until the very end of the event. We are pitching for third place overall for the season and I think we can do it," says Sime Fantela, the Rio Olympic 470 gold medallist who will do much of the steering on Bronenosec when the winds are strong, but will increasingly share the helm with owner Liubomirov.

Like Azzurra's Olympic champion Santi Lange, Fantela, has some tough decisions to take with regard to his schedule next year as he will need to devote much more time to his Olympic 49er programme.

Key changes among the crew line-ups for this 2019 finale include the return of double Olympic champion Iain Percy to the afterguard of Gladiator and Ado Stead sails as tactician on Andy Soriano's Alegre, Tina Plattner is helm on Phoenix with Cameron Dunn as tactician.

The warning signal for Tuesday's first race will be at 1230hrs as the race committee seek to get racing in before the Mistral becomes too strong.

www.52superseries.com

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