Green boats supreme
A new chapter in the Audi MedCup was completed on the fierce blue waters of the Atlantic off Cascais, Portugal when Quantum Racing and Iberdrola won the Cascais Trophy for the TP52 and the Soto 40 series respectively.
Aside from both boats being green, both are successful programmes that have rolled forwards from a previous iteration. For Quantum Racing (USA), which won five races from nine starts, it is the first victory in the class for the America’s Cup winner Ed Baird and for a brand new Botin Partners-designed boat, which is a successor to their 2008 circuit winner, while for Iberdrola Team (ESP) who win the first ever Soto 40 regatta in Europe – their success takes up the reins from previous campaigns at America’s Cup, TP52 and GP42 circuits.
Quantum Racing came into the regatta well behind their desired schedule, but were soon able to reveal excellent upwind speed in the brisk winds which prevailed through the nine races, a strong foundation on which to build success on the windward-leeward track which more often than not favoured one side of the courses and also in the high points value 38 miles coastal race in which they finished second.
Though they made several crew changes since last season, continuity at the back of the Quantum Racing line-up was ensured with world championship winners Kevin Hall (USA), navigator, Ado Stead (GBR), tactician and mainsail trimmer Skip Baxter (NZL) able to give valuable support to Baird, whose confidence grew noticeably through the regatta.
They finished with two wins Sunday, again proving solid in the strong northwesterly winds.
In the first race of the day Quantum Racing were quickly able to dominate on the right side of the upwind getting around the WW1 mark with a tiny lead over Markus Wieser and the crew of Container. The German team made the better set and gained more wind pressure offshore, to the right side of the downwind, but Quantum Racing were able to take the preferred inshore, right buoy which allowed them to get back to the right again and lead to the finish.
Second place for Container kept them in the hunt in their tussle for second with Audi Azzurra Sailing Team who were compromised by snaring a fishing buoy and line which slowed them on the first upwind, while Niklas Zennstrom's Ràn took third.
The final race of the regatta was something close to a repeat performance by Quantum Racing which, having clinched the regatta title, were able to start conservatively and use their upwind edge in the 19-24 knots breeze to be able to earn that favoured berth again and lead from first mark to the finish. If they were under pressure from Audi Azzurra Sailing Team, it evaporated when the Italian team were forced to leave their kite in the water when the take-down line tangled, leaving them with the spinnaker dragging alongside them.
From second Audi Azzurra Sailing Team dropped places, but fought back to a spirited fourth. Synergy Russian Sailing Team, winner of the first race of the regatta and the season took a well earned second behind their sister-ship with which they shares an identical sail programme and a lot of performance intelligence.
While Audi Azzurra Sailing Team could not make their promising starts stick, so Container was able to finish their first Audi MedCup Circuit regatta with a fifth place, just enough to give second overall, by one point from Audi Azzurra Sailing Team.
Ed Baird, winning skipper helm said: “It was a very exciting week of racing, terrific, I never imagined that these boats could be that exciting going downwind. The guys have done a great job figuring out how to make this boat go and obviously it worked out pretty nicely. We have a lot to talk about now and find a way to sail faster, there are plenty of things to do before the next event. We don´t know how the boat is going to act in light weather conditions, we haven’t experienced them and we don´t know how the rest of the boats are going to sail in such conditions, we´ll have to learn how to handle the boat as quick as we can. When it´s windy like that you have to be in the hunt at the first top mark, you have to be going fast down there, the other boats showed over and over again that of you got tangled up with other boats downwind, someone is going to come down from behind. It´s important to find that lane Adrian and Kevin Hall did great guiding us in the racecourse, gave us great confidence and it worked out great.”
Ado Stead added: "It was a fantastic event for us, phenomenal, we are very pleased with how things have been going so far. At the beginning of the week our goal was to stay in touch because we were a little behind in our preparation. We´ve learned every day, improved our sailing and found the chemistry that made the team work very well. Technically, we´ve been trying to work in every area of the boat, in our communication, trying to understand everything that´s happening out there in the water, with the current, with the breeze… I think that we made the best we could out of the wind. We sailed quite well upwind, it´s very easy to not be in the front row at the top mark, in this fleet you need every inch and we maximized that."
Consistency was the watchword in the Soto 40 fleet where the British boat Ngoni of Tony Buckingham scored their first win of the regatta when they comfortably led Iberdrola across the finish line of the first race, while in the second – with the regatta win already secured it was Iberdrola which proved supreme in the strong winds and big downwind conditions.
“The truth is that we sailed great,” smiled Iberdrola’s skipper helm Jose Maria Torcida, “The conditions have been good and pretty similar every day, with lots of wind. We started well in the first race but went a bit to the left, after that the current didn´t let us be upfront at the top mark. We had to recover and later, after the leeward gate, we were already second. We almost reached Bigamist but couldn´t do it at the end. In the second race we had a problem at the starting line, we rushed and had to slow down, so it was hard to speed up again. We sailed well downwind , reaching peak speeds of 20-22 knots, which was absolutely sensational. The crew´s work has been outstanding, I think that it was due to the training that we did before the competition started. The conditions have been perfect, it´s a perfect spot for sailing, no wonder so many great sailors have come out of here. It really is a spectacular place."
Cascais has proven consistently windy, with the reliable northwesterly Portuguese trade winds regularly building to more than 20 knots, peaking at 22-24 knots for the second race today - to offer fabulous sailing conditions for both classes, once again enhancing its reputation as a premier venue in Europe.
Cascais Trophy final results
1. Quantum Racing (USA), 3+3+5+1+1+1+3+1+1= 19 points
2. Container (GER), 2+2+4+3+3+3+7,5+2+5= 31,5 points
3. Audi Azzurra Sailing Team (ITA), 5+1+2+2+6+2+4,5+6+4= 32,5 points
4. Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS), 1+6+3+4+4+6+6+5+2= 37 points
5. Ràn (SUE), 6+4+6+5+7+5+1,5+3+3= 40,5 points
6. Bribón (ESP), 4+7+1+6+2+7+10,5+4+6= 47,5 points
7. Audi Sailing Team Powered by All4One (EUR), 7+5+7+7+5+4+9+7+7= 58 points
8. Gladiator (GBR), 9DNC+9DNC+9DNC+9DNC+9DNC+9DNC+13,5 DNC+9DNC+9DNC=85,5 points
Owner driver trophy: RÀN
1.Iberdrola Team (ESP), 1+1+2+2+3+1+2+1=13
2.XXII Portuguese Sailing Team (POR), 3+2+4+3+2+2+4+3=23
3.Bigamist (POR), 2+4+3+1+1+5+3+6 DNF=25
4.Patagonia (ARG), 4+3+1+4+5+4+5+2=28
5.Ngoni (GBR), 5+5+5+6DNF+4+3+1+4=33
Owner driver trophy: Patagonia