Mutua Madrilena on the ascent

As Sir Keith Mills takes a ride on Cristabella at the Audi MedCup's Breitling Regatta

Monday July 21st 2008, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: United Kingdom
The Bay of Palma enhanced its reputation today when it served up an interesting, challenging practice race as the prelude to tomorrow´s start of the 14th Breitling Regatta, the fourth Audi MedCup Circuit Regatta for the TP52s off Mallorca's Puerto Portals.

A moderate easterly breeze, arriving off the land carried more than enough shifts in wind direction and changes in pressure to give lie to the prevailing belief that the Bay of Palma is always a venue which favours one side, or the other, of the race track.

Certainly it was reminder that, for all that owners and teams invest in new boats and optimise to the nth degree, there are still days on the Audi MedCup Circuit which simply reward smart tactical sailing, using the wind shifts to best effect.

Vasco Vascotto (ITA) and the crew of Mutua Madrileña (CHI) won today’s practice race, working the wind shifts well to escape from Alberto Roemmers (ARG)’s Matador (ARG) and Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis (SWE).

Vascotto’s crew will be out this week to exorcise the ghosts of last year’s Breitling Regatta where they came off second best in the protest room, a decision which marred their entire season thereafter. And after a fourth placed finish in Cagliari, there are clear signs that Mutua Madrileña are a team on the ascent.

Riccardo Simoneschi (ITA) on Audi powered by Q8 (ITA) led to the first mark, working the middle left of the first beat along with Mutua Madrileña, Artemis (SWE) and Matador (ARG), all then moving smartly to the right to take advantage of the next wind shift.

While Audi Q8 failed to convert their early lead to a podium finish, with Thierry Peponnet (FRA) now moved out of the coach boat into the role of strategist, alongside tactician Tomasso Chieffi (ITA) the Italian boat looked stronger throughout the race, making a good start and first beat.

While Artemis and Audi Q8 were engaged over the final third of the second windward leg, Mutua Madrileña and Matador were able to work further to the right and that was enough to give them the overall lead.

The early gradient breeze of nearly 20 knots subsided to 11 by the end of the practice race and there were salutary reminders to the likes of Mean Machine (MON) - who finished 13th today - and even Circuit leading Quantum Racing (USA) - 10th - that a good start and getting the first wind shifts right is vital.

On Cristabella (GBR) Sir Keith Mills, principal of Britain’s TeamOrigin America’s Cup project, did not prove to be the lucky talisman aboard John Cooke’s Palma-based boat, but the active sailor - who has sailed regularly with Charles Dunstone in the UK on the IRCed TP52 Rio and raced with the TeamOrigin branded boat at Cork Week in Ireland last week, confirms he is on a reconnaissance mission here, looking at the potential for a TeamOrigin entry next season:

“There are obviously a lot of Cup teams kicking their heels and waiting for things to settle down with the America’s Cup. We along with some of the other teams, are looking at this for next year.” Sir Keith Mills said: “ It would be good to get the team out here working as a unit. This is a great Circuit, and so one of the reasons for being here is to see how it all works, and later on in the summer we will make a decision.

“We are nowhere really in terms of boats and making decisions, we are now just doing a bit of homework to see if this is something we want to get involved in, it obviously takes up resources - time and money - and we need to make sure that investing in a MedCup team will produce good results for our America’s Cup Challenge.”

“Sailing in Palma in 15 knots off the land is just great,” confirms Simon Fry (GBR), trimmer on Matador, “Otherwise you just think of Palma as a left hand race track.”

“We have found the best ‘set up’ for the boat and we have to keep trying to improve from that.” Vasco Vascotto (ITA) reports,“ We have learned from a few mistakes we made today 0 not to trim the genoa too much at the start, or the stay sail after gybing two small things but which we have to work on. We are a lot more confident, and know that if we sail like we did in Cagliaria we can have an even better week here – it is our aim to be as consistent as possible.”

“We have made some changes to the crew. We are happy with the tactics and the set up now on the boat. What we need to work at now is the starts, to get better at that.” comments Riccardo Simoneschi (ITA) owner-skipper of Audi Q8.”

Racing for the 14th Breitling Regatta Trophy starts Tuesday with 10 races planned including the Coastal Race on Thursday.

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