Emirates Team New Zealand became the first team ever to win three consecutive MedCup Circuit regattas when they clinched the Portugal Trophy for the TP52 Series today off Portimao, winning by just 1.5 points from Torbjorn Tornqvist's Artemis.
With wins in Marseille, Cagliari and now Portimao, the Kiwi team, skippered by Dean Barker
(NZL), now lead the Audi MedCup Circuit by 52 points heading to the final regatta of the season, next month in Carthagena, Murcia Spain.
Seventh for Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) to Artemis' (SWE) disappointing tenth in today's one and only race was enough for the Kiwi team to prevail, but the final contest was a difficult one to call throughout with a streaky 5-9 knots of sea breeze mixed with some north westerly gradient wind, especially towards the windward mark.
With a 1.5 points lead in the regatta Artemis, missing tactician Paul Cayard
(USA) for the final day, could only make a modest opening at the pin end of the start line, while Bigamist 7, the Portuguese entry lead to the windward mark.
On the first downwind the Russian pair Valars and Synergy mined the left, inshore line and passed the Portuguese team with the Synergy winning from Valars, the first time the two Russians have taken the top two places.
The key move for Emirates Team New Zealand was on the second beat when they were able to halt the recovery of Artemis, tacking on top of them and bouncing them above the lay line, but even down the final run the breeze looked shaky, ready to shift or collapse at any minute.
Relief, once again, rather than elation was the mood among the hard working New Zealand outfit. As the time limit expired at 1600hrs and with it the chances of a second race, general satisfaction with another job well done was evident. The steely, professional face drops when the champagne comes on board, and they are getting rather used to it.
With Artemis in second for the regatta, Terry Hutchinson
's (USA) Quantum Racing finished in third, just 1.5 points ahead of Bigamist 7, who finished fourth overall for the third time this season.
Emirates Team New Zealand lead the Audi MedCup Circuit, 52 points astern are Matador (ARG) on 170.5 points but only five points behind them are Quantum Racing, third, and Artemis, fourth, both on 175.5 points.
Winning skipper Barker commented that throughout the regatta they had never felt like they were sailing as well as last month's win in Sardinia, confirming that they still have plenty to work on before Carthagena, Murcia, a venue which proved extremely challenging last year.
CEO and mast-man Grant Dalton (NZL), agreed: "We are relieved. It was a pretty tough regatta. I think we identified that as soon as we got here, that this was going to be tough, and I think we also identified Artemis as the boat which could beat us. And it felt that all the way. So we are just pleased to have got through another one really."
He continued: "It's a big lead now, but we know what can happen, you can still sail badly, it changes pretty quickly. There are always improvements to be made and we made plenty of mistakes in this regatta."
Audi MedCup Circuit 2009
Overall - Final
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 2+3+6+3+1+3+7= 25 points
2. Artemis (SWE), 3+4+2+2+4+1,5+10= 26,5 points
3. Quantum Racing (USA), 1+1+4+8+3+6+6= 29 points
4. Bigamist (POR), 5+5+1+1+8+7,5+3= 30,5 points
5. Bribón (ESP), 6+2+3+7+8+10,5+5= 40,5 points
Audi MedCup Circuit 2009
Overall (4 events)
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 38+27,5+28+25= 118,5 points
2. Matador (ARG), 36+47,5+42,5+44,5= 170,5 points
3. Quantum Racing (USA), 40+41,5+65+29= 175,5 points
4. Artemis (SWE), 37+62,5+49,5+26,5= 175,5 points
5. Bigamist (POR), 46+55,5+57+30,5= 189 points
Complete results: http://2009.medcup.org/results
Quotes of the day
(NZL) skipper Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
"The regatta, it did not feel like we sailed as well as we did in the last two regattas, so I think we are satisfied to win the event, but we could do a much better job in the way we sailed. I think we really worked hard to gain places where we could."
"It was a tricky day and it was always going to be, marginal on the forecast that we would race. But I think the results today show the strength and depth we now have in the fleet. All the teams can win races, and the improvement rate that has been most impressive this season has been Bigamist. They are tough competitors out there now."
(NZL), tactician Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
"It's a big relief. Artemis were leading going in to the one and only race and conditions were such that it was always going to be tricky. And we found ourselves in front of them (Artemis) and were able to tack on them on the second beat and they had to make two tacks. But anything could have happened. We gained another two points and we could be happier with the regatta, every race we have extended overall. You could not ask for more that."
"Now we need to keep the same processes going. It is possibly good that the next three boats are so close together, and they will be battling among each other as much as trying to hurt us."
(SWE), owner-helm Artemis (SWE):
"Today's result was a bad day, obviously. We did not perform at our best but it was close all the time, round the top mark and so on. Anyway I am pleased with the regatta, we really feel like we are moving forwards. That is most important thing. Maybe it made a little bit of a difference at the start (not having Paul Cayard) but we have speed on the boat and second, by just one and a half points is good."
Moises Farias (ESP), grinder Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP):
"There's been a nice battle this week, but it's a pity that our spinnaker went into the water on the second day. But the racing is like this and we've kept on working hard and we got the last race. But each trophy event is like a different competition, things change completely so we have to wait to the last one."