'I think we are happy with what we achieved this year,' summed up Karol JABLONSKI (POL), the transplanted Polish match racing legend who has been given the task of steering the boat. 'We had big expectations but considering that we had such short preparation time we were able to achieve quite a lot. We're happy, but we know it's not the end. This is just the first step towards 2007 and we have to work hard and keep the momentum going if we're going to get better.'
The Spanish team was one of two challengers who joined just ahead of the initial challenge deadline in December 2004. The team is well funded and acquired perhaps the best 'starter package' on the market, the American OneWorld assets from the 2003 Cup. With that solid base from which to work, Desafío Español opened the season strongly in the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 4 - their first opportunity to impress the home crowd.
Desafío Español won six of its eleven matches, and finished equal fifth on points with Victory Challenge (SWE). The Spanish were not favoured by the tiebreak as they had lost a close match against the Swedish team, but the team had showed enough potential to build some momentum for the season. In the fleet races of Act 5, Desafío Español had a much harder time, posting a pile of eighth and ninth place finishes before salvaging some respect with a win in the final contest.
It was in Malmö-Skåne, Sweden however where Desafío Español really started to fire on all cylinders. The team again posted six wins and lost to Victory Challenge, however the Swedish team had trouble of their own, so the six victories were enough to secure fifth place by virtue of winning the tiebreak over the Italian +39. With a third and two fifths in the shortened fleet race regatta, the Spanish showed massive improvement over their fleet racing in Valencia, finishing tied on points for fourth, falling to fifth on the tiebreak.
'We are sailing really, really fast and making good starts. It's much better than a few weeks ago,' said crewman Pablo ROSANO (ESP), during Louis Vuitton Act 7. 'Now, the four big teams are looking over the shoulders looking to see where we are. We are in the main group and confident we can win.'
In Trapani, Italy however, the Spanish took a step back with its worst match racing result to date, a four win performance that saw them beat only the teams which finished behind them on the points table. The team looked to the fleet races for redemption and found it, winning the final race en route to a fourth place ranking, their best Louis Vuitton Act placing of the year. With this, Desafío Español regained some momentum to carry it through the off season.
'I am happy overall with our match racing performance and we can also look back on winning two fleet races as well,' JABLONSKI said summing up the season. 'I think the entire event in Malmö-Skåne was good for us. We are knocking on the door of the four strongest teams and we had a couple of tight races with some of them. But we have a long way to go to be competitive with them.
'We've been working very hard in the last eight months, but it's difficult to reach the level of those guys. It's very hard. They've been together for a long, long time. They have more advanced boats and performance development. We have a good package to start with but we haven't had a lot of time to make modifications. And it's not just technical aspects that we need to improve. The crew, all of us, are still learning how to sail the boat faster. But now we are beginning to know what we have to improve, and that's the first step.'
The plan for the winter has the team training in Valencia since the end of racing in Trapani. The Spaniards have been sailing throughout November from their bright green base in the Port America's Cup. According to JABLONSKI, the sailing team will be off in December and January before reconvening in February to prepare for the 2006 Louis Vuitton Acts.
The biggest project for the team is its new boat. Speculation is that the Spanish are building ESP 86, although the team will not confirm that sail number and is not able to say when it will race the new boat. Regardless, the new boat is scheduled to be complete in April and sailed throughout the summer of 2006.
'We hope that it's a good step forward and will be fast and that we'll be able to make a step towards the bigger teams,' JABLONSKI says. 'We're going to spend a lot of time testing this new boat before we look at building the second new boat. We're not in a hurry with the new boat because the old boats are being changed again and we want to see how they do with these modifications.'
After one year of work, Desafío Español sits in fourth place among the challengers on the Louis Vuitton Ranking table. Being amongst the top four challengers is the magic number the team needs to achieve - in 2007, the top four challengers advance to the semi finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup, while the remaining seven are finished. For JABLONSKI staying in the top four, while threatening the leading teams is critical.
'It's been a good year. A hard year of work and it's been a nice eight months with this team. It's been an important start to our project, and we'll keep working hard to see how we can improve for next year.'
The following table shows all race results from the three Match Racing Acts of the 2005 season: Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 4, Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 and Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 8. The right column shows the total amount of points gained against each team throughout the year. The bottom row shows the total amount of races won per Louis Vuitton Act.
|© ACM 2005|
The following table lists all finishes during the three Fleet Racing Acts of the 2005 season: Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 5, Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 7 and Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 9. The curve of the results charts the progress of the team over the year.
|© ACM 2005|