Off to a good start
Racing in the moderate south to southeasterly breeze, with the high, rocky mountainous promontory of the Point Rouge inshore to the left, and the Isles Frioul to the right of the course arena, the breeze was often uneven across the race track. Upwind there was often the choice of staying inshore where the breeze was puffier and the gusts offered a beneficial angle, or offshore where there was a more settled wind.
The winning gun today is a confidence boost for owner-driver Simoneschi’s mainly Italian team who struggled at times in at the Audi MedCup's first regatta of the season in Alicante. They proved today that they can build from a good start and first beat to work up a big, comfortable lead.
Tactician, American double Olympic medallist Charlie McKee called a gybe-set at the windward mark to earn the lead on the first run, but Audi Q8’s biggest gain was in the shifty gusts at the top of the second beat where they jumped to 1 minute and 42 seconds ahead of the jousting Emirates Team New Zealand and circuit leaders Matador.
"Small fleet racing where everyone is super-smart then whenever you tack and gybe in the right places then you are going to do well, and if you don’t you can be last. That’s the bottom line,” said McKee.
“It is puffy and shifty enough so that really is very difficult to sail conservatively. It is trying to sail your shifts and puffs that come to you the best you can. That wind direction in the bay was tricky because the puffs were angling from the left, off the beach, but then there is sort of a steadier wind out to sea. You really can’t work a strategy round that. What you can do is do the best that you can with your puff-lull sequence and that is what is critical. And we had some nice luck.
“ But it is good for the team. We have strong confidence in our team and the ability of our crew, but it is always difficult to have a result like we did in Alicante. At this top level of the sport it is no one thing, it is a whole bunch of little things. And so you go away and look at everything, everyone in their area tried to do the little things. When you are losing you are never as bad as you look, and when you are winning like we were today, you are never as good as you look.
“We have tried to take the lessons from Alicante, but really it is just trying to sail well, tack and gybe in the right places.”
Downwind, when the breeze peaked at 16-17 knots there were sparkling moments of fast marginal planing speeds, just a brief reminder of last year’s great conditions here.
Emirates Team New Zealand were able to hold off the Alicante Trophy winners Matador to take second across the finish line, over one and a half minutes behind Audi Sailing Team powered by Q8.
Thierry Peponnet, helmsman this year on Bribon gave his take on the racing: “It was complicated in these southerly and southeasterly winds which were changing a lot. We were surprised a bit by the 20 degree wind shifts. We are not expecting to be so changeable for the rest of the week. I think it will be a little more regular, but we do know now to expect everything.”
Six GP42s were out on the water, practising and observing the TP52 action to see what they can learn prior to their first ever races as a class on these waters. Their practise race is tomorrow.
Three windward-leeward races are scheduled for tomorrow for the TP52 Series, a target which could have been achieved comfortably in today’s welcomed wind strength.