Emirates Team New Zealand's 3,2,1 today leaves them poised to win in Cartagena, while Roma Mk 2 eased two points clear in the GP42 regatta and the Series standings.
Three different boats won races on this penultimate day of the Audi MedCup Circuit season's TP52 Series but it is Emirates Team New Zealand who look set to extend their unprecedented record, setting up to win four of this season's five regattas.
While conditions were not as tough as Thursday's, the breezes in each successive race proved different, hard to read, and a over the three contests a comprehensive test for tacticians and crews in both TP52 and GP 42 Series. Consistency across the three heats was keynote and it was Emirates Team New Zealand whose 3,2,1 proved telling as they stretched nine points clear of Portugal's Bigamist 7.
If concerns exist that the razor sharp Kiwi team have set the bar high this season consider the Portuguese crew. Under Olympic Star helm Afonso Domingos (POR) , the team which comprise 40% amateurs with a well prepared 2008 Judel/Vrolijk boat, bought through the winter, are seriously challenging the 2007 MedCup Champions for third overall on the series, lie second overall at this regatta and are gunning hard into the final day to better their three fourth place finishes in Marseille , Cagliari and Portimao .
The New Zealand crew may be past the finishing post in terms of the Circuit title, but the tussle for second and third will go to the wire. Only eight points now separate Quantum Racing (USA), current tenants of second place from fifth placed Matador (ARG) whose painful slide down the series rankings this regatta could not be checked today, particularly with their eighth in the third race when they twisted their gennaker around the keel.
Quantum Racing won the first race of the day ahead of ETNZ. A crisp start from Terry Hutchinson (USA) and the afterguard of the reigning champions laid the foundation in the 11-14 knots of breeze.
In the second race there was a pronounced split in the breeze, especially where it was influenced by the high, rocky promontory near the top of the windward leg. This time there were some major gains and losses to be made. Emirates Team New Zealand had lead to the leeward gate with Bríbon giving chase. Both tracked left into the building breeze after the gate, but Matador, Bigamist and Artemis (SWE) struck it rich on the right and crossed the leaders on the top third of the beat. As the wind flicked back at the windward mark Bigamist were able to slip inside Matador and Artemis, as the pair, who were both all but stalled by the sudden change. While Bigamist took the winning gun, Emirates Team New Zealand gained four places on the run and surged to finish just four seconds behind.
The Kiwi machine was at full revs in the final race when the wind piped up to 22 knots and the seas kicked up again. While Bríbon hung tight and took a good second, there were problems among the fleet. Quantum Racing split another kite, but Cristabella's season looks to have finished early after the top metre and a half of the mast snapped off.
Roma takes back the lead
Today's three races in the GP42 fleet were critical for determining the overall Series champion, as Roma 2 (ITA) were able to extricate themselves from yesterday's carnage to take back a 2-point series lead from archrivals Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP).
But it wasn't easy: At some point in today, nearly every team had their time at the top of the pack, including Iberdrola (ESP), who are sailing their first and only MedCup event, and Airis (ITA) who have had some tough luck in the last few stages in the series.
Success came for some in having clever positioning and tactics, always important in this small but competitive group, as the first two races in particular were sailed in some very tricky conditions, with the breeze being on and off extremes of 8 to 14 knots. Match race expert Paolo Cian (ITA) and his Roma team seemed particularly adept at this.
But for others raw speed and maybe a little luck were the keys, and in this regard the Islas Canarias team excelled early in the afternoon, but then Turismo Madrid (ESP) came on later to take their first-ever MedCup win. In this race there was a return to large, towering seas and a stiff breeze, maybe turned down just a notch from the “Red Zone” conditions of yesterday, and thus infinitely more fun.
There were still mishaps, with the big waves making tight layline calls very precarious. Nearly everyone had their share of close encounters with the top mark, with Caser-Endesa (ESP), Islas Canarias and Airis all having to do penalty turns. When Iberdrola had their turn to shoot the mark in the last race, overlapped with Caser-Endesa, they fell off on to port tack and therefore had not one but two turns to complete.
