If yesterday, there were whispered concerns that Emirates Team New Zealand might be on the brink of running away with the season when they posted a perfect three bullets on the opening day, the Kiwis were back to earth with a bump on Day 2 when they rescued a fifth and a fourth, their regatta lead trimmed to a single point by a buoyant Matador crew who changed gear well in the more unstable breeze.
Winners of the season's opening regatta in Alicante in May, Matador (ARG) proved the most consistent TP52 performers of the second day of racing off Cagliari in the south of Sardinia. With a first and a second place in gentle sea-breeze conditions which struggled to reach double figures, the Argentine team, which has Italian Francesco Bruni as tactician, read the difficult first windward-legs well.
In the GP42 Series, which managed to complete all three scheduled races, Vasco Vascotto guided Airis to win the first two races, while the Italian monopoly was maintained as Series leader Roma won the third contest. A penalty turn at the top of the second beat proved costly for the Circuit leader Roma.
Matador won the fourth race of the TP52 Series' Region of Sardinia Trophy as Synergy (RUS) stole a close second place from Artemis (SWE) on the finish line when the wind shifted back on the final run.
With the sea breeze much gentler than forecast, at times as light as five to six knots, Matador and Artemis laid the foundations for their success off the start line as they both earned the early advantage from the wind bend on the left side on the first half of the beat.
With skipper Cameron Appleton (NZL) steering and Vascotto on tactics Airis won the first race in the GP42 series, leading around the first windward mark. Roma Mk 2 took second with Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP) in third. Airis lead at each mark.
Portugal's Bigamist 7 maintained their record of winning at least one race at each Audi MedCup Circuit regatta this season so far when they triumphed in Race 5.
Afonso Domingos (POR) squeezed Bigamist 7 around the first windward mark inside Artemis, just behind race leader Matador to establish their credentials as a challenger to win the race.
At the leeward turn they chose the left hand gate rounding just ahead of Matador and were able to extend slightly to take the Portuguese team's third winning gun of the season, a fitting birthday present to veteran owner Pedro Mendonca (POR).
Airis built an early lead in the second race of the day too, rounding the first windward mark 24 seconds up on Turismo Madrid (ESP), extending slightly by the finish as the young Canarian team took second.
Roma Mk 2 won the third race after leading Islas Canarias around the top turn on the first round, but Caser Endesa (ESP) profited on the first run, rising to second place.
In both TP52 races Emirates Team New Zealand had to fight back from deep positions, failing to read either of the first beats as well. But they displayed the true hallmarks of potential championship winners when they pulled back three hard won places in both races.
While the Kiwi team have the City of Alicante Trophy winners as serious contenders, just one point adrift, current Audi MedCup champions Quantum Racing (USA) now lie seventh in the regatta after a fourth and a sixth place today.
Skipper-helm Terry Hutchinson (USA) acknowledged today the speed edge that that three new boats appear to have across the different conditions experienced over these first two days, citing the speed of the Botin Carkeek designed Emirates Team New Zealand as a contributing factor to their success yesterday, and the Vrolijk boats Matador and Artemis going well in the lighter breeze today.
Audi MedCup Circuit 2009
Region of Sardinia Trophy
Overall – Day 2
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 1 1 1 5 4= 12 points
2. Matador (ARG), 3 3 4 1 2= 13 points
3. Artemis (SWE), 2 2 7 3 3= 17 points
4. Synergy (RUS), 4 8 2 2 5= 21 points
5. Bigamist (POR), 6 5 9 6 1= 27 points
Overall – Day 1
1. Airis (ITA), 1 2 4= 6 points
2. Roma (ITA), 2 5 1= 8 points
3. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP), 3 2 3= 8 points
4. Caser Endesa (ESP), 4 4 2= 10 points
5. Turismo Madrid (ESP), 5 3 5= 13 points
Complete results: http://2009.medcup.org/results2/venue.php?trophy=3&class=tp52
Grant Dalton (NZL) CEO and Mast-man Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
“We were deep in both races and I guess we learned as much in Alicante as with other regattas, if you are deep you are not going to win the race but, number one, you try not to make the situation worse which is not hard to do. But I think we are quick and all we could do was try and recover, which we did.
Yesterday was an exceptional day for us and you don't get them together. So we will just keep what we are doing, going fast. We have been in the situation before with other campaigns when you go from great days but nothing changes, we just keep on doing what we have been doing.”
Simon Fry (GBR), trimmer Matador (ARG):
“It was really quite tricky and the aim was just to keep the heads out of the boat, to keep an eye on the left. The first race Francesco (Bruni) liked the left and basically we nailed the start and off we went. Second race we were a bit sticky downwind but we have a new A1 (spinnaker) to card (register), and so I think that will see the light of day tomorrow.
But it is amazing, ten knots of breeze and everyone seems to go very, very similar speeds. Today, with a little bit less, it was very different. Gear changing: some boats executed really, really good gear changing today.”
Terry Hutchinson (USA), skipper-helm of Quantum Racing (USA):
“The biggest mistake we could make at the moment would be to over-react. What we have to focus on for sure is making good starts, figuring where the first shift is coming from and concentrate on our good boat handling. But for sure, we are now experiencing what some of our competitors went through last season when we had a speed edge. Now we kind of have to re-calibrate and try to figure out where we go from here.”