The 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit begins on 11 May and, at Cascais and venues nearby, the battle is on for TP52 Series and GP42 Series crews to be in the best possible shape when they hit the start line for the first races of the new season.
The standard of the fleet for the 2010 TP52 Series is almost unprecedented. While there are no fewer than four America's Cup teams set to contest the first TP52 races of the new season, the class will be the battleground for a remarkable showdown between some of the outstanding Olympic sailors of the modern era.
From the outset of the MedCup in 2005 Olympic medals have been relatively common currency among the world class crews on the circuit, but four sailors debuting or returning to the Audi MedCup Circuit in Portugal account for no fewer than 17 Olympic medals, and in fact six newcomer or returnee sailors - including these four modern Olympic giants, five by Torben Grael
(BRA), four for Robert Scheidt
(BRA), four for Jochen Schuemann
(GER) and four for Ben Ainslie
(GBR) - have won 22 Olympic Medals in total.
It is believed that this will be the first time ever that all four modern sailing legends Schuemann (who won three gold and one silver between 1976 and 2000), Grael (who won two gold, one silver and two bronze between 1984 and 2000), Scheidt (who has two gold and two silver to his credit won over consecutive Olympic Games between 1996 and 2008) and Ainslie (who won silver in 1996 and three back to back gold medals between 2000 and 2008) will sail against each other aboard modern cutting edge race boats on the same race course.
Grael and Scheidt sail together as a dream afterguard on Luna Rossa (ITA), whilst Schümann skippers the French/German All4ONE.
On board TeamOrigin, Ainslie has his good friends Iain Percy
(GBR) who has two gold medals, and Andrew Simpson
(GBR) who won Star class gold medal with Percy in the Star in 2008, whilst Ian Walker
(GBR), who returns to the TP52 as tactician on Bribón (ESP), has won two Olympic silver medals in the 470 and Star classes.
"I have never really thought about it in these terms and I am really looking forward to the challenge and certainly it is very exciting. "
Says Ben Ainslie, skipper and helm of Britain's TeamOrigin TP52 who are readying themselves for their first season on the Audi MedCup Circuit with a brand new boat which - with one week before racing starts - they had only sailed for six days,
"For me at the moment it is like being back at school, learning a completely new class. We have been very short on time to be ready on time and so we have been doing some really long days to get up to speed with our new boat and really have a lot to learn in a very short time. So, to be honest, we will be focussed mainly on getting the new boat round the race track in one piece over the first few days, learning to sail the boat, learning how to mode the boat for different conditions."
It will be Sunday 9th before the fleet are likely to line up in numbers together for informal practise racing. New rules forbid training at the venue after, in this case, May 3rd. TeamOrigin have been tuning and training along with TP52 World Champions, Matador (ARG). Local favourites Bigamist 7 (POR) and Bribón have spent the last week training off Cascais too in winds between seven and 27 knots.
"The training week has certainly proven that this is going to be a very open race area, for sure. The winds are very shifty. At times, for example you might feel confident with a two minute lead at one time and then hardly get a cross next time. There is no obvious pattern and so that will make for very open racing."
suggests Audi MedCup Technical Director Nacho Postigo (ESP), navigator of Bigamist 7.
Puerto Calero, to defend the GP42 Series title
In the GP42 Series, 2009's defending Audi MedCup Circuit champions, Daniel Calero's Puerto Calero return to racing with an unchanged crew line up from last season including helmsman José María Ponce (ESP), navigator Alicia Ageno (ESP), tactician Gustavo Martínez Doreste (ESP), and trimmer Domingo Manrique (ESP, 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the Flying Dutchman). Daniel Calero (ESP), project manager commented:
"Maintaining the same crew is very positive for us, since everybody knows eachother well, and I think that it is essential to have such a relationship between us onboard. We go to Cascais with the objective of defending the championship. Our hope for Cascais is to start the season as we finished the 2009 season".
The Portugal Trophy, Cascais, is due to start on Tuesday 11 May, with the TP52 Series official training. As from Wednesday 12 May, the 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit will be broadcasted live through Audi MedCup TV on www.medcup.org