Early lead for Russia
In very light and fickle breezes, under the stark, rugged cliffs off Cartagena, tactician Rod Dawson (NZL), helm Eugeniy Neugodnikov (RUS) and navigator Francesco Mongelli (ITA) conspired to make the most of a strong start, proving they have the speed in the very gentle airs to hold off the very competitive fleet.
Synergy led from the first windward mark, ahead of Jose Cusi’s Copa del Rey-winning Spanish boat Bribon. Both extended noticeably on the second beat when they gained from a right windshift and were comfortably clear of third placed Quantum Racing (USA) by the finish line.
For the Russian-flagged team, who have made two crew changes for this regatta, one forced through injury to their bowman and one new trimmer as they sought better downwind speed, this was their third race win of the season, a victory which ensures they have never finished Race 1 of any regatta this season any worse than third place.
It was after 1615 when racing finally got under way, after a long delay ashore. And in the end there was only just enough breeze, 5-7 knots, to complete only the one contest.
In stark contrast to the majority of the racing over what has been a breezy season so far, it proved a difficult test for the afterguards especially attempting to read and react to the subtle changes on the water.
Markus Wieser (GER) and the crew of Container (GER), second placed for the season standings, found themselves on the wrong side of that pernicious wind shift and could only cross the finish line in seventh place.
Rod Dawson, tactician on Synergy described today's racing: “A really light day here, with tricky conditions, we sort of had a plan to get to the left side of the race course and that paid off well up the first beat. At the first mark we managed to stay ahead of Bribón and we stayed there the whole race. It was really close until the end but we managed to hold them off at the end. It´s a good start for us, hopefully we can get going with good results. I think that the boat is pretty good in light conditions, we are really happy about it, but having said that, the boat loves sailing is 15-20 knots conditions.”
Navigator Francesco Mongelli added: "Today was very good, we have done everything perfectly and the race went very good, from the start. And then we had a good speed for all the race, and we kept, thanks to the speed, the side that we wanted. And that was the correct side. Compliments to the whole team who made the boat go fast, to the guys that made the manouvres to go on the right side, and to the people that have chosen that side."
The young Australian crew on Patagonia, the Australian Soto 40 Team with an average age of just 24, sailed an inspired Soto 40 practice race.
They made best use of their hand-me-down sail wardrobe, an inventory complemented by ‘borrows’ from three different boats including Quantum headsails from circuit leaders Iberdrola – and led from the first cross to the finish line.
There was no room for superstition and they greeted their winning gun with megawatt smiles, and now endeavour to repeat the same measure of performance Thursday when their fleet starts racing for real.
Brent Fowler, skipper-helm of Patagonia commented: “It was pretty testing conditions, but it was great. We went out early and spent a fair bit of time practising, then cooled down a bit. We spent a lot more time on the race course area than the other guys. There is a lot more to learn, we need to spend more time in the boat, it’s a one design so there is a lot more to learn. I think we will get there. We came off the start not in a great a position but if we had been only a little bit slower it could easily have been us at the other end of the fleet. We went right and were in front from the first cross in a strong position. Then from there we just did not let anyone get between us and the top mark. Going downwind we overlaid the bottom gate mark but that was not too bad, upwind the breeze had shifted right a little more and it paid off.
"Sometimes it is a bit of a curse to win the practise race, but then Iberdrola is green and green is bad luck on boats, so you never know. I don’t think we are believing in superstition this week, but we do think we have the pace. It gives us some confidence because the boys have been working pretty hard these last few days. We will get out early tomorrow and see if we can do it when it counts, we will try and get a bit more rig tuning in the boat. We have a mainsail from Patagonia, we have one of their original kites and have borrowed two headsails from Iberdrola. I don’t know if they will let us have them back again tomorrow! And we have some spinnakers from Negra.”
Light winds are expected to prevail at least for the next couple of days.
Region of Murcia Trophy – Cartagena - TP52 - results after one race:
1. Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS), 1 point
2. Bribón (ESP), 2 points
3. Quantum Racing (USA), 3 points
4. Audi Sailing Team Powered by All4One (GER/FR), 4 points
5. Audi Azzurra Sailing Team (ITA), 5 points
6. RÁN (SWE), 6 points
7. Container (GER), 7 points