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22 August 2006, 10:19 am
A Sticky and Tricky Day
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Athens Trophy 2006
Athens, Greece

Patience and concentrating on the last minute changes were the key virtues that contributed most to John COOK's British flagged Cristabella holding the overall lead after the first two races of the Breitling MedCup TP52's Athens Trophy on a hot, sticky Saronic Gulf.
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While ashore the mercury rose into the early 40's, the Cristabella crew kept their cool amidst the changes on the Saronic Gulf to post a second and a first to lead by three points from a consistent scoring Mutua Madrilena. Peter DE RIDDER and crew's pair of third places leave them second for the day.

It was always going to be difficult. Six start sequences with only two races completed tell one side of the story. A first race was abandoned at the windward mark when the breeze shifted to leave those on the left laying the turning buoy within the first few minutes, and three general recalls were the result of the universal desire to nail the favoured end of the line.

But Cristabella started sweetly in both races and led until they were passed by Ian WALKER and the crew of Siemens, who went on to win the first contest. With double Olympic medalist Charlie McKEE calling tactics for helmsman Tim POWELL and Andrew CAPE navigating, Cristabella lead to the left of the first beat where the best wind pressure was to get the better of Mutua Madrilena. While both Mutua and third placed Warpath (Steve and Fred HOWE) took the initiative to gybe set or gybe at the mark, Cristabella stuck to their guns and were rewarded with a handy lead at what proved to be the final leeward turn. With the course shortened at the top of the second beat Cristabella won from Caixa Galicia skippered by Roberto BERMUDEZ.

The winds swung in direction through both races and often there were big differences in pressure from one side of the course to the other.

With an average windspeed of no more than five or six knots, there were holes, especially in the second race. Warpath were just one victim, snared for minutes on what proved the final beat of the second race.

After winning the first race Siemens struggled to make the same impression in the second race. A modest start meant they ended up on the wrong side of the first beat. They recovered to finish eleventh but were protesting the race committee for what they alleged was an improperly laid finish line to the shortened course.

"It was a nice day for us, a long, tricky day. It was good racing and shows that anyone can beat anyone on the day, and here every dog will have its day and today was ours. It was the kind of day where being patient pays off. We are all new to sailing with each other at the back of the boat, but Capey (Andrew CAPE) is quite relaxed and that makes it easier." Admitted McKEE, whose first TP52 regatta this is.

"Both times it was down to being patient. The second race was quite a late call as to which side to go. It wasn't like you could look it was obvious which way to go, but it just played out that the middle wasn't that good. It was hard to cross from one side to the other."

"Upwind we were going nicely, downwind I think Siemens had the edge and did a real nice job on us on the first run (of the first race)."

"We had the sea breeze from 230 degrees today and that was directly downwind from the island so the wind was fluctuating about 40 degrees. We felt very happy with the way we sailed today. We missed one main wind shift and then after that nailed every opportunity that came our way. It was a real heads out of the boat type day. Our crew work was excellent" Explained Mutua Madrilena's tactician Ray DAVIES, "The one mistake we made was going too far right on starboard and were back in the pack. We just figured it was never over. There were always opportunities. We got quite frustrated on the first beat of the first race when we had to go round the back of a ship which came through the course, but we got back into it. But we had good starts today. Each of them, all six were good."

"We figured that we would be close to target weight. We figured it would be a bit touch and go and so we didn't drink anything in the second race and ended up way under. The weight just pours off you in this heat."

With their win and eleventh today Siemens lie third overall going into tomorrow's 80 mile offshore race, with Bribon lying fourth.

Vicky LOW (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The Siemens crew practice in Athens:© Richard PAGE
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