The demands of a five month season which offers no discards at all and aggregates points from each and every race means that hitting the start line of the first race of the 2011 Audi MedCup Circuit with boat and crew at the highest level of competitiveness is absolutely paramount. At such a level the age old maxim that ‘you can’t win the top Trophy at the first event of the season but you can certainly lose it’ has never been truer.
And with an incredible complement of six brand new TP52’s which have been on the water in Europe for only a few weeks, and four new, ‘fresh from the wrapper’ Soto 40’s, there is a considerable early advantage to be gained by ensuring the new boat and the crew are in the best possible shape.
The first 2011 Audi MedCup Circuit regatta starts in just one week, when the world’s leading regatta circuit returns to Cascais, Lisbon, Portugal. Some of the leading contenders in both classes have already managed to put in more than a dozen training days and some have already raced, but from the middle of this week, the crews are expected to be on the Atlantic waters off the renowned strong winds venue, polishing their crew work and fine tuning their new boats.
Racing for the Cascais Trophy starts with the official practice race for the 52 Series on Tuesday 17th May after a warning signal at 1300hrs. The first official line up of the Soto 40 Class is therefore on Wednesday 18th May when the 40 Series takes on their official training race. Points racing for the 52 Series starts Wednesday with three races scheduled for that day, then windward leeward races on Thursday, Friday and Sunday and the Coastal Race on Saturday. Soto40’s race windward-leeward races only on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
On Monday 16th at midday two teams officially christen their new TP52’s, Italy’s Audi Azzurra Sailing Team and the Franco-German crew of Audi Sailing Team powered by All4One. During the afternoon there will be an open workshop session with designer Rolf Vrolijk and two of Audi’s leading car designers.
It is nearly impossible to set out who the form teams should be in Cascais. The Franco-German team Audi All4 One finished second on their debut at a breezy Cascais last year, even with a 2008 build boat. Jochen Schuemann and Sebastien Col return to Cascais with a solid season under their belts, but with a brand new boat which, inevitably, they will still be getting to grips with. Audi MedCup Circuit 2008 and current World Champions Quantum Racing have a brand new Botin Partners boat which they have been tuning up with a crew which has several key changes since last seasons, not least the arrival of America’s Cup winner Ed Baird as skipper-helm.
“To be frank we are not quite where we would really want to be, but such is the way life always seems to be with a brand new boat and several crew changes.” Confesses Quantum Racing’s project manager Ed Reynolds, “We are perhaps 75% of the way to where we want to be in, say, a couple of events time and for sure the few days of training off Cascais before racing starts will be very valuable to the team.”
“There are certain differences in the styles and approaches of Ed (Baird) to that of Terry Hutchinson and they will take some time to get used to for the crew. But for sure we are very happy with our new boat, we would absolutely not trade it with anyone else’s in the fleet. And at this stage our objective must be to leave Cascais still being in a position to win the Circuit at the end of the season. After all that is the goal!”
But perhaps what appears to be the most seamless transition to a new boat so far may have been that of Audi Azzurra Sailing Team’s with their new Vrolijk design which they won Palma Vela Regatta with. Strategist of the Audi Azzurra Sailing Team Vasco Vascotto (ITA), twice a member of an overall Circuit winning crew comments on their Palma win: “The races in Palma unfortunately don’t, of course, count for the Audi Med Cup standings, but adds to our huge enthusiasm and bolsters our knowledge that things were done properly. The crew has shown we are well prepared, and we will try to start out in Cascais on the best footing, but we know that the opponents are going to be really close!”. And the team’s tactician Francesco Bruni (ITA) echoes Vascotto’s sentiments: “We’re beginning the 2011 season knowing that we can do well. In in Palma we started to know the new boat and we are discovering its potential. The boat seems good, but I emphasize that our strength is the crew, and the victory in the “warm up” regatta of Palma, is a demonstration of it.”
In the Soto 40 series the experience of the Class president and founder Norberto Alvarez Vitale (ARG) who will race in Europe for the first time with his team, will be up against Spain’s Iberdrola Sailing Team which have been training for nearly two weeks off Valencia, and Great Britian’s Ngoni owned and skippered by Tony Buckingham. And the pride of Portugal’s Bigamist Sailing Team, owned and skippered by the redoubtable Pedro Mendonca will be racing on home waters in the Soto 40.
The Audi MedCup Circuit Open Village opens on Monday 16th May and is open each day through to Sunday 22nd May with free public access to a wide variety of interactive fun and informative displays including the LiveZone, a free access zone where the visitors will be able to enjoy a stage with a big screen where the best images of the event will be shown. There are live music concerts each evening.
All of the daily race action is broadcast live on the innovative Audi MedCup TV with live comment and commentary from the race course, supplemented by 3-D real time tracking from Virtual Eye.
The Sail&Play is designed for the little ones including a wind tunnel, a pool race with Micromagic boats, pedal boats for children, an inflatable TP52 for them to jump on, a giant puzzle as well as a climbing wall built on a 5 meters high buoy.
The Fun Zone has with PlayStations pods running GT5, pc´s loaded with a virtual skipper game, a grinder simulator, a workshop which teaches sailing by using games, and interactive screens to learn all about the Audi MedCup Circuit.