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19 September 2006, 09:35 am
Final Event For MEDCUP
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Trofeo Baleària 2006
Ibiza, Spain

With series leader Mutua Madrilena poised for victory or preparing to take on all comers, the stage is set for the decisive final races of the season long Breitling MEDCUP TP52 championship at the Trofeo Baleària in Ibiza, Spain.
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When the 20 boat fleet lines up today off Ibiza town with the twelfth century castle, which was built to defend the island, and the Faro de Botofoch lighthouse forming a distant backdrop, it will be down to series leader Peter DE RIDDER (NED) and his team to repel the advances of all who seek to topple their 14 point lead.

DE RIDDER and crew, who today announced their intention to compete in the next Volvo Ocean Race, know they need only to sail a consistent series to lift the overall title.

But as has been proven at numerous regattas this season, this TP52 class does not simply bow down and respect Olympic medal, America's Cup or Round the World Race winners. A momentary lapse of concentration on the start line, or an ill chosen tactical call can mean a heavy loss in a fleet of this standard.

No Easy Races

With light and fickle winds expected for the first couple of days of racing, there will be no easy races at a venue which is all new to the TP52 fleet.

'Today's practice race proved that there will be some surprises here,' warned DE RIDDER, 'It was very shifty and very random at times, light and difficult. But I like the tension here. I am not worried. We are well prepared having just done the Farr 40 World Championships which was a great opportunity to do a lot of starts in a high quality fleet, and many mark roundings, so it was nice preparation.'

According to their nearest rivals, Steve and Fred HOWE's (USA) Warpath, Mutua Madrilena's lead is not impregnable. The majority of their crew arrive in Ibiza well rested and ready to do battle.

Only three of their key sailors, including tactician Terry HUTCHINSON (USA), have been racing at major regattas. In their final push to overturn their arch rivals on Mutua Madrilena, Warpath arrives in Ibiza having had some undisclosed work done to her keel.

Changes For Warpath

'We have made a couple of changes. I think we'll get through the first couple of days and see how it goes, but I don't think it will be for the worse,' commented Warpath's tactician HUTCHINSON, 'We are looking forward to a good week of racing. The Mean Machine guys have sailed very well all summer and we have sailed well. It will be down to this week, which is fine. If they sail the way they have sailed for the previous five regattas and we sail the way we have then we will get to Saturday with them the winners. But if we can raise our game a little and they falter a little then we will be there to take advantage.'

'For us it is not about raising our game much. Start a little better, sail a little smarter in the open course, picking better lanes to sail in,' admits HUTCHINSON.

'But it is still all on here. With more boats [than Athens] and more traffic for both of us. Our team is pretty relaxed and ready to go.'

Battle For Third

There is a battle in prospect for third and fourth with the Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP) skippered Caixa Galicia having a 26 point lead over Siemens, skippered by Ian WALKER (GBR).

While Caixa had their best result in Athens, third, with John KOSTECKI (USA) calling tactics KOSTECKI has returned to his longstanding role with Michael ILLBRUCK's (GER) Pinta while WALKER will be supported by tactician Morgan LARSON (USA) with Ian MOORE (GBR) looking after the navigator's role on Siemens.

'I think that the situation with Warpath and Mutua Madrilena can be good for us. They are quite a long way ahead on points but our intention is to come here are win the regatta. That would be a good note to end the season on for Caixa Galicia,' explained BERMUDEZ.

Last week they were rivals one the race courses off Italy's Costa Smerelda, but Paul CAYARD (USA) and three-time America's Cup winner Russell COUTTS (NZL) return to join forces to get the best out of ISAF Vice-President George ANDREADIS (GRE) and Jaime YLLERA's (ESP) Lexus, with COUTTS - fresh from winning the Farr 40 World title - steering.

Racing starts today with windward-leeward contests expected to encounter light breezes. Coastal races take place on Wednesday and Friday with the final races due on Saturday.

Carlos GESTEIRA (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Preparing for the start in Ibiza:© Breitling MEDCUP
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