Gearing up for Cagliari
Monday sees the usual pre-regatta practice race which showcases the fleet for the media, VIPs and local dignitaries, with each of the 13 boats entered here allowed to sail with one guest on board while also offering the contestants a chance to learn, under racing conditions, the waters and winds of the Gulf of Cagliaria, the open, south facing bay which lie off the island of Sardinia’s capital city.
After light to moderate breezes in early May in Alicante, Spain and strong Mistral winds in early June in Marseille, France, this Italian centre is known for reliable medium strength thermal winds, usually serving up a good sea breeze.
Two regattas into the six which comprise the 2008 Circuit, there have so far been two different winners. Cagliari may well deal a third.
Mean Machine’s (MON) maiden regatta win in Alicante was followed by a disappointing Marseille for Peter de Ridder's 2006 champions. In France it was Larry Ellison’s USA-17 which won, sadly nothing more than a cameo appearance this season as the brand boat has now been sold after just one regatta to the Russian team.
The Reichel-Pugh design now races here in Sardinia as the new Rusal Synergy.
It is José Cusi’s (ESP) Bribón which leads the overall Audi MedCup Circuit by a margin of 11.8 points over the steadily improving Artemis (SWE), the reigning 2007 MedCup Champions.
Remarkably across all 16 races so far in this Circuit which aggregates every single race score and offers no discards, Bribón have never finished worse than fifth in any race. Bribón’s Project Manager Ignati Triay (ESP) says there is no particular strategy or strength which has contributed to their regular solid results: “It is a little strange, because we do not think that we have been sailing the boat at its best and we are always looking to improve. In Marseille we were never really happy with our speed against some of the newer boats, but all the time the results have kept coming and so we can see we are sailing well. So we have not made any big changes for here, just checking everything on the boat very carefully. We have some new sails but I think it will be different conditions here after Alicante and Marseille.” Triay contends. "I do think our strongest point is around 12 knots average windspeed."
Artemis’ skipper and tactician John Kostecki (USA) concurs that Cagliari will offer a new set of challenges: “I think we will mainly see light to medium breezes here and so far smooth, flat water. We have been working hard with the rig and with the sails for here and the trim for the smoother water. I think everybody is getting better so, once again here, it will be just down to the normal stuff: start well, go the right way and get around the first mark in good shape. It seems like quite an even track, there are some windshifts out there to use, but a lot less shifty than Marseille. We have one or two new sails here but mainly our medium airs sails are still in good condition because we have not used them so much.”
“I think it will be close here.” Kostecki continues, “I think we will see Mean Machine (MON) come back strongly, I think we will see Quantum Racing (USA) good here in the flatter water, they have a very good programme and I think also that Caixa Galicia (ESP) could be good with their replacement boat, they were going well in practice this afternoon.”
Artemis have also called in local Cagliari born and bred ace Andrea Murra (ITA), a former 420, 470 and Tornado sailor and sailmaker who sailed the America’s Cup with Il Moro de Venezia in 1992. Murra reports: “The weather forecast for the next few days shows very little gradient breeze and so I think it will be light to moderate. It is very hot, the hottest days of the year, and humid, and so the sea breeze will not be so strong, usually 11-15 knots. It is a very good race course, very even with no one side favoured. There are wind shifts which are not so rhythmical.”
Of the four boats damaged in Marseille’s coastal race, Mutua Madrieña (CHI) and Matador (ARG) have returned fully repaired. CXG Caixa Galicia will sail the former Tau-Ceramica Andalucia (ex 2006 Mean Machine), while Rusal Synergy now sail USA-17 which they secured the purchase of recently, but the Russians have had to forfeit all their points gained with the previous boat and start here with a clean slate.
CXG Caixa Galicia still have their boat under repair at the Longitude Zero yard near Castellon in Spain and hope to be back racing the 2007 Botin & Carkeek design at the Breitling Regatta next month. Roberto Bermudez (ESP), skipper of CXG, completed the 700 miles delivery from Malaga to Cagliari with three of his race crew to familiarise themselves with replacement boat. And this will be the first time Bermudez has raced a grand prix keel boat steering with a tiller, not a wheel.
Mutua Madrieña completed their repairs with Formula 1 racing-like speed and precision and the boat was back on the water in time to race and win at the Sardinia Cup. The team have strong Italian connections, with Italian skipper/tactician Vasco Vascotto and helm Flavio Favini. Tomorrow (Monday) they will race the warm-up practice race with Napoli’s renowned football coach Edi Reja (ITA).
Reja is something of a local hero in Cagliari. He was in charge of the Cagliari team when they were promoted to Serie A in 2004, and has worked his same in magic with Bologna in 1997, Vicenza Club in 2000, in and also with Naples Club in 2007.
Vascotto and his crew may be hoping that his alchemy will rub off on them and after a painful, premature end to their regatta, damaged in Marseille, they can return to make the podium in Vascotto and Flavini’s own home country.
Meanhile Matador (ARG) have recruited Italian Francesco Bruni, who has sailed two America’s Cup with Luna Rossa, as a replacement here for Vince Brun (USA). Bruni knows the waters of the Gulf of Cagliari well. New Melges 24 world champion tactician Bruni will step directly from a Melges 32 Audi Circuit regatta, finishing second here today, on to the Vroilijk designed TP52. He has already this season sailed to second place at the Italian Melges 24 Championships, and at the RC 44 series here on the Gulf of Cagliari.
Racing starts with the scheduled time gun at 1300hrs local time Tuesday.
2008 Audi MedCup Circuit Current Top 10 Standings after 16 races
(Position, Boat, Country, Total Points)
1st Bribón ESP 80.2
2nd Artemis SWE 92
3rd Quantum Racing USA 92
4th Platoon by Team Germany GER 99
5th Matador ARG 117
6th Mean Machine MON 119
7th El Desafío ESP 135
8th CxG Caixa Galicia ESP 146.6
9th Mutua Madrileña ESP 151.4
10th Audi by Q8 ITA 159