Audi Azzurra shows the way
With two wins and a second from today’s three starts, sailing their freshly christened new boat, Audi Azzurra Sailing Team opened their 2012 campaign to win the new 52 Super Series on a near perfect footing off Barcelona at the 39th Trofeo de Vela Conde de Godo regatta in Barcelona. Niklas Zennström’s Rán won the third race to end the day second overall.
All of the signs today are that Alberto Roemmers crew, which sails under the flag of Sardinia’s Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, have a potent enough weapon in the form of their new Botin Partners design, but it was their good starting, accurate tactics and crisp boathandling which contributed more to their winning guns today. While they were very much on their game from the start of Race 1, their rivals could just not find the early season consistency to match them.
With five changes in their sailing team line up since winning the World Championship and the Audi MedCup Circuit last year, Quantum Racing perhaps inevitably looked like they have yet to fully gel when held up in strict comparison with the advantage held by Audi Azzurra Sailing Team, which has a core speed group which have been together for three years. But skipper-helm Ed Baird pointed to key decisions and small mistakes that they made today rather than crew work.
Audi Azzurra Sailing Team led at every mark of Race 1, but each of the first windward legs were extremely tight. Tony Langley and crew on Gladiator pushed Niklas Zennström’s Rán hard around the first windward mark, with Quantum Racing rounding fourth.
Though the Garbi sea breeze was a little patchy at times, especially on the first downwind, the Azzurra team were able to stay ahead to the finish with Rán second. Gladiator crossed third but were penalised at the line for passing too close to Quantum Racing on their final tight cross before the line.
The breeze increased slightly and was a little more evenly spread across the race area for the second windward-leeward contest. With their three rivals tussling for the right, committee boat end of the start line, the Azzurra squad executed a nice time on distance start at the opposite, pin end of the start line. Again they lead at the top mark and went on to a second winning gun.
In the third race pre-start Quantum Racing and Audi Azzurra Sailing Team engaged in a brief interlude of ‘handbags’ - match-race style circling - before Azzurra again broke to the very opposite end of the start line. This time they were the lone wolves on the inshore, right side upwind while the other trio initially hunted slightly more left, offshore. They lead again, narrowly at the top mark but after a prominent shift to the right Rán gybe set first and by the second time of crossing, lead for the first time. Downwind in the fresher, colder 14-17kts breeze, Rán appeared to have the speed advantage that many have previously observed.
Zennström and crew, with Adrian Stead calling tactics lie second, one point behind Azzurra on 5pts with Quantum Racing third on 9pts and
Gladiator on 12pts.
Rán's Andy Hemmings said: “It is very close, considering there are not that many boats it is close. And it will be for the rest of the season. Upwind everyone is very close. We are quick downwind in that 15-16kts stuff. The boat gets up when we arc it up a little.”
Francesco Bruni tactician on Audi Azzurra Sailing Team said: “It could hardly have gone better for a first day in the series – well maybe a little – but we were leading the final race and Rán proved to be pretty fast downwind in some conditions and we struggled to keep them back. They did a fantastic last race when we made a couple of mistakes. But we cannot complain about today.
"It feels very different to the start of last season. This boat is more an all-round boat and we have no speed issues in any conditions. We are matching the speed of the top guys in the conditions so far and sometimes we even have an edge. We felt pretty weak at the beginning of last season, we knew we had some problems then.”
Quantum Racing's Ed Baird said: “We are obviously disappointed it did not go a little better. We had out moments that did not work out for us. The Azzurra guys sailed really well in the first two races and in the third race Rán did a great job. We made mistakes in a few different places. The first race I did not get off the start line very well. The second race we were close, but just a tiny bit behind the blue boat and they pushed us back and we got Rán in between us. We thought we had done the job on the start but the right worked on the right. It is nothing to do with new crew, it is decision making and placement, and in the case of Rán this is the conditions they love the most, very smooth water and the potential to plane downwind. They love that. They passed Azzurra downwind, but every day is different.”
Audi Sailing Team powered by ALL4ONE had to stand down today after 1m long crack was discovered on the underside of their bow, believed to have occurred during the delivery trip to Barcelona. This was in the process of being repaired today and they are expected to be back out on the race course tomorrow.
|1||ITA280||AUDI AZZURRA||ALBERTO ROEMMERS||GUILLERMO PARADA||1||1||2||4|
|2||SWE5211||RAN||NIKLAS ZENNSTROM||NIKLAS ZENNSTROM||2||2||1||5|
|3||52011||QUANTUM RACING||DOUG DEVOS||ED BAIRD||3||3||3||9|
|4||GBR11152||GLADIATOR||TONY LANGLEY||TOM WILSON||4||4||4||12|
|5||GERA40||ALL4ONE||ALL4ONE RACING TEAM SL||STEPHANE KANDLER||6||6||6||18|
Kevin Sproul was all smiles back on the dock after Tony Buckingham's Ngoni had scored three bullets in as many races to take a commanding early lead in the Soto 40 class.
"We are quite surprised," said Sproul. "We thought after the practice race yesterday that we were quite fast and we thought we would be in the mix, but we just had a really good day....it doesn’t happen very often....not much went wrong, we got good starts and we managed to fight our way through. When something went wrong, we still managed to get out of it so we thought we were pretty fast definitely and we sailed the boat well and gybing downwind we were making big gains on people. So it was one of those perfect days."
Tony Buckingham sadly wasn't on board today having to return home yesterday due to a dental emergency, however a guest of his was. "He had never raced before and he now thinks racing is quite easy and we had to tell him ‘that will never happen again’..." said Sproul.
The first and in partcular the third race Ngoni dominated.
Sproul gave praise to their navigator for this race, Alicia Ageno, one of Spain's top navigators who was with Victory Challenge in Valencia and has most recently sailed on the Desafio Espanol boats. "She is top notch: She called laylines from miles out and got us in the right place and knows the area well. We were very confident at every start which direction we wanted to go and because of that we were able to get a half decent start and go the side we wanted to and because of that we managed to get our nose out in front."
Ageno also made a call on the weather that proved to be nothing like the forecast... and got it right.
"What has been interesting about today is there has been a lot of different boats in the mix. No one was off the pace and there was quite a mix up in results. We thought Iberdrola would be very competitive but they had a bit of a mixed day." In fact the Iberdrola Soto 40, which won the class in the Audi MedCup last year is currently lying third behind Inaki Castaner's Noticia IV.
There have been a few crew changes on Ngoni this year with Gerry Mitchell and Mal Parker sailing on Soto 40 class newcomer Andres Soriano's Alegre. Replacements include Chris Hoskings. As Sproul observes: "There are five guys sailed on the boat who did the Farr 40 Worlds in 1998 with Tony!"
|1||GBR20||NGONI||TONY BUCKINGHAM||KEVIN SPROUL||1||1||1||3|
|2||ESP21||NOTICIA IV||LUIS MARTIN CABIEDES||IÑAKI CASTAÑER||2||2||2||6|
|3||ESP19||IBERDROLA TEAM||AGUSTIN ZULUETA||JOSE MARIA TORCIDA||3||5||3||11|
|4||ARG002||GRAMONA GESEME||ROMAN TURRO||ROMAN TURRO||4||3||4||11|
|5||IVB033||ALEGRE||GOLDEN HEW, LTD||ANDRES SORIANO||5||4||5||14|
|6||GER27||BLACK PEARL||STEFAN JENTZSCH||STEFAN JENTZSCH||7||6||6||19|
|7||ESP22||GUNTER XXII||JAVIER SCHERK / INYACHTS SL||JAVIER SCHERK||6||7||7||20|