Ian Roman Photography / www.ianroman.com

Olympic titans go head to head

Grael, Scheidt, Schuemann and Ainslie will be competing at the Audi MedCup's Portugal Trophy next week

Wednesday May 5th 2010, Author: Sabina Mollart-Rogerson, Location: Spain

There's one week to go now until the start of the 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit in Cascais and competitors in the TP52 and GP42 classes are now into making final preparations.

The level within the TP52 fleet for 2010 is unprecedented. While there are now four America's Cup teams competing, including the 11th hour entry of Audi-sponsor ALL4One, the class will also feature a large number of top Olympic sailors. In particular four sailors are making their debut or returning the Audi MedCup Circuit in Cascais who between them have an incredible 17 Olympic Medals - five by Luna Rossa's Torben Grael (BRA - two golds, one silver and two bronzes between 1984 and 2000), four for his helmsman Robert Scheidt (BRA - two golds and two silvers between 1996 and 2008), while ALL4One's Jochen Schuemann (GER - three gold and one silver between 1976 and 2000) has four as has TeamOrigin's skipper Ben Ainslie (GBR - silver in 1996 and three back to back gold medals 2000-2008). It is believed that this will be the first time ever that all four modern sailing legends will sail against each other aboard modern cutting edge race boats on the same race course.

On board TeamOrigin, Ainslie has his good friends Iain Percy (GBR) who has two gold medals, and Andrew Simpson (GBR) who won Star class gold medal with Percy in the Star class in 2008, while Ian Walker (GBR), the former Patches skipper this year returns as tactician on Bribón (ESP), and has won two Olympic silver medals in the 470 and Star classes.

"I have never really thought about it in these terms and I am really looking forward to the challenge and certainly it is very exciting," says Ben Ainslie, who's brand new TeamOrigin TP52 is being prepared in Portimao this week having only sailed it for six days so far. "For me at the moment it is like being back at school, learning a completely new class. We have been very short on time to be ready on time and so we have been doing some really long days to get up to speed with our new boat and really have a lot to learn in a very short time. So, to be honest, we will be focussed mainly on getting the new boat round the race track in one piece over the first few days, learning to sail the boat, learning how to mode the boat for different conditions."

It will be this Sunday when the fleet are likely to line up against one another for informal practise racing in Cascais as new rules forbid training at the venue after, in this case, May 3rd. TeamOrigin have been tuning and training along with TP52 World Champions, Matador (ARG). Local favourites Bigamist 7 (POR) and Bribón have spent the last week training off Cascais too in winds between seven and 27 knots.

"The training week has certainly proven that this is going to be a very open race area, for sure," says Audi MedCup Technical Director Nacho Postigo (ESP), navigator of Bigamist 7. "The winds are very shifty. At times, for example you might feel confident with a two minute lead at one time and then hardly get a cross next time. There is no obvious pattern and so that will make for very open racing."

In the GP42 Series, the defending Audi MedCup Circuit champions, Daniel Calero's Puerto Calero return with a crew line-up unchanged from last season including helmsman José María Ponce (ESP), navigator Alicia Ageno (ESP), tactician Gustavo Martínez Doreste (ESP), and trimmer Domingo Manrique (ESP, 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the Flying Dutchman).

Daniel Calero (ESP), project manager commented: "Maintaining the same crew is very positive for us, since everybody knows eachother well, and I think that it is essential to have such a relationship between us onboard. We go to Cascais with the objective of defending the championship. Our hope for Cascais is to start the season as we finished the 2009 season".

The Portugal Trophy out of Cascais, wil start on Tuesday 11 May, with the TP52 Series official training with racing proper starting on Wednesday 12 May. This year racing will be broadcasted live through Audi MedCup TV on www.medcup.org

The Public Village at the Marina de Cascais will be open from Saturday, 8 May until Sunday, 16 May and will include a special 'Open Pontoon Day' on Saturday 8 May for all wishing to see the boats up close.

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