The penultimate regatta of the 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit, the Caja Mediterráneo Region of Murcia Trophy starts off Cartagena in just one week’s time and has drawn a full complement of 11 TP52 teams and five GP42’s. With the public village opening next Saturday the Audi MedCup logistics team is working at full stretch to make sure everything is ready for another successful visit to Cartagena
The return to Cartagena will be welcomed by crews and organisers alike, not just for the memorable sailing conditions which were served up last year, when the big, steep waves and brisk afternoon winds produced some of the season’s most dramatic action images, but for the warmth of the welcome and the huge enthusiasm which the historic city always reserves for the Audi MedCup. This will be the third consecutive year that the Audi MedCup returns.
The Audi MedCup Circuit Public Village opens with free access to visitors on Saturday 21st August with the official TP52 Practice Race on the Tuesday and points racing beginning on Wednesday. The GP42’s have their practice race Wednesday, and the TP52 Coastal Race is scheduled for Friday 27th.
As always Cartagena delivers a very active and comprehensive supporting social programme. The Caja Mediterráneo Region of Murcia Trophy forms the centerpiece of a week long festival of activities including Roman and Carthagenian parades, a regional championship for young Optimist sailors (23rd-25th), a custom motorbike show on Saturday 28th and an aircraft display on the final day of the regatta, Sunday 29th.
Challenging the Kiwi consistency
Over history the city and surrounding towns have become no strangers to conflict. Of strategic importance near the entrance to the Mediterranean and blessed with valuable mineral resources, Cartagena and the adjacent lands saw many battles at sea and on land. Next week it will be up to Audi MedCup champions Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) – who won here last year – to prove they can hold off the attacks from their principal TP52 Series rivals, to protect or increase the lead they have through to the end of the season.
Indeed even if the 2009 champions left Murcia with their current lead intact at 28.5 points they would be in a strong position to defend their overall championship title, but at the forefront of their minds is the knowledge that their margin represents little more than one bad day. The strengths of the challengers appear to be more consistent this season with Quantum Racing (USA) and Artemis (USA) both winning regattas this year.
At this stage in the season with settled teams, there are few significant crew changes announced so far. After a disappointing regatta in Barcelona, the Franco-German team on Audi A1 powered by ALL4ONE have French navigator Philippe Mourniac – who was unable to race there – returning. The all Italian line up on Luna Rossa (ITA) remains the same, buoyed by last week’s triumph in the Melges 24 World Championships of helm Lorenzo Bressani (ITA).
GP42 Series: Tied at the top
After Madrid – Caser Seguros’ (ESP) first regatta win in Barcelona, they now lead the GP42 Series but only on a tie-break with Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP), the reigning Audi MedCup Champions. Skipper/tactician Jose María Van der Ploeg (ESP), who sidelined in Barcelona by injury, returns to lead the line in Cartagena.
Cartagena holds bittersweet memories for Madrid – Caser Seguros helmsman Paolo Cian (ITA). It was here that on the last leg of the last race his Roma (ITA) team lost the 2009 title to the Canarias team. But Madrid – Caser Seguros is going better than ever, and after winning six of nine races in Barcelona could be considered the team to beat for the Caja Mediterráneo Region of Murcia Trophy.
Ed Reynolds (USA), project manager Quantum Racing (USA):
“ ETNZ certainly seem more vulnerable than they did last year, but they are still doing what they need to do. Minimize the big score and stay consistent. There are still 200+ points left at play for the season, so a lot can happen.”
“Barcelona seemed like “the one that got away”.
“We’ve won the most races so far this year, so I know we are going well. But, we’ve put a few big numbers up, which has kept us from closing on the Kiwis.”
Ray Davies (NZL), tactician Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
“ We need to keep pushing and looking to improve in all areas, this has always been ETNZ’s philosophy, if you stop improving you get left behind. It’s hard to find new ways but they are out there, it’s our goal to make small gains in all areas rather then to look for one big edge.”
“ The level of the fleet is the highest yet. The main reason is it’s easy to copy and to catch up but its hard to find the next level of improvement, I think if we were to have built a new boat we would have made another jump but there is only one new boat this year, all other teams made modifications and copied a lot of our features from last year so they all made big gains, we made small gains by the new ideas and modifications we made. I’m proud we have managed to keep setting the standard.”
José María Van der Ploeg (ESP), skipper Madrid – Caser Seguros (ESP):
“Our goal in Cartagena is to do well and win, because although we are the leaders of the Circuit, we are tied overall and we depend on each race. Last season it was decided on the final leg of the last race of the Circuit, and I think this year it is not going to be any different. So the goal is to sail very focused. ”
It is two months before the start of the first regatta of the 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit season, the Portugal Trophy which will take place on the testing Atlantic waters and winds off Cascais, raising the curtain on what promises to be a fascinating and exciting year for the world’s leading regatta circuit.
The Audi MedCup Circuit is the world’s leading regatta circuit.
The Circuit is made up of five events that take place over five months in four countries over southern Europe.
