The return of Mean Machine

Two bullets for Peter de Ridder's TP52 on day one of the Audi MedCup event in Cagliari

Wednesday July 2nd 2008, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: United Kingdom
After their dark disappointment in Marseille where they finished 11th, Peter de Ridder and his Mean Machine returned to produce something a little closer to a virtuoso performance on Sardinia's Gulf of Cagliari today when they won two of the first three races of the Audi Region of Sardinia Trophy regatta.Added to a fourth place from Race 2 today, the 2006 MedCup Champions lead the regatta standings by four points.

The MedCup Circuit’s return to Italy for the first time since 2006 in Punta Ala, Tuscany when Mean Machine won overall, was rewarded with a great opening day of solid, building sea breezes which remained solid until early evening to allow the target of three races to be met with relative ease.

While the conventional wisdom leading into the first race today was that the race track off the Sardinian capital might promise one way traffic up the right side of the course, it was Mean Machine’s after-guard of Ray Davies (NZL) and Tom Dodson (NZL) who reckoned that the left bias to the line was enough to launch them to the front.

De Ridder (NED) on the helm nailed a great start at the left, pin end of the line and they crossed the fleet clear ahead two thirds of the way up the first beat. Racing in 10-13knots of southerly sea breeze the victors from the season’s first regatta in Alicante, went on to win by a comfortable one minute and three seconds.

The breeze built to a brisk 16-18 knots for Race 2 Quantum Racing (USA), when the fleet was just a hearbeat late to the gun, helm Terry Hutchinson (USA) made a solid start, and tussled with series leading Bribon (ESP) around the windward mark first time up on the windward-leeward loop, but with their nose ahead at the first turn Quantum were able to lead at each mark, going on to their third winning gun of the season so far. But Quantum’s early lead at the regatta was to be temporary.

The third race belonged to Mean Machine while Quantum made up places to take sixth. A tricky first run, offered another blast of air coming down off the windward mountains and shore-side flatlands to provide not onlymore wind but a more favourable heading to the leeward mark down that left side of the course.

In the second race it was Riccardo Simoneschi (ITA) and the Audi Q8 team who hooked into one of these turbo boosts which vaulted them seven places on the first run.
The bonus was spread wider in this third race, but Sergiy Pichugin (RUS) and the team on the new Rusal Synergy (RUS) were quick to spot the advantage and pulled up down this first run from fourth to steal the lead from Platoon powered by Team Germany (GER).

The ever vigilant Davies and Dodson partnership were quick to hitch the same ride too, and accelerated from ninth to third.

On the final run Mean Machine lived up to their name to spoil the Russians hopes of win on their first day out with their newly purchased boat, the former USA-17 and it was the pink flames on the Mean Machine bow and kite which broke the finish line first for the second time today.

The Russians landed at second and the Argentine boat Matador took third, with Francesco Bruni (ITA) calling tactics, an altogether sweeter feeling than Race 2 when their jib cunningham exploded and they struggled round to last place.

Is there an air of deja-vu in Cagliari this sunny evening, a reminder of Mean Machine’s dominant win in May’s first regatta of the Audi MedCup Circuit in Alicante, or even Punta Ala in 2006?

“It is huge for us - it was heads down after the last regatta," commented Ray Davies Mean Machine's Tactician. "The boat is in really good shape and that is why it is a little stressful when you don’t get the results, so it is really good for Peter and us all to bounce back today.

“The first race was awesome the boat was going extremely well, the start was great at the pin end and we got in the groove and just extended away. Once you are ahead it is easier we had options to do whatever we liked and could go for the right in the second beat which was hugely favoured and so after Marseille it was good to make a comeback.”

Certainly in the flat water and moderate sea breeze conditions they were always one of the quickest boats on the water, along with Quantum who lie second overall at this regatta, thanks to their 3,1,6 today which was enough to overhaul Artemis (SWE) for second also on the overall Audi MedCup Circuit leader-board. Bribon’s (ESP) 4,2,5 today keeps them at the top of the Circuit standings after 19 races, leading now by 10.8 points.

“It felt very good out there, excellent breeze - we are happy with how we sailed," said Ross Macdonald, Bribon's tactician. "There aren’t any differences in our approach we are just still trying to get better we have learnt a few things and as a team all we can do is try to improve every day. Everyone is so good out at there we just have to keep working on it.

"It is all the finer points tactics, hoists, drops, gybes, tacks…everything! keeping it all consistent not getting too mad if it goes wrong - and so far we seem to be doing that. I think for whatever reason downwind both tactically and speed wise we weren’t going as well as we normally do so which I think is an easy fix, I just have to get my head out of the boat a bit more, we need to trim the boat a little differently - we know we have speed we are not really worried, easy stuff, in theory anyway.”

Sergiy Pichugin helmsman of Rusal Synergy gave his impressions: “Not so nice overall but one result was good and the other two not that good but we need more experience with a new boat, more practice to understand how it works. We had a few problems with the instruments on the first race- we actually sailed without any! On the second we also made mistakes. But the third was really good, we really concentrated enough-.but maybe not quite or we would have won! It feels good but we don’t have quite enough stability but it is obviously a great way to start the week”

American Morgan Larson tactician on Quantum Racing added: “There are so many good teams out there and so many good people here that you just have to keep your head down and work harder and work to do a better job and that is what we try to do.
Overall it felt good, we tend to work on how we feel we sailed, we had a few disappointing parts, but overall we had a good day. The main thing for us was that we really started well in each race which was good because that is something that we have been working hard on leading up to here.

"Generally it was the right which was paying but in the first race in particular I think the race committee did a good job in setting the bias to the line to even it up a little which made it a tough decision but I think we did a pretty good job picking the side of the course over the end of the line, but you have to say Mean Machine did a pretty good job today and they are going to be pretty hard to beat if they carry on like that.”

Audi Region of Sardinia Trophy.
Top ten results after three races:
(Place, Boat Name, Country, Race 1, Race 2, Race 3, Points total)

1 Mean Machine MON (1,4,1, 6)
2 Quantum Racing USA (3,1,6, 12)
3 Bribón ESP (4,2,5, 11 )
4 Matador ARG (7,8,3, 18)
5 Artemis SWE (9,5,4, 18)
6 Mutua Madrileña ESP (2,11,7, 20)
7 Audi powered by Q8 ITA (8,3,10, 21)
8 Platoon by Team Germany GER (5,10,8, 23)
9 El Desafío ESP (6, 7, 11, 24)
10 Rusal Synergy RUS (13,13,2 28)

Audi MedCup Circuit 2008
Top ten standings after 19 races in Alicante, Marseille and CAGLIARI.
(Place, boat name, country, points.

1 Bribón ESP 91,2
2 Quantum Racing USA 102
3 Artemis SWE 110
4 Platoon powered by Team Germany GER 122
5 Mean Machine MON 125
6 Matador ARG 135
7 El Desafío ESP 159
8 Mutua Madrileña ESP 171,4
9 CxG Caixa Galicia ESP 176,6
10 Audi TP52 powered by Q8 ITA 180

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