Barcelona, the Olympic city of 1992, looks set to witness the closest finish to the Audi MedCup Circuit for four years when the TP52's of the 52 Series shoot out for the 2011 Audi MedCup Circuit title.
, skippered by America's Cup winner Ed Baird
(USA), need a solid final regatta if they are to hold off the advances of Italy's Audi Azzurra Sailing Team
and lift the title.
"We are really looking forwards to Barcelona. We have a job to do there and are confident we can do it,"
said Ed Reynolds (USA), Quantum Racing's
project manager. "When we look back to Cartagena our feeling is very much not to panic, if there is nothing particularly broken then we don't have to worry about trying to fix things, but just to focus on trying to the do the things that we know we do well better.
"We have an exceptional team who are used to closing out major titles, like the America's Cup and World Championships and so I don't think pressure or confidence will come into it.
"I think that we have to make sure we are fully optimised for the conditions expected, which might be something like 12-16kts sea breezes with the choppy seas we saw last year. Those conditions I certainly feel are not a weakness for us."
Audi Azzurra Sailing Team
, skippered by Guillermo Parada
(ARG) with Vasco Vascotto
(ITA) as strategist and Francesco Bruni
(ITA) as tactician have proven the most consistent 52 Series team over the second half of this season. Audi Azzurra Sailing Team
have just finished second overall at the Region of Murcia-Cartagena Trophy in August after July's Region of Sardinia Trophy off Cagliari where they also finished runners up. They are the only team to have been on the podium at each and every regatta this year.
The Audi Azzurra Sailing Team
crew which last year as Matador finished third overall, only five points shy of Quantum Racing
who were second in 2010, show every sign of finishing their season on a high. They could press Quantum Racing
right to the wire heading into 2011's Barcelona finale only 3.5 points behind long time Circuit leaders Quantum Racing.
"We will arrive in Barcelona very highly motivated, with a high morale with great support. We know that the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, Audi and Roemmers Family members will all be there to support us, and that's why we want to finish the season in the best possible way. We expect to have a good week,"
offers Parada, Audi Azzurra Sailing Team's
Since winning the Cascais Trophy in Portugal the American team Quantum Racing
have topped the overall standings after each of the four regattas so far this season but their lead was effectively halved in Murcia last month.
The final regatta of the season, the Conde de Godó - Barcelona Trophy starts in just one week's time when the battle for the title might even become a three cornered one as the German flagged team on Udo Schuetze's Container
are still only 11.5 points behind the 52 Series Circuit leaders.
"The title victory in the 2011 Audi MedCup Circuit is far from over. A good series could easily get back 10 or 15 points of Quantum Racing's lead,"
said Markus Wieser
(GER) skipper-helm of Container
. "It's all in their hands for sure, but they also didn't sail so well in the past. We think the hardest competitor to beat will be Bribon again, because they are the fastest boat in light air. Even they might be able to grab the overall trophy. The beat us by 18 points in Cartagena and Quantum Racing by 13.5. So, why not do so again?"
, racing in the home water of owner Jose Cusi, is far from out of the title race, 18 points off the Circuit lead in fourth place. Recent winners of the Region of Murcia-Cartagena Trophy, they are considered the form team in light to moderate airs.
The schedule for the title shoot out regatta differs slightly from the four preceding events, with the official Practice Race on Monday September 12th and points racing for the 52 Series starting on Tuesday 11th.
As it stands it is certainly not easy to predict which team will be crowned 2011 Audi MedCup Circuit champions.
Historically Barcelona's Garbi sea breeze is slightly less reliable in September but will usually make an appearance, blowing anywhere between 11 and 16-17kts from around 200 to 210 degrees. The gradient breeze is sometime the brisk Easterly Levante which has marked the weather in the last few days in the Catalonian capital.
Different TP52s have won in each regatta this season and it would not be a surprise to find a fifth boat winning the Conde de Godó - Barcelona Trophy. The fleet is due to be at full strength with the return of Tony Langley's Gladiator