Round three

With Bribon leading the Audi MedCup, so the TP52s draw up their battle lines in Cagliari, Sardinia

Tuesday June 24th 2008, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: United Kingdom
With just one week to go to the Region of Sardinia Trophy, (30 June-5 July) the third leg of the 2008 Audi MedCup Circuit. Italian sailors, of which there are plenty participating, will have the opportunity to race “at home” next week when the circuit moves to Italy for the first time since May 2006.

After two modest opening regattas in Alicante and Marseille, the new Italian boat Audi Q8 will be looking to step up their performance on home waters and is aiming for a top five finish for Italian supporters, and to start moving up the overall leaderboard.

Just three short weeks after the City of Marseille Trophy concluded, the fleet of TP52s will start competition in the third leg of the 2008 season in Sardinia’s southern most city and capital, Cagliari.

The organisers of the 2008 Audi MedCup Circuit planned the event venues and sequence to make a loop around the Mediterranean.

The season started in Alicante in May, before moving all the way up the Spanish east coast and across the Gulf of Lions to Marseille. Following the Marseille event, five of the fleet moved straight away to the Sardinian port of Porto Cervo for a week of racing in the Sardinia Rolex Cup, before moving further down the island to Cagliari for the Region of Sardinia Trophy where racing for the Audi MedCup Circuit continues on Tuesday, 1 July.

Following the Sardinian event the fleet will move on to Puerto Portals in Majorca for the Breitling Regatta later in July followed by the Murcia Trophy in late August in Carthagena and the season finale in Portimao, Portugal in September.

13 boats will line up for the week in Sardinia, and what a series awaits them. Leading the Audi MedCup Circuit overall after two events is the Spanish yacht Bribón. Owned by José Cusí and helmed for the most part by America’s Cup legend Dean Barker (NZL), Bribón has been masterfully showing that it is consistency rather than sporadic victories that are required to lead the series. With a second place in Alicante and a third in Marseille Bribón leads the Swedish Artemis by 11.8 points.

A look at the two regattas that have already taken place shows the biggest possible difference in sailing conditions imaginable. Alicante was a light airs regatta, with winds rarely moving into the teens, whereas Marseille was a heavy airs regatta with winds never below 20 knots and often much higher, the last day’s racing being cancelled because of steady winds in excess of 30 knots.

Peter de Ridder’s Mean Machine, 2006 MedCup champions, dominated Alicante with five race wins in a row. The Monaco-registered yacht won the first race in Marseille and then had a series of mediocre results and an unfortunate collision with the Argentinean Matador in the coastal race and subsequent disqualification. From the lead in the standings to 6th place overall at the end of Marseille shows just how important consistent performance is.

Marseille’s winner was Larry Ellison’s USA-17 with James Spithill (AUS), Russell Coutts (NZL) and a crew from the Golden Gate Yacht Club’s America’s Cup Challenger syndicate on board.

The team missed Alicante as the boat was not complete in time. Marseille was to be the only event for this team as they concentrate on the 33rd America’s Cup and so they promised to make Marseille a good one. The most consistent performer with a string of wins and podium finishes in the big breezes was more than enough to see them at or near the top of the leader board all week. The boat is reportedly sold to another team and so may well reappear on the Audi MedCup Circuit again later in the year.

Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis are the reigning 2007 MedCup Circuit Champions. They started with a mediocre regatta in Alicante with a new boat they did not know well. But by the end of the second event they have become the second strongest performer in breezy Marseille, often hovering just behind the event winner and identical sistership, USA-17.

In real terms as far as the 2008 Audi MedCup Circuit is concerned, that was a regatta win, and enough to move the champion crew up the season’s rankings from 6th in Alicante to 2nd after two events.

So with a week to go to Sardinia and the relatively unknown venue of Cagliari what will happen next?

The Italians understand Cagliari’s nuances well. Individuals amongst some of the other teams have raced in Cagliari once or twice before, but on the whole Cagliari is not a well-known yacht racing venue. Other than the great food everyone is likely to enjoy ashore each evening, the one element that everybody does seem to agree on about Cagliari is that there will be a reliable wind for the 13-strong fleet aiming for event’s ambitious 10-race schedule.

On many occasions Cagliari has been cited as the potential home of the America’s Cup should an Italian challenger ever become the Defender. The choice of Cagliari would be not just for the reputed sailing conditions, but for the city waterfront space that it has, with its significant tourism infrastructure on offer, its international airport and the ease of communications to and from the rest of Europe.

Early July is getting towards the height of the Summer in the Mediterranean. Although southern Europe has had unseasonably cold and wet weather in May and early June, Summer and its high temperatures seems to be here now enabling significant sea breezes to blow everyday and promise a classic Audi MedCup event.

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

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