The City of Marseille Trophy Regatta came to a premature end on Saturday afternoon with the famous Mistral wind still blowing strong. At more than 28 knots on the Rade Sud race area, racing was abandoned without anyone even leaving the Vieux Port of Marseille, and USA-17, the overnight leaders, ended their one and only regatta Audi MedCup Circuit with a win. Just behind them was the Swedish boat Artemis with BMW ORACLE Racing team-mates on the identical Reichel/Pugh-designed hull. Artemis was six points adrift of the lead after eight races including one 40-miles coastal race.
The partnership between the two boats USA-17 and Artemis- the new TP52 of the Torbjörn TORNQVIST's (SWE) 2007 champions - has been a key part of the American boat's success in Marseille, which was helmed through parts of most races by ELLISON himself. Although the new USA-17 was only launched on 21 May, the settings and tuning notes gathered from Artemis in Alicante earlier last month were be applied directly to USA-17 to get her up to speed quickly.
After a modest sixth and fifth on the opening day, USA-17 won three races to complement their two third places, a second and a fourth places, always looking quick and at home over a regatta where the wind speed never fell below 15 knots.
"Marseille has been an awesome race track, really interesting with plenty of breeze, but the good thing as well is that it has always been changing with the shifts, so there has never been a 'must-have' side of the course. It has been about playing the shifts all the time," said USA-17's helm and co-strategist James SPITHILL (AUS).
"We exceeded our expectations by a lot at this event. We are more than happy to win. I think obviously Reichel/Pugh designers did a good job giving us a nice design especially in the conditions we had. We had the boat moving along nicely. The team combined well, quickly, and we can still improve a lot more, but we did enough to get there in the end," said COUTTS.
"I would love to do more on this Circuit. It is a great circuit. It is not that we don't want to do more, but we have to focus on the multihull for the America's Cup. That's obvious, but there will be a time when we come back into this class and enjoy it again."
"And it is great for Artemis, our team effectively finished first and second, which is good. We really have exceeded my expectations. I was seriously saying to the guys beforehand that a mid-fleet place would be a result for us, given we practiced for just one day!!!
"We were fortunate that nothing broke because it is a brand new boat, and that the sails fitted. We were able to sail the boat reasonably effectively, those three factors really combined to make our success."
Jose CUSI's (ESP) Bribón, steered by Dean BARKER (NZL) with double Olympic medallist Ross MACDONALD (CAN) on tactics, arrived in Marseille in second place in the Audi MedCup Circuit standings. Bribón leaves France's third city with a seven point lead over Artemis, the boat that moved furthest up the rankings.
Over a challenging regatta where three boats were eliminated from racing due to damage inflicted from collisions at the first mark of Thursday's coastal race from which two boats were subsequently disqualified, Bribón finished third overall in the regatta. In spite of many requests for redress and a reduced fleet size at the end of the week Bribón's consistency continues to prevail.
"We are more satisfied with the result than the performance in reality," said Ignacio TRIAY, Bribón's project manager and trimmer, "We had been suffering a lot with the conditions of wind and waves because we could feel that the boat was not going as well as the boats leading here in France. We have been working hard all week trying to find the right settings for the rig and also improving the crew work on board. We were not good enough to win the event here and we feel that maybe we could do better with these conditions, but on the other hand we are really satisfied because the boats that were going well in light airs in Alicante, were not so good here and vice versa. The boats with problems in light airs have done well here in Marseille. So we have been consistent - never brilliant, but always there, which is why we are leading the Audi MedCup circuit."
Marseille has offered fabulous race conditions to the 14 TP52's that participated. Strong winds, bright sunshine and an unique setting are but a few of the components of the regatta's success. The race course area is peppered with an array of challenging shifts and is always able to produce great tactical racing, while the coastal race to the south east to picturesque Cassis, was set against one of the most stunning, rocky backdrops in the Mediterranean. Marseille is a great venue for the Audi MedCup and it is the intention of the Audi MedCup organisers to return here next year.
Audi MedCup - http://2008.medcup.org