Kiwis in control at Audi MedCup final series

While Emirates Team New Zealand have their hands on the Audi MedCup for the TP52 Series after two great wins today, the young crew on Islas Canarias Puerto Calero were equally at home in the strong winds and big waves to post a 1-2 and lead the regatta and the Circuit in GP42.

As if to display exactly why they are the champions-in-waiting of the 2009 Audi MedCup Circuit TP52 Series, Emirates Team New Zealand produced a flawless display across two very challenging big breeze races today to set themselves off on the perfect footing as the Caja Mediterraneo Region of Murcia Trophy finally got under way.

While other teams were found wanting, some struggling in the short, steep seas off Cartagena and the gusty, shifty SW'ly wind which peaked at 27 knots, Emirates Team New Zealand took flight, revelling in the robust conditions.

Most of all their wins today proved the virtue of their many years of top level racing together as a crew, but – as other teams suffered equipment failures and shredded sails – their triumphs are testament to their exceptional high standards of preparation.

“Our biggest worry was breaking something and you do all you can to prevent that, but on the other hand you can't sail slow. It was fantastic crew work all round. Years sailing together make that difference which is as well because a lot of the time it is just about impossible to communicate,” grinned ETNZ's relieved Ray Davies, who revealed that, after calling tactics today, his secondary role in the high speed, wet, bumpy, surfing conditions was keeping helmsman Dean Barker wedged inside the boat as they ploughed through the walls of white water.

He warned that the 2009 title may be all but theirs, but: “We'll be keeping the hammer down to win this regatta now.”

If Emirates Team New Zealand had a memorable red letter day, it was a dark afternoon for Matador (ARG). A sequence of mishaps and breakages conspired to drop the Argentinian boat from second to fourth overall on the Circuit. Their problems started with a broken aft stanchion and went on to include a broken spinnaker pole, jockey pole, slipping halyard clutches, a shredded gennaker and another broken stanchion.

While Artemis (SWE) added a second place to their seventh in the first race and promoted themselves to second on the Circuit, rivals Quantum Racing (USA) tore three spinnakers as well as catching Bigamist 7's discarded kite around their rudder and keel which required them to stop for several minutes to disentangle themselves from the sail debris.

Italy's Riccardo Simoneschi and his team on Audi Q8 (ITA) proved one of the most consistent teams in the big waves, posting a second and third for the day. They lost one spinnaker, but sailed two tight, steady races to lie second overall in the TP52 Series regatta, three points up on José Cusi's Bribón (ESP).

While there has been days with more breeze over the last couple of years on the Audi MedCup Circuit, and indeed venues with bigger waves, the action today was most spectacular as both the TP52's and GP42's surfed downwind, cascading into the back of the wave in front to erupt in spumes of spray.

GP42 Races 1 and 2

The going was tough, but the tough got going today in the GP42's, with those that minimized damage and keeping the boat under the sails coming prevailing.. Sailed by a young energetic team who hail from a place where such conditions are commonplace, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP) posted a 1-2 for the day, which now places them with a 5-point buffer over series rival Roma 2 (ITA), who struggled through the day on 4-4.

“Today's races were all about surviving,” said Islas Canarias pitman Francisco Díaz (ESP). “It was about handling things as little and as safely as possible. For us it's been good fun, but probably not that fun for our owner Danny [Calero] since we've broken the mainsail and some other things. But we are fighting for the Audi MedCup title with Roma, so we wanted to keep an eye on them. In the first race they broke the spinnaker when they were ahead, so we won but it was because they broke.”

“It was Code Red out there, we felt like a submarine,” said mid-bowman Pat Shaughnessy (USA) as he helped pump hundreds of litres of seawater out of Roma when back at the quay. Shaughnessy who is President of Farr Yacht Design, the designers of Roma, said “We had everyone aft in the boat but just couldn't keep that bow up.”

