With a practice race now under their belts, the eight teams assembled here in Puerto Calero have only a few minor details left before the real battle begins in earnest at tomorrow's start to the Puerto Calero GP42 Global Championship. A few sails loaded and unloaded, some rig details here and there, but in general everyone is relaxed, confident and happy to be in such a picturesque place and recipients of the legendary hospitality of the Calero family.
After a few days of preparation and measuring, today's practice race was a great opportunity for teams to put themselves to the test in mock battle, especially in the five pre-starts Principal Race Officer, Peter “Luigi” Reggio and his race management team provided for the fleet. In these it was apparent some teams were pushing hard to test themselves and the race committee, most notably Caser-Endesa (ESP) who was called OCS more often than not, though it was Roberto Monti's Airis (ITA) that got that on their scorecard when it counted in the one practice race of the day.
Conditions for today's practice racing were perfect for old and new teams alike: a gentle 8-10 knot east-southeast breeze allowed for close maneuvers in the practice starts to test their skills at positioning and timing, and the 1.3-mile legs were long enough to shift gears, play a few shifts, and gauge each other's speed potential for the upcoming week. Most teams have saved their last new sail slots for use here, but there are also other upgrades: Monti and his team, for example, will be looking closely at how their brand new keel with its longer thinner bulb will be helping enhance their upwind pace.
One team – Team Nordic (SWE) – had to sit out the fun while making a few final tweaks to their new keel installation job on the Cognit-designed Totalboats before launching this afternoon. The team, led by skipper Magnus Olsson (SWE), spent many months here training up prior to the last Volvo Ocean Race.
In theory, the three new teams here would seem to be playing catch-up with the seasoned Audi MedCup teams, but in the lead from nearly the start to the finish was Gonçalo Esteves' (POR) Quebramar – Xacobeo 2010 (POR), who for a time was being chased hard by another new team, John Basadone's (GBR) Peninsula Petroleum (GBR). But Audi MedCup runner-up Roma 2 (ITA), led by skipper Paolo Cian (ITA), recovered from a penalty turn at the start to grind down the Gibraltareans on the final run to the finish, not quite in time to catch the local Islas Canarias Puerto Calero team who finished second.
“We did four good starts, the crews were all pretty nervous,” said Felipe Regojo (ESP), helmsman of Quebramar Xacobeo 2010 (ESP), “and several of the boats were over the line, whereas all our starts were clear, which was decisive. We chose the left hand side of the race area, along the coast where we saw more pressure, sailed almost until the layline, and then tacked and crossed with a nice lead. In the run we also chose the coast, which payed off as well. But in the last run the breeze shifted right and so we gybed early to the sea side, and lost some ground to the runner-up.”
The benign conditions today were also perfect for another important feature of today's racing: each team carried two guest riders on board. These included several Spanish celebrities and TV personalities, with the most photogenic being Estivaliz Pereira, Miss España 2009; Patricia Rodríguez, Miss España 2008; José Manuel Montalvo, Míster España 2009; María José Suárez, Miss España 1999 and prominent TV personality; actress Lucía Hoyos; and TV personality Carma Chaparro.
If conditions permit, three races will be held tomorrow starting at 1200 local time.
Puerto Calero GP42 Global Cup
Oficial Practice Race
1. Quebramar (POR, Felipe Regojo)
2. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP, José María Ponce), +2:11
3. Roma (ITA, Paolo Cian), +2:24
4. Turismo Madrid (ESP, José María van der Ploeg), +2:24
5. Península Petroleum (GBR, John Bassadone), +2:36