But all will be forgotten tomorrow when the final showdown between the two leaders determines who takes the overall GP42 Series Audi MedCup title. The class will afford some spectators with unique access to all the action: tomorrow each GP42 will compete with a guest on board, a new and exciting innovation for the Audi MedCup.
Audi MedCup Circuit 2009
Caja Mediterráneo Region of Murcia Trophy
Overall Day 2
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 1+1+3+2+1= 8 points
2. Bigamist 7 (POR), 6+4+2+1+4= 17 points
3. Quantum Racing (USA), 8+6+1+3+6= 24 points
4. Bribón (ESP), 3+5+9+8+2= 27 points
5. Artemis (SWE), 7+2+7+6+7= 29 points
Overall Day 2
1. Roma (ITA), 4+4+2+1+2= 13 points
2. Iberdrola (ESP), 3+1+1+6+4= 15 points
3. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP), 1+2+3+3+6= 15 points
4. Turismo Madrid (ESP), 7(DNF)+3+5+2+1= 18 points
5. Caser-Endesa (ESP), 2+5+6+5+3= 21 points
Audi MedCup Circuit 2009
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 38+27,5+28+25+8= 126,5 points
2. Quantum Racing (USA), 40+41,5+65+29+24= 199,5 points
3. Artemis (SWE), 37+62,5+49,5+26,5+29= 204,5 points
4. Bigamist (POR), 46+55,5+57+30,5+17= 206 points
5. Matador (ARG), 36+47,5+42,5+44,5+37= 207,5 points
1. Roma (ITA), 22+17+30+13+13= 95 points
2. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP), 20+23+23+16+15= 97 points
3. Caser-Endesa (ESP), 33+27+26+21= 120 points
4. Airis (ITA), 21+38+28+25+24= 136 points
5. Turismo Madrid (ESP), 35+35+43+23+18= 154 points
Complete results: http://2009.medcup.org/results
Ray Davies (NZL) tactician Emirates Team New Zealand:
“Conditions were extremely tricky. The wind seems to be very unstable under the headland and the big hills behind it. We had two very good races, but the lead changes and position changes, I have never seen races like it, changing so dramatically. It was incredible. At one stage we were surfing down waves on opposite gybes heading in the same direction. That can happen in the really light airs, but not in 12 knots of breeze.
We had a good day and the main thing is to get the last shift right and we did that twice.
The last race we just sailed really well with the wind up again.”
Hugo Rocha (Por), tactician Bigamist (POR)”It's the final days and the final races races, but everything is still possible. Let's see tomorrow's forecast. I expect one like today's….. difficult. But we have more possibilities, we are handling the scenario very well and tomorrow we'll fight till the end. Today's there's been 15 degrees shifts and pressure changes, quite a tactical day, but I think we've been almost perfect.
“But ETNZ, of course, was better”.
Terry Hutchinson (Usa), skipper Quantum Racing (USA)
“I stick with the idea that we will finish the season where we finish this regatta. That's probably where we are going to finish the series. Tomorrow is all to play for we did nice work again in points and capitalized in some of the other teams mistakes. But both Artemis and Bigamist had a really good come back in the first race from being deep. But we are right where we want to be. We control our own destiny and that's all you can ask for”.
Paolo Cian (ITA), Roma (ITA)
“We came into today four points behind, and are now two ahead, which is really hard in this tough fleet. The crew work was incredible, and our tactician and navigator did a great job, because the conditions were tough with the big waves and tricky breeze. Tomorrow we will hope for good racing and that everything falls into place for us. We made a few changes to the boat so that we were not taking on as much water as yesterday when we were a submarine, so today we were really enjoying the sailing and having a lot of fun.”
Daniel Calero (ESP), Islas Canarias (ESP) :
“We had tough luck today in being second on the last beat of the last race and then having the backstay break, forcing us back into last place. But this happens in this game, and we will hope for 2 races tomorrow and win them both!”