The fifth event on the circuit might be about to produce one of those ‘It’s not normally like this here…’ weeks, with an unknown sailing area and new wind patterns for the teams to get their head around.
The prevailing wind direction at this time of year is normally around 220°, but currently the boats are training in a medium southeasterly breeze, and similar conditions are expected for Monday’s practice race. ‘Tomorrow we are expecting the same as today, about a 130-degree direction, more or less around 8-10 knots. If it’s that direction maybe it will go up to 12 knots,’ explained Ariane Mainemare of the event race committee.
Official racing begins with windward-leeward races on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and a double-points coastal race on Thursday of up to 50 nautical miles. Current predictions are for the breeze to build to 14-16 knots and become more northerly later in the week. "The weather forecast at the moment from Tuesday changes to 40-60 degrees," reported Ariane.
The planned race area will be set west of the Port of Carthagena, towards the point of Cabo Tinoso. However, if the predicted northerly shift does take place then the race committee - run by experienced PRO Maria Torrijo, who has just returned from the challenges of interpreting the breeze at the Olympic Regatta in Qingdao - may bring the racing further south or east towards the port entrance to escape the shadow of the surrounding mountains. Crews will then be looking out for different wind patterns coming down a ‘corridor’ between the mountains from the port, which could create opportunities for new teams to get their nose in front with up to 11 races scheduled.
Current series leader Terry Hutchinson on Quantum Racing (USA) is exactly 30 points ahead of second placed Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis (SWE), on 161 and 191 points respectively, with the Spanish Bribon in third on 209.2. Mean Machine (MON) currently holds fourth place overall in the truly international fleet, but is no longer racing in the circuit, so we can expect to see Matador (ARG) and the German Platoon team fighting hard to stay in contention at this penultimate regatta.
"For us it’s business as usual," said Hutchinson. "I think the first couple of days are going to be pretty steady and straightforward. All the teams are faced with a different venue and different challenges.
"We’re very aware of the competition and very mindful of how good everybody is. We’ve been asked do we get more conservative, do we do anything differently? And to me our biggest mistake would be to do anything different. Right now what we’re doing is working and that’s good, consistent sailing. It’s a still a long season - we still have 20 races to go. From my perspective we just have to continue to remain ever so diligent in our preparation and how we race each race. So far the team’s done a spectacular job."
The only change to Quantum Racing’s winning formula is that Andrew Lewis replaces Mark Mendelblatt for this regatta. The team was one of the few boats not to leave the dock today, as Hutchinson explains they had some repairs to make after training since Wednesday. "The last couple of days we sailed in about 20 knots northeasterly breeze and it was pretty lumpy and really good, but we heard some interesting things coming out of the inside of our boat so we thought it would be prudent to take the time to fix the repairs we needed properly."
One change to the entry list is the appearance of Bigamist, Pedro Mendonca’s Portuguese entry which will be making its first appearance on the 2008 circuit under the direction of Alfonso Domingos - who has flown straight in from the Beijing Olympic regatta in Qingdao, where he finished eighth in the Star class.
For Thursday’s coastal race the committee are currently expecting to send the fleet out beyond the windward-leeward racing area, between Cabo Tinoso and the eastern point of Cabo del Agua - possibly racing around the Isla Palomas, or a course based on an Olympic triangle - but finishing right up in the port close to the race village.
The Port of Carthagena has welcomed the Audi MedCup warmly, with young and old alike enjoying the chance to get up close to some of the world’s most advanced racing yachts lined up along the town’s newly restored waterfront. The unusual spectacle of a race village packed with dozens of crews, and fleets of Audis and support RIBs, has created quite a stir in the town, and the authorities have been closely involved in the event’ organization. Sailing for The Region of Murcia Trophy begins with a practice race tomorrow (Monday 25 August), then Race 1 on Tuesday 26 August from 1pm.