Today sees the practice race for the 52 Series in Barcelona, Spain as the Audi MedCup reaches its climax this week with Quantum Racing (USA) leading by 3.5pts over Audi Azzurra Sailing Team (ITA).
With only 18 points separating the top four teams - Quantum Racing, Audi Azzurra Sailing Team, Container
- on the overall standings, the reality is that any one of these four teams harbour realistic hopes of winning the 2011 Audi MedCup Circuit title.
"It is exciting that it has come down to the last event this year,"
Quantum Racing's skipper-helm Ed Baird said. "We don´t look at our positions as though we have a lead. It's virtually tied. Any race can erase that coupla points that we have. We just need to go out and have a good regatta, and to keep an eye on what´s been happening later on in the week and then see what we have to do from there."
In fact the pre-regatta strategy of Quantum Racing
differs little from those of their main rivals, but as sure as the final races of the season roll in, so the screw will tighten and winning those private duels and matches becomes vital.
Second placed Audi Azzurra Sailing Team
are not light on match racing talent. Tactician Francesco Bruni (ITA) until recently topped this season's ISAF Match Racing Open rankings and has two America's Cup campaigns to his credit.
"We know well that this week can´t be a match race between us and Quantum Racing, because there are some other teams like Container or Bribón who are still close, they are all within 15 points of us. If you have two bad races, they´ll be ahead of you, and I´m sure Quantum´s thinking like this as well,"
said the Italian.
Beyond match racing, Container's skipper-helm Markus Wieser (GER) and trimmer Matti Paschen (GER) arrived in Barcelona buoyed by just having won the Dragon Gold Cup for the first time, whilst Bribon (ESP) prepare for their swansong regatta on owner's Jose Cusi's home waters unbeaten for the last two regattas, winners of the Copa del Rey and last month's Region of Murcia-Cartagena Trophy Regatta.
Those top teams field largely unchanged crew line ups but, in their bid to make their final regatta of the season their best, others have changed key roles.
Synergy Russian Sailing Team's management have brought 1988 Olympic gold medallist Thierry Peponnet (FRA) out of the coach boat in to the role of tactician to work with new navigator Johan Barne (SWE).
Barne was America's Cup navigator with Victory Challenge, but is an accomplished match race crew as well as a Soling Olympic crew who finished fifth in 1992 on these same waters. On Niklas Zennstrom's Ran (GBR/SWE), Morgan Larson (USA) steps on board as tactician replacing Gavin Brady (NZL). Tony Langley's British flagged Gladiator return to the Audi MedCup Circuit with Tomasso Chieffi (ITA) as tactician.