After five races at the City of Marseille Trophy regatta, the second event of the 2008 Audi MedCup Circuit, it is the reigning MedCup champions Artemis which leads by two points from the supremely consistent Spanish Bribón.
If the opening day of the regatta offered a modest introduction to 'Mistral-lite' conditions, 15-19 knots, Wednesday's two windward-leeward contests met with conditions much closer to the upper racing limit for the Audi MedCup fleet of TP52s.
After an initial postponement, waiting for the wind to drop enough, there were still 22 knots blowing from the Mistral's hallmark northwest direction when race 4 started. With the windward mark set under the cliffs of the Isle du Frioul the breeze may have been strong, but it was erratic at times on the approach to the top turn.
Long, spectacular surfs downwind on the limit of control at times, ended with a bumpy turn at the leeward gate just offshore from Marseille's Pointe Rouge, overlooked by the spectacular Montagnes de Marseille Veyre.
The 2007 circuit winners Artemis were on regular form. Tactician John KOSTECKI (USA) helped owner-helm Torbjörn TORNQVIST
(SWE) to make two solid starts, while other contenders faltered. And getting into phase with the shifting breeze was key, a talent KOSTECKI has proven to be strong on over his years on this circuit with different boats, all complemented by solid crew work from the BMW ORACLE Racing Team who fill the core positions.
"I like these kind of conditions, windy, wavy and physically tough, just love it,"
enthused TORNQVIST. "Good, tight racing. We are getting there, we are working better as a team and getting over my long lay off. It is starting to come together. It shows that we are performing better. It was so enjoyable. Tough conditions, testing and it helps when you come off the water having done well. We do well in the windy conditions when the quality of this team is playing off."
Artemis chased their Reichel/Pugh-designed sistership USA-17 of BMW ORACLE Racing across the finish line to take second in the first race only 15 seconds behind with Platoon by Team Germany earning third.
A 12th from the first race of the regatta is weighty ballast in this white hot fleet for Artemis, but being able to return regular scores, second and third in these bruising conditions was impressive today. Peter DE RIDDER
's Mean Machine (MON) which lead into this regatta, had a problem on the start line of the first race and was left flat footed, to start last. Whilst in the second race USA-17 was judged to be one of four boats over the start line and forced to re-start. Russell COUTTS
(NZL) and the USA-17 crew were seeking redress, believing they should not have been called as one of the four offenders.
The day's second race proved a resounding victory for Terry HUTCHINSON
(USA) and the crew on the new Botin & Carkeek-designed Quantum Racing, their first win this season for a team which won the 2005 circuit. Vicente TORADO's CXG Caixa Galicia (ESP) also raised team morale with a hard won second, their navy blue bow and iconic 'watching-eye' gennaker breaking the line ahead of a four-way scramble across the finish line, pipping Artemis which has their 2007 season tactician KOSTECKI on board.
"That race was a long overdue race,"
said HUTCHINSON of their victory. "We have had more than a couple of things that have not really fallen in line for us, so it was it was nice to be in a position where, when something does go your way it is nice to be able to capitalise on it. And the first race we were sailing a great race and the breeze went 25 degrees right on the second beat and stayed there, but I think collectively as a team we learned a lot about the boat handling, and it was just nice to sail aggressively today in conditions that were challenging."
Artemis go into Thursday's 40-mile double points coastal race around the Frioul islands and down to Cassis and back with a two points lead, ahead of Bribón who are a point ahead of USA-17.
Audi MedCup - http://2008.medcup.org