Event 1: Cascais (Portugal) 11 – 16 May
Event 2: Marseille (France) 15 – 20 June
Event 3: Barcelona (Spain) 20 – 25 July
Event 4: Cartagena (Spain) 24 – 29 August
Event 5: Cagliari (Italy) 20 – 25 September
Activity throughout the TP52 fleet has been building up progressively over recent months. Small changes to the TP52 Class Box Rule mean that all of the teams which plan to compete at this season’s five Audi MedCup Circuit regattas or the TP52 World Championships in October are required to have made the prescribed modifications to their existing boats: adding 150kgs of weight to the keel to compensate for the reduction in crew weight, moving to a ‘square-top’ mainsail with twin backstays and increasing spinnaker area and adopting bowsprits.
The Circuit organisers World Sailing Management, a division of Grupo Santa Monica Sports, are expecting to welcome the same number as 2009, or perhaps one more TP52 to the arena this season. Two new America’s Cup teams are well into their preparations.
“ We expect 10 to 13 boats in the TP52 class and five or six in the GP42 class, all in all a good line up considering the economic climate.” Comments World Sailing Management’s Nacho Postigo (ESP), Audi MedCup Circuit’s Technical Director.
“ The TP52 class has gone through the winter modifications without major problems.”
Great Britain’s TeamOrigin have their new Juan Kouyoumdjian (ARG) designed boat nearing completion at Salthouse Boats in Auckland. Theirs is the only new build TP52 this winter and they are due to ship the boat directly to Portugal.
Mike Sanderson (NZL), CEO of TeamOrigin said: “The schedule was always going to be tight but we are on time. The boat is due to leave New Zealand in the middle of March.
We have it booked on a fruit ship which means it is pretty reliable because if it gets late then the fruit goes rotten. We will ship it directly to somewhere close to the venue and do its final measurement there and will sail it there for the first time. It is not optimum for how we would have loved to have done it, but we always knew that, we knew that that’s what the schedule was going to be before started building it, so we are just going to have to hope that we can get it on the pace as quickly as possible. We are really looking forward to it. It is going to be an amazing year. We really can wait.”
Current Audi MedCup champions Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) completed their modifications in-house and have been trial sailing the new configuration on the waters off Auckland in excellent conditions. Otherwise, explains CEO Grant Dalton, the only change to their winning set up is the new paint job. They will sail with exactly the same core sailing team, with the exception of the reduced crew number.
2008 Audi MedCup champions Quantum Racing (USA) who finished overall runners-up are believed to have taken the opportunity to update their deck profile and have made a bigger winter refit. Torbjorn Tornqvist’s (SWE) 2007 champions Artemis (SWE), third overall in 2009 have a busy sailing season planned and will be back to challenge hard. Alberto Roemmers’ (ARG) team of Matador (ARG) start training on March 19th as a build up to the Palma Vela regatta, where up to five teams will race including Artemis, Cristabella (GBR) Matador and Synergy (RUS) are expected to take part.
Spain’s Palma based Bribón (ESP) has undergone some minor modifications along with the class rule modifications. They have changed to tiller steering, removing the twin wheels, changed the mainsheet system and extended the deckline to the vertical at the back of the boat, in line with all the other newer TP52’s. They will sail with an almost all Spanish crew with helm Gonzalo Araujo (ESP) taking on the role he completed so well at the TP52 World Championships in Palma last year. Great Britain’s double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker (GBR) will serve as tactician.
Ignasi Triay (ESP), project manager and trimmer Bribón (ESP) concludes: “It will be difficult for us I am sure with our boat in its fourth season. It will be really tough for us to get a top five finish with teams like Quantum Racing, TeamOrigin and Emirates Team New Zealand fighting it out for the top spots, and then the two Russian boats and Bigamist (POR) going so well now, but we will be really trying our hardest. The World Championships really proved to us that in flat water and lighter winds the boat can be competitive. Dean Barker said last year that if we sail a perfect race we can finish top three. They have a boat that they can get back into contention in a race even if they don’t make a great start, and that – for us – is the big difference.”
Also based out of Palma is John Cook’s British flagged Cristabella which has a new rig and will have some crew changes with round the world Racing winning bowman Justin Slattery (IRL) joining at the sharp end, and round the world and America’s Cup navigator Simon ‘SiFi’ Fisher (GBR) joining the team again.
Brendan Darrer (IRL/GBR) project manager Cristabella (GBR) said: “It is going to be difficult for us this season for sure. Each year we say it will be harder and it does get harder. But it will be a cracking year and we are really looking forward to it. Most of all we want to see a realistic improvement in our own performance, and if we can see that we will be happy.”
Home hopes for the opening regatta will be with Pedro Mendonça’s Bigamist who have been winter training hard off their native Cascais. Their prolonged training together was the foundations for a very successful 2009, and so on their own local waters, the Portuguese team have a good chance of starting the 2010 Audi MedCup season on a high note.
The GP42 fleet is taking shape presently with at least one boat which is new to the Circuit, stepping up after enjoying their participation at the 2009 GP42 World Championships.