The Mean Machine team laid down the gauntlet to the other teams in the Audi MedCup by winning the practice race ahead of the start of the Marseille leg on Tuesday.
The ancient city ramparts around Marseille's Vieux Port are given over to an exhibition of hundreds of paintings but for most of the Audi MedCup Circuit crews gathered in France's third city this week the writing may be on the wall, written large on Monday by Peter DE RIDDER
's Mean Machine team when they seized victory in the practice race in the final 90 seconds.
After winning the opening regatta of the Audi MedCup Circuit two weeks ago in Alicante on Monday's warm-up contest, raced in 8-10 knots of southerly breeze amidst a spectacular Mediterranean amphitheatre bound to the east by L'Ile Maire and the Montagne de Marseille Veire, signaled a clear warning that DE RIDDER's team will be the crew to beat here.
Platoon powered by Team Germany, skippered by three times Olympic gold medallist Jochen SCHUEMANN
proved that their hard work in Valencia, tuning their new Rolf VROIJK designed boat and a hard week of crew training, may reveal a dividend this week. They were quickest off the start line and made the best tactical call to lead the race all the way until the last 400 metres, but showed very good speed, especially downwind.
The maiden race outing for USA-17 saw Larry ELLISON
(USA) enjoy his first sail on the TP52. With Russell COUTTS
(NZL) and James SPITHILL
(AUS) orchestrating the tactical decisions at the back of the boat, USA-17 was seventh at the first windward mark, four seconds behind sister-ship Artemis, and finished ninth.
While it was a gentle introduction for ELLISON, COUTTS and co to their new boat and the rest of the 14-boat fleet, local forecasters and team navigators are predicting at least 20 knots of Mistral breeze for Tuesdays opening races.
"Twenty knots would be just fine for us. There is less chance for the tactician to get it wrong when the breeze is up,"
grins Ray DAVIES
(NZL), Mean Machine's tactician, "But really, we are a good team and the crew work is generally very good, so we are happy in the breeze. We had a new mainsail on today which we were testing for when the wind is a little more down the range, but otherwise have not really done anything much to the boat. It is not quite as busy on the start lines with a couple less boats and the start line was a little longer today. We will be out for a clean start tomorrow and to really let the boat do the work. There is nothing specific contributing to our speed, but we have good sails and good trimmers and generally a nice rig set up which is easy to tune. I don't think there is anything in the hulls particularly because it is the same shape as others."
SCHUEMANN, Platoon Powered by Team Germany, was not reading too much into their performance today, "We have done some good work on the boat since Alicante, and have learned the right things about the boat. We obviously struggled to have the boat finished before the first event, and now we have settled in a little bit better, have done a little a bit of work on rig tuning, optimised a few things, but essentially learning the rake and sails is a major thing.
"We are always optimists but I think we had the right strategy it was so clear which side was favoured today. We did all the right things and that made us look really good but in general lining up with the rest of the competition we have always been happy how we do. We have a good boat - we'll see how it goes,"
Audi MedCup - http://2008.medcup.org