After what feels like summer diet of modest breezes and exacting sailing, somewhat starved of adrenalin, yesterday was a chance to unleash the beast that lurks inside the TP52s to enjoy a magnificent course which offered the 21 boat fleet a good test of all points of sailing against the spectacular backdrop formed by the island.
While Cristabella built a comfortable lead, second place for Peter DE RIDDER's (NED) Monaco Mutua Madrilena Mean Machine team leaves them with a seven point overall lead in the regatta.
But as Mutua's nearest rivals, Warpath - Fred and Steve HOWE's (USA) Dean BARKER (NZL) skippered boat - were hobbled severely when their backstay broke twice and could only limp to a 14th today, DE RIDDER's crew moved to within touching distance of overall victory in the Breitling MEDCUP TP52 series overall.
With just two days of racing left in Ibiza, Mutua Madrilena's lead is now 40 points over Warpath.
'It was an awesome day's racing,' confirmed Mutua's tactician Ray DAVIES (NZL), 'It is extremely unfortunate for the Warpath and we would rather win racing against them on the water, but it was a bit of a relief for us to see it happen. Each of these races we have been under a fair bit of tension not to make any mistakes, and that did take some of the pressure of us. As we move in to the final races now we can start to look at the discards and I think we only need another nine points on Warpath to win it, which is a nice position to be in.'
A three mile opening beat in 13-15 knots of south easterly breeze saw Cristabella ease round the windward mark in first place. With Tim POWELL (GBR) steering and Charlie MCKEE (USA) calling the tactics they opened a lead of over one minute on a long Code Zero reach when they first to set the masthead sail, powering away from Michael ILLBRUCK (GBR) steering Pinta, Stuart ROBINSON's (GBR) Stay Calm Santa Ana and Mutua Madrilena.
Approaching the high cliffs on the south east side of the island Cristabella ventured a little closer to the land and spent some of their lead in search of a favourable lift along the cliffs, and some flatter water while Pinta and Mutua stuck further offshore. The three lead boats were only seconds apart as they passed under the towering cliffs at the lighthouse at Punta De Codolar, where a dozen or so spectators had gathered at the eastern tip of Formentara to see the turn.
But as they set spinnakers for a memorable sleigh ride down the south side of the island, in the biggest swells of the season, Cristabella again rebuilt their lead.
On the long reach and fetch under jib top and staysail back towards Ibiza, powering along in flat water with the wind to 20-22 knots in the gusts up the west side of the island Cristabella was once again more than a minute clear by the time they passed between the Ahorcados and Puercos Islands.
Mutua Madrilena seized second from Pinta when their halyard lock failed during a gybe and they lost their spinnaker momentarily. Pinta went on to take third gun while Russell COUTTS (NZL) and Paul CAYARD (USA) redeemed themselves after opening the regatta with an 18,17,12 when they took fourth, holding off Santa Ana.
'The key for us was when we got the Code Zero up early. We had a small lead and then that was pretty much it. After that it was really a case of trying to keep the wheels on the trolley,' recalled Cristabella's trimmer Tom MCWILLIAM (IRL). 'It was great to win but even better to sail somewhere with some decent wind. The average wind speed was probably only 18 knots but it was great sailing. We were touching 20 surfing and probably averaging 16-17 knots downwind.'
'We were able to just sneak round the windward mark in the lead,' reported Cristabella's helm POWELL, 'There was a big coming together in the last 100 metres and we just had the starboard tack advantage. Charlie [MCKEE, tactician] is very solid in these situations. We had decided we would set the Code Zero when we were on the beat and had it all set up to go. We were prepared to trade a few lengths to get it set after the mark, but that was the key. Downwind we just worked incredibly hard, hiking hard, trimming and steering. Everything was just coming together and that paid a real dividend. On the fetch back we could see that the boats behind were still on jibs but we figured that there would be more of chance to lose the lead if we messed up the change, so we stuck with the jib top and staysail. But it was great to sail the boats in conditions the boats really excel in.'
Warpath's Terry HUTCHINSON (USA) remained outwardly objective, despite the bitter disappointment of the day, 'For us it almost feels like a good day in the end to have been able to beat some boats. We were going upwind on the way out to the start and 'bang' the backstay just let go. We asked for a delay which the race officers were good enough to allow us, but some three minutes into the race it went again. On the long jib reach we were finally able to run a sheet up and able to race, so to come in 14th feels like an achievement for us. It was a real test for the guys' abilities and composure on board. But, what can you do? What can you do? The only thing for us now is to go back out tomorrow, we have obviously lost the points, but it would be good to go out and redeem ourselves with some good results.'