With between 9 and 11 knots of wind the Carthagena race course was affected by two wind systems: a gradient breeze from around 180 degrees and, closer inshore, and a more northerly thermal pressure system from around 120 degrees. “It’s actually a very difficult place to go sailing in, there’s two winds - a gradient wind and a sea breeze - and it’s very subtle,” explained Matador’s navigator Steve Hayles. “Thierry [Peponnet, Matador’s tactician] and myself spent quite a lot of time before the start trying to fathom it out, and it wasn’t easy.”
With a port end-favoured line and most tacticians aiming for the left-hand lane going up the first beat, the pin end was a little crowded. El Desafio (ESP) opted to take the right-hand side of the spread-out fleet, while Platoon (GER) - who are currently lying sixth overall in the Audi MedCup - led the pack up the left of the beat and around the top mark. Matador (ARG) carried on the longest up the shore side of the course to round in third, just behind Artemis (SWE). German multiple Olympic medalist Jochen Schuemann on Platoon held on to the lead down the run, but Matador came past Artemis into second. At the final top mark Platoon rounded with Matador hot on their heels, the pair matching each other gybe for gybe but Platoon held on to get the first gun. Behind them Bribon (ESP) had a great second run to finish seconds after Matador in third, followed by CxG Corporación Caixa Galicia (ESP), while series leaders Quantum Racing (USA) were back in tenth.
Platoon’s first place was a timely present for Tim Kroger (GER), their mainsail grinder, who is 44 today. “I think if we get our act together this week we can be on the podium again; the boat and team have the potential but you also need that little bit of luck to get the show rolling," he said. "We are quite confident but not overly so, as the competition is very tough, but today we had some good practice starts and good speed, so I think we have a good chance. We will certainly work very hard to make it happen.”
Matador’s navigator Steve Hayles (GBR) was also pleased with their team’s second - they are currently lying fifth overall in the 2008 Audi MedCup. “The only shame is having done a half decent job today the whole thing will be very different tomorrow. I think the sea breeze is going to die a bit and the gradient breeze, which here is offshore, is going to be a lot stronger, and that will change it. But it’s good fun trying to fathom it all out, it’s actually interesting to go to a new place.
“We’re one of the most improved boats. We were average to good at the start of the year, and we’ve been getting stronger and stronger as the year’s gone on. We’ve made lots of improvements, including our techniques, we’ve been a lot more active with our coaching – we kind of knew we had to step it up. We’ve got an eye on the regatta; we’d always be looking for a top three at the regatta, and there’s a reasonable chance that we could be a really strong boat in the Audi MedCup Circuit overall as well. Two regattas to go and we’re in fifth spot but Mean Machine have dropped and out and we’re not too far behind.”
“ Matador really wants to win this regatta which is tough on me!” added Matador’s tactician Thierry Peponnet (FRA), who joins the team from Audi Q8. “They finished second in the Breitling Regatta, and they want a better result so that just leaves winning! It is a lot of pressure, but I like that and I am sure all the people on board and the boat can do it; we will do all we can to achieve that goal!”
Ed Reynolds (USA), Project Manager of Quantum, the current Audi MedCup leaders: “This of any of the events had us the most worried since it was such an unknown - trying to get weather data, or any historical perspective has been really tough, but I’m pretty sure everyone has been through the same thing. We came here thinking it would be a light air venue but now it looks like it may well be a breezy regatta right through to Friday which makes us feel a little better, especially in the situation we are in right now. A light flukey racecourse is just so nerve-racking! We would like some nice consistent breeze, see where the shifts fall and take it from there!
“Getting good boatspeed is a never-ending battle, and identifying modes and today the main focus was getting everybody back communicating so we can start the team dynamics again; the afterguard is made up of such diverse personalities so that was our biggest focus. We never use our race sails for the practice race so are always maybe a touch off the pace.”
Racing for the Region de Murcia Trophy starts tomorrow (Tuesday 25 August) at 1300hrs with up to three windward-leeward races scheduled.