Ran claims practice race
When they won today's TP52 Practice Race Niklas and Catherine Zennström and their Ràn team enjoyed a morale boosting reminder that they are just one of several TP52 teams which are in shape to leave the capital city of Sardinia next Sunday with the Region of Sardinia Trophy in their possession.
Their positive momentum took a dent in Marseille last month when their new Vrolijk-designed, Green Marine-built boat was hit and their transom damaged in an unfortunate joust with the British boat Gladiator. But today the mainly British crew, with renowned Kiwi tactician Gavin Brady, kept the current TP52 world champions Quantum Racing (USA) astern to the finish line, taking first gun in today’s exciting practice race.
“It doesn’t really mean that much, but winning certainly puts a smile on your face and puts everyone in a good mood. And it is reminder to us all that we can do it,” was Navigator Steve Hayles’ (GBR) evaluation of the importance of today’s first gun. "The fleet is so very close. Obviously you have good and bad races to be honest, we got a clear start and a good lane and were just in it enough and were just close enough to Quantum Racing to roll them on a gybe which happens all the time, one way or another. I think that everyone has really come together, even the boats which two regattas ago we thought were maybe not as quick are in there now. It really is very even."
Hayles continued:"It is a nice thing for us today, a plus and puts everyone in a good mood. We have always known the boat is quick and so far have not performed to the level that we would have liked to. There are reasons for that and this is a tough fleet. So it is nice today to remind yourself that we can do it. We have won a lot of stuff so far by having a good boat (the 72 footer), which is well prepared, being in the right place at the right time, no question, but it really is nice to come here and really get everything really tested.”
The 2011 racing campaign for the Ràn team spans not just this, their debut this season on the Audi MedCup Circuit, but also continues their successful racing with their larger IRC 72, almost all offshore. In Zennström's native Sweden they took line honours in last week’s 400 miles Gotland Runt and just lost out on winning overall by a matter of minutes whilst their next major offshore target with their ‘big boat’ will be defending their Fastnet Race overall title which they won in 2009 with a race strategy which several described as ‘near perfect'.
Today’s practice race, contested in a brisk southerly sea breeze which reached 20 knots, proved that Ràn has the legs to win races, and if they can slightly raise their level of consistency they can surely be among the regatta title challengers here.
The TP52’ only owner-driver at this regatta, Zennström made an accomplished start and Ràn was in position to pass Quantum Racing down the first run. The American-flagged team charged down the last leg and were in Ràn’s wake on the finish line with Marseille Trophy victors Container, skippered by Markus Wieser, finishing third.
Quantum Racing tactician Adrian Stead said: “We are pretty pleased about today, stayed first for most part of the race. We used an old spinnaker at the last run of the race. We got caught by Ràn, but we were right there with them at the finish, which is good. I think that everybody, including us, is bringing new sails, the ones that they'd wish they´d have used in Marseille, so I think it's going to be the most competitive regatta so far, because everyone has been able to build the stuff that they realise they needed after Cascais. Audi Sailing Team is faster, Bribón is a really quick boat, Ràn, Container, Azzurra, Synergy… actually, any of the seven boats has a chance to win in here.”
Markus Wieser added: “It´s going to be fast here, it´s quite shifty, the winds has gone up 25 knots here today, we all had our sails up today and had to be careful with them. It looks like we are going to have Mistral this week so it´ll be fun”.
Conditions are expected to be brisk for this regatta’s first two planned windward-leeward races tomorrow, though forecasts suggest it will be the northwesterly Mistral, which accelerates down the long, flat and dusty valley upwind of the race area.
The practice race was also a reminder how close the racing is expected to be here. Jose Cusi’s Bribon (ESP) were among the early contenders as were Audi Azzurra Sailing Team, which is a Sardinian team which would deliver a huge boost if they could return stronger results off the island, which is home to the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda whose burgee they race under.
Tomorrow the Soto 40s have their practice race.