Azzurra by a nose
Coastal courses, winding through the islands of the La Maddalena archipelago, combined with a patchy 6-8 knot breeze to put both the Soto 40 and the TP52 classes to the test today on the penultimate day's racing in the Audi Sardinia Cup 2012.
Team USA, comprising the TP52 Quantum Racing and the Soto 40 Iberdrola, retained their lead over second-placed Italy - Audi Azzurra Sailing Team and Andres Sorriano's Soto 40 Alegre while Great Britain, represented by Tony Langley's Gladiator and Tony Buckingham's Soto 40 Ngoni sit in third place.
Audi Azzurra Sailing Team gained a reward for their fighting spirit and cool heads when they narrowly won the 52 division. Finishing with one boat between them and rivals Quantum Racing, the Italians go into the final day with a lead of just one point with up to two more races possible.
Though the French team on Paprec Recylage led across the finish line of the coastal course, they contravened the sailing instructions when they sailed between the small, rocky island of Spargiotto and Spargi and were subsequently disqualified.
As expected, given the course through the islands archipelago of La Maddalena in a light sea breeze, there were several key transition zones of light and variable winds, which required patience and a calm temperament.
The last 1.5 miles to the finish were completed in a very light breeze. Peter Cunningham’s crew on PowerPlay looked to have done everything they needed to cross the line second, but the breeze turned extra fickle in the final 200 metres to the finish. Tony Langley’s Gladiator made what has become their trademark straight line for the finish, passing the gybing PowerPlay and very nearly catching Azzurra which crossed ahead but only by a bow. PowerPlay went from second – potentially a first – to fourth in metres, while Azzurra gave their partisan fans a memorable win.
The 24 miles course took the fleet out to round Spargi Island. After a short 1.1 miles beat it was a long run and reach to the island and a tight reach and then beat back. Audi Azzurra and Quantum Racing started best and were quick to the Sardinia shore to pick up the best of the wind shift which ensured they were first and second around the first mark. Quantum rolled through the leaders with better speed and the two stretched away from Paprec. But they were first to find, and mark, a nasty hole in the breeze close to the southwest corner of La Maddalena. The duo were snared, sails limp, for over five minutes while the fleet – seeing their predicament – sailed wide around them.
At the next transition to the turn for home, the lead swapped three times between Rán, Gladiator and finally Paprec who chose to ‘couper le fromage’ – cutting the corner which gained them a big advance, leading by over three minutes as they passed between Caprera and the main island. The French celebrations were unfortunately muted, giving way to quiet satisfaction of a job well done by the Azzurra team.
Francesco Bruni tactician on Audi Azzurra Sailing Team gave his take on the day: “In the end it has been a great day for us, we sailed very well, we attacked at the right moments. We made a few mistakes early in the race, we were ahead and were passed by Quantum, but they were not as bad as some other teams mistakes. We lost five or six boat lengths to Quantum, but we attacked at La Maddalena, it was a weird because we all knew the whole fleet was going to come back, but in the end we know it will be a match race with Quantum Racing and in the end we are very happy that Gladiator was in between us. In the end we just need to keep sailing well.”
Quantum Racing's Ed Reynolds said: “It was a hard day. It started out wonderful but everyone knew today that the potential was that it would end up a race like this. Once we ran into the hole I am not sure, it seemed like the sequence of events would stack up the way they did in the end. Azzurra did a great job of getting out into a good position. It got a little crazy at the end, but it is a tough one to even debrief. You go into these races saying they are what they are, these races, and it was what it was. I think the guys sailed a strong first beat, a great run all the way down. We had everything going the way it should and then, wow. It is a bit of the burden of leading, but then Azzurra were with us in it and they came out OK in the end. A point in the last day and we figured all year it was going to be like this and here we are. We gave it our best today and will be ready tomorrow.”
Tony Langley owner and helmsman Gladiator said: "It is a bit of a lottery those races. We had a bit of a bad start and were back of the pack for a while and then saw Quantum and Azzurra go dead in a hole and we managed to avoid that. It was always going to be a bit of a stop start, so you try not to get frustrated early in the race. We try to stay calm, we don't always manage it. We are looking forwards to tomorrow, another light day."
The five Soto 40s were set a 14 mile course rounding the Secca Tre Monti rock and heading up the east coast of Caprera to leave Monaci island to starboard before racing to the finish. Today's was the first ever coastal race for this one-design class who are more used to racing round the cans and Bigamist took the lead early on with Iberdrola and Ngoni vying for second place. The British boat won out in the end with Iberdrola in third. Thanks to three bullets gained yesterday, however, Iberdrola remains at the top of the individual Soto 40 results, six points clear of Bigamist.
Andrea Casale, former J/24 World Champion, competing aboard Bigamist, said: "Iberdrola won the start but we chose the correct side at the Isola delle Bisce and led for the rest of the race. It was our first coastal race and I loved it, there were more manoeuvres, different scenery, it was better fun than a windward-leeward race even if today's conditions weren't the most thrilling due to the light air. We're not sure what will happen tomorrow, the teams are all competitive and we have a great crew which includes Afonso Domingos who will sail in the Olympics, as well as Hugo Rocha and Nuno Barreto, tactician and trimmer, won bronze in the Olympics in 1996. They are people who know how to win so tomorrow we will be pushing everything to the limit."
Audi Sardinia Cup team results
1. USA: Soto 40 Iberdrola Team (3/3/1/1/1/4,5=13.5) - TP52 Quantum Racing (1/1/3/1/3/4,5=13.5) Total - 27
2. Italy: Soto 40 Alegre (1/1/5/2/4/7,5=20.5) - TP52 Audi Azzurra Sailing Team (3/2/2/4/1/1,5=13.5) Total - 34
3. Great Britain: Soto 40 Ngoni (5/5/2/5/3/3=23) - TP52 Gladiator (2/3/1/2/5/3=16) Total - 39
4. Sweden: Soto 40 Black Pearl (4/2/3/4/2/6=21) - TP52 Ràn (4/4/4/3/2/7,5=24,5) Total - 45.5
5. Cayman Islands: Soto 40 Bigamist (2/4/4/3/5/1,5=19.5) - TP52 Powerplay (5/5/5/5/4/6=30) Total - 49.5
52 Super Series results
1 Audi AZZURRA Sailing Team (ITA) 3,2,2,4,1,1.5 - 13.5
2 Quantum Racing (USA) 1,1,3,1,4,4.5 - 10
3 Gladiator (GBR) 2,3,1,2,6,3 - 17
4 RÁN (SWE) 4,4,4,3,2, 7.5 - 24.5
5 PowerPlay (CAY) 6,6,6,5,5, 6 - 34
6 Paprec Recyclage (FRA) 5,5,5,6,3, DSQ - 34.5
Soto 40 top 3 results
1. Iberdrola 3/3/1/1/1/4.5 - 13.5
2. Bigamist 2/4/4/3/5/1.5 - 19.5
3. Alegre 1/1/5/2/4/7.5 - 20.5