Container on the charge again
Second overall in Cascais in May, winners of the Marseille Trophy last month, Udo Schutz’s German team on Container made the best start to the Region of Sardinia Trophy Regatta, finishing their first day of racing on the Gulf of Cagliari off Sardinia’s capital, with a first and second to lead the overall standings by two points.
Container’s Kiwi tactician Hamish Pepper, the 2006 Star World Champion, shrugged off another day of steely consistency as the cards simply falling in their favour, conversely Cagliari’s blustery, offshore Mistral breeze may have seemed unduly cruel to the circuit leaders Quantum Racing. The TP52 World Champions finished the first day at the bottom of the regatta leaderboard after a pair of above par sixth places.
With the wind funnelling down the long flat valley to the north of the race area, accelerating with some muscular gusts to over 25 knots at times, but peppered with sudden lulls of a mere 15-17 knots, often there were also big differences in wind direction on either side of the track. It was never straightforward.
And while Pepper and the Markus Wieser-skippered team on Container proved to be as much masters of the comeback as they were assured in their slick, solid boat handling under pressure, the exciting but changeable conditions perhaps did not suit the usually dependable Quantum Racing style of more risk averse sailing.
The first race proved to be a one-two for the more moderate Vrolijk-designed sisterships Container and Ràn. Niklas Zennstrom’s Ràn led at the first windward mark, but Container pushed down the right of the first run and were able to squeeze round the leeward gate in first place, just ahead of Quantum Racing. On the second run the American team chose to gybe away to the left, losing three places.
With the wind peaking at 24 knots in the gusts, Audi Azzurra Sailing Team tore their kite spectacularly at the approach to the leeward gate. With the remnants flying from the masthead like a demented pennant, the kite touched two rigs before breaking free to become an unwanted addition to Bribon’s upwind sailplan. Audi Azzurra Sailing Team were required to take a penalty but fought back to take fifth on the final run.
The second windward-leeward contest saw the Franco-German crew of Audi Sailing Team powered by ALL4One, led by helm Jochen Schuemann, take the left of the first beat after a good start off the left hand, pin end of the start line. A momentary challenge to their lead was presented at a tightly fought leeward gate rounding with sistership Audi Azzurra Sailing Team, but the Sardinian team's crew could not get their spinnaker back under control quick enough after a late drop, and went on to finish third behind Container in second.
Container was last at the first turn but that in itself presented the chance to do their own thing and Pepper read the shifts and pressure well to gain 20 seconds and three places on the first run.
"It was an excellent day for us when the cards just seemed to fall in our favour," said Pepper. "We had a really good first race, third at the top mark with a really good layline to the bottom gate and got the lead. The boat is really humming downwind and Markus was doing such a great job steering. A lot of this is about confidence, we have confidence in our boat. We know the boat performs well downwind and so we know that if we get to the top mark in reasonable shape the boat is good. In the second race we were last at the top mark first time up and we still got back into it, it is just so close in this class. We sailed well down that first run because we had the opportunity to gybe first and take the shift back to the left, then it shifted back to the left for us and we took that with pressure and we were back in it. The cards just fell for us, that is sailing sometimes.
"Quantum Racing were a bit surprising because they are normally such a consistent team, but it is one of those things. Patience seemed to be key today. Good boat handling was important, keeping the boat up to speed and not making any mistakes, getting round the marks smoothly was important. We had a rip in the mainsail which we nursed up the final beat."
Container got away from Russia’s Synergy on the last run for second place, while the Russian team saw an otherwise good day turn sour when they were penalised on the finish line. From a possible pair of third places Synergy ended up with a 3,7 to lie fifth overall.
And for Audi Sailing Team powered by All4One, second here last year, the leaderboard has a much more positive complexion than previous regattas this season lying second, two points behind Container.
Audi Sailing Team skipper Jochen Schumann commented: “Cagliari seems to be a good venue for us. Last year we finished second here and at the moment we are also second. We won one race today, there are things that we need to do better, but we are quite happy and satisfied. In the first race we were not fast enough going downwind, I hope that we can improve that because it will help us repeat what we did in the second race. I think it´ll be windy the next days. The boat goes well in these conditions but we have to remember that we had this type of conditions in Cascais and we finished last. That means that we´ve learnt a lot about how to sail the boat, a lot better that at the beginning, which is a big improvement."
Quantum Racing Project Manage Ed Reynolds commented: “Obviously we made a couple of tactical decisions that if we could re-run them we would not choose to do again, first time in the first race. Second race I was surprised because at 200 metres from the top mark I thought we were going to round second or third, we rounded fifth. So it was certainly not the day we wanted to have. The Cagliari Mistral has never been kind to the Quantum Racing Team here. I don’t know why that is. The guys on the edges seem to come out best today. We have always sailed working the percentages, there were a couple of times if the leg was 300 metres longer or shorter it would have been different, but our general mode of sailing, over the years, has not translated well. So, tomorrow a nice little sea-breeze, pointing the boat in the other direction, would be nice. I don’t think anyone is too down. Some heads will be down and a few are angry for sure, but that is because they are professionals and care about what they do. But we have to just stay the course. The formula – good boat speed and relatively low risk manoeuvres has served us well over the years.
Results - TP52s after two races:
1. Container (GER), 1+2=3 points
2. Audi Sailing Team Powered by All4One (EUR), 4+1=5 points
3. RÀN (SWE), 2+5= 7 points
4. Audi Azzurra Sailing Team (ITA), 5+3=8 points
5. Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS), 3+7=10 points
6. Bribón (ESP), 7+4=11 points
7. Quantum Racing (USA), 6+6=12 points
8. Gladiator (GBR), 9(DNC)+9(DNC)=18 points