While the legendary local Mistral wind may not have blown to its full force, 20 knots was more than enough to produce a challenging and memorable opening day to the City of Marseille Trophy, the second regatta of the 2008 Audi MedCup Circuit.
The MedCup in France carries memories the international crew of the Argentine TP52 Matador will be happy to bury today. In Hyères last year they broke their mast during the final regatta of the season and had to consign to the deep their hopes of a top three finish overall. But on Tuesday the international crew mastered the Mistral and used the awkward swell to best effect and emerged from the three excellent races leading the regattas by just one point.
With multiple Star World Champion Vince BRUN
(USA) calling tactics Matador earned two second places and a seventh place to hold off the advances of the new USA 17 of BMW ORACLE Racing.
With owner Larry ELLISON
(USA) sharing the steering with James SPITHILL
(AUS), and Russell COUTTS
(NZL) on tactics, USA 17 improved as the crew learned their new boat in the testing conditions, rising from sixth in the first race, to fifth in the second before winning the third, just getting the better of their sister-ship Artemis on the finish line.
In the shadow of Marseilles' Pointe Rouge there was no more than the swish of a fighter's cape between Matador and Mean Machine on the finish line of the first race. Peter DE RIDDER
's (NED) Mean Machine had lead from the first turn, but Matador closed on the final run, earning with downwind speed and some excellent surfing, using every wave to best effect, but were denied by just one second.
Artemis, sailed by the reigning MedCup Circuit crew and steered by owner Torbjörn TORNQVIST
(SWE) won their first race with their new 2008 boat, extending to win my more than one minute. But this second race proved a punishing one for the Mean Machine team who had to do penalty turns on the first run and finished last.
The third race saw another close finish with USA 17 just scraping home ahead of Artemis, with Mean Machine challenging with a final gybe on the line and all three boats finishing within a boat length of each other. Matador would have been better than their seventh place finish but for a misunderstanding as they tried to cross Desafio on the first beat.
"We had two good race and were pleased to get back to seventh in that third one. I though we had been told we could cross ahead of Desafio and then we realized we weren't. It was just a misunderstanding and it was only when they hailed us to do our turns I realized,"
explained tactician BRUN.
"I think we felt confident with boat speed and handling,"
said Guillermo PARADA
(ARG), Matador's skipper and helmsman, "We didn't do anything special just let the boat do its job and stay out of trouble and not make any mistakes which are expensive.
"It is a good feeling to be leading the City of Marseille Trophy but there is still a long way to go obviously we are very happy and looking forward to continuing this way.
"Today it is Juan Pablo CADARIO's 40th birthday every time it is his birthday we have a good day and luckily today we could give him a good present."
But in the long run, the 2008 Audi MedCup Circuit, it is consistency which will prevail and no-one was more consistent than Bribon. With owner Jose CUSI (ESP) on board enjoying the fulsome downwind surfing at up to 20 knots at times, Ross MACDONALD
(CAN) and Dean BARKER
(NZL) combined with some excellent crew work to post three fourth places to regain their overall lead in the Audi MedCup Circuit.
Audi MedCup - http://2008.medcup.org