Friday August 4th 2006, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selectedWith their third win in five races, Eamon Conneely’s Siemens extended their overall lead in the Breitling MedCup TP52 fleet regatta at the 25th Copa del Rey in Palma, Mallorca. Siemens now lead the series by 15 points.
With a likely maximum of four races still to complete the chase for second, third and fourth is tight with only one point separating the second placed British boat Cristabella of John Cook from Rush Valle Romano. One point further back is Michael Illbruck’s Pinta.
The schedule for the next two days has been changed to cancel the inshore coastal race and replace it with two windward leeward races, with a further two races scheduled for Sunday. The 20-boat fleet endured a long wait for the arrival of the sea breeze, which arrived as predicted by the local forecasts at close to 1600 hours.
As the ceiling of cloud rolled back to allow the sunshine to break through in earnest, the southerly breeze built to 13 knots at times. But with significant differences in strength of the breeze across the course and regular shifts, it proved a race that tested the ability to stay in the best breeze for more of the time, and make best use of the shifts upwind and downwind.
The only entertainment for the waiting fleet was to witness the almost continual recalls and postponements for the IMS classes.
With Tim Powell steering and Dee Smith calling the tactics, Cristabella was quickest to break off the middle left of the line while Siemens, one quarter of the way up from the pin end were quickly in contention. But first to reach the regular advantage on the left of the track was Siemens, with tactician Vince Brun working well with helm Ian Walker.
Superior use of the shifts and pressure gave Siemens a lead of 44 seconds at the mark which they extended to one minute by the leeward turn of the outer loop course. Stuart Robinson’s Santa Ana was second round the first mark but dropped to fifth overall, losing out when they gybed off early to the left of the downwind leg.
While Siemens went on to win by one minute and 10 seconds over Cristabella, the battle which went on for much of Wednesday’s offshore race between Pinta and Warpath was resumed. This saw Dean Barker and the Emirates Team New Zealand crew on Warpath come off best in an exciting duel for third. The pair traded several gybes on the last run but Warpath chose the right hand gate mark and managed to break left to gain the advantage, taking third with Pinta fourth.
“It was a good race," said Ian Walker later. "We had a good start. Vince did really well because the boats were lifting off to windward and we had a little hitch in just to make sure we got into that pressure. It felt bad doing it but it kept us in touch with the top boats. So we had a fantastic first beat and just popped out. Left of the bunch but not so far left that we got buried in the bunch like some did, like Mean Machine. Vince is a fantastic sailor and he is on a roll and let’s hope it lasts. Today wasn’t that straightforward it was really gusty and shifty and so we invested quite a lot of our lead to put ourselves in safe positions, double gybing and tacking, we were prepared to give up quite a lot at times just to ensure that we did not expose ourselves.”
Walker continued: “From here it is more the of the same. I don’t feel we are taking a lot of risks but we want to wind the risk back a little bit. We don’t have to win the races to win the event if there are three or maybe four races left, but if you don’t get off the start line it is a whole different ball game, and fortunately so far we have managed to do that.”
Vince Brun commented: “Ian is doing a pretty good job and it is a really good crew. The guys sail really well together and they really understand each other really and push really hard all the time. Ian has set up a boat with a really good harmony and steers the boat as well as anybody. It is fun to be there. You are having fun and doing well, so it is great, and the owner of the boat Eamon is a really nice guy as well.
“I think the key of the success so far is the people just getting along so well. Ian is a good starter, as good as it gets and we certainly haven’t seen the last of him. For the next couple of days we just need to keep doing the same things.”
After a disappointing start in Punta Ala Siemens now lie third overall in the Breitling MedCup standings which has increased the pressure to go to Athens, a regatta which they were scheduled to miss due to a conflicting commitment to sponsors Siemens.
“We are thrilled to be in the position we are in, leading the Copa del Rey but unfortunately we had a bad regatta in Punta Ala and Eamon Conneely our owner is fantastically supportive of the TP52 class and the Breitling MedCup which was our dream to win the Breitling MedCup this year and to do that we have to go to Athens, but this year we are also very fortunate to have Siemens sponsoring our boat and we have a contractual obligation that may prevent us going to Athens, but we are working on it but at the moment it may not be possible,” explained Walker to the post-race Press Conference.
Cristabella’s boat captain Brendan Darrer said: “We had a good start and got into clear lanes quickly and off we went, it proved a good day on the water. A different back of the boat has made a difference and they did a good job today. We are always constantly improving everything. Siemens have a good lead but it is very close and there is a long way to go.”