But their travails were not as bad as those on Turismo Madrid (ESP). The Spanish team had a similar experience in the first race as Roma did in the second, but it they also had a man overboard to retrieve as well. Trimmer Robin Imaz (ESP) went overboard while trying to assist skipper Jose Maria van der Ploeg (ESP) at the helm. Madrid fouled a line around their propeller and was therefore limited in their manoeuvrability. Airis (ITA) sailed close by to assist in the rescue, a testament to their sportsmanship and to the nature of the conditions.

But the Madrid team quickly affected repairs and got back into the game after a late start in the second race, managing an impressive 3rd place despite never flying a spinnaker at all in that race. Tactician Philippe Presti (FRA) took this in stride, saying, “Of course we won the “non-spinnaker division, we have two Star boat champions on the boat!” referring to he and skipper Jose Maria van der Ploeg.

Audi MedCup Circuit 2009
Caja Mediterráneo Region of Murcia Trophy

TP52 Series
Overall Day 1
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 1+1= 2 points
2. Audi TP52 Powered by Q8 (ITA), 2+3= 5 points
3. Bribón (ESP), 3+5= 8 points
4. Artemis (SWE), 7+2= 9 points
5. Bigamist 7 (POR), 6+4= 10 points

GP42 Series
Overall Day 1
1. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP), 1+2= 3 points
2. Iberdrola (ITA), 3+1= 4 points
3. Caser-Endesa (ESP), 2+5= 7 points
4. Roma (ITA), 4+4= 8 points
5. Turismo Madrid (ESP), 7(DNF)+3= 10 points

Audi MedCup Circuit 2009
Overall (4 events)

TP52 Series
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 38+27,5+28+25+2= 120,5 points
2. Artemis (SWE), 37+62,5+49,5+26,5+9= 184,5 points
3. Quantum Racing (USA), 40+41,5+65+29+14= 189,5 points
4. Matador (ARG), 36+47,5+42,5+44,5+20= 190,5 points
5. Bigamist (POR), 46+55,5+57+30,5+10= 199 points

GP42 Series
1. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP), 20+23+23+16+3= 85 points
2. Roma (ITA), 22+17+30+13+8= 90 points
3. Caser-Endesa (ESP), 33+27+26+7= 106 points
4. Airis (ITA), 21+38+28+25+11= 123 points
5. Turismo Madrid (ESP), 35+35+43+23+10= 146 points

Complete results:

Ray Davies (NZL), tactician Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
“It was a great day. I'm sure it was even more fun than it looked. I had to adopt a position I have never had to before, facing aft with my feet wedged against the runner winch with my back to Dean to stop him sliding aft. I was the human wedge.”
“We had a few moments where we were all sliding aft just with the amount of white water coming across the deck. The crew work was flawless. We just had a nice start and went to the left which was really favoured. From there downwind was about crew-work, time on the boat, sailing together as a team really helps. The same group have been sailing together for a long time. ”
“The second race we just had to pass Artemis and we did that on the run when we picked a very good lay-line. It was just one gybe and into the bottom mark.”
“We covered them up the second beat and they wiped out a couple of times on the run. And we kept it upright, it was pretty much survival out there.”

Mark Mendelblatt (USA), strategist Quantum Racing (USA):
“We rounded the right hand gate looking downwind and then ran over Bigamist's spinnaker. They dropped it and cut it loose. We had to park the boat and it took us a couple of attempts to get it off. So that cost us huge.”
“It was a really good test. Massive waves, biggest waves and wind we have probably sailed in the last two seasons. It was a really good test to see if you could sail round the course today. We did not do a good job today”

Francisco Díaz (ESP), pitman Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP)
“Today's races were about surviving. It was about handling as little and as safe as possible, I think the boats are not ready for these conditions, for us it's been good fun, probably not that fun for the boatowner since we've broken the main sail and some other things. Iberdrola have been the best, downwind we've all gybed without spinnaker because in the gybe we dropped ours in the water, others tore it and Iberdrola got it right and could gybe with it, the ony one. We are fighting for the Audi MedCup title with Roma and we wanted to keep an eye on them, in the first leg they broke the spinnaker in the second downwind when they were ahead , so we won but beacause they broke”

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