Thursday, August 23, 2007

Valle Romano Mean Machine keep unabated at Portugal Trophy

[Source: Breitling Medcup] The Mean Machine mojo is back. Peter de Ridder and the crew of Valle Romano Mean Machine this season may have tasted the depths of frustration when they were disqualified after the coastal race at the Breitling Regatta in Portals last month, but they made no mistakes today when they comprehensively won both legs of the coastal race at the Portugal Trophy off Portimao to extend their lead to 15 points over Russell Coutts and the crew of Artemis at this fourth event of the 2007 Breitling MedCup Circuit.

With three conflicting breezes battling for supremacy over the Bay of Lagos the 25.18 mile race was never straightforward, but De Ridder and crew once again took early ownership of the committee boat end of the start line and peeled away to the favoured right side of the first windward leg.

They followed hard on the stern of Artemis around the weather mark, in a gentle SW'ly sea-breeze which never rose much above eight knots for the first of the two-part race, and was often between five and six knots.

Half way down the first run Artemis, racing just 30 metres to leeward and ahead of Mean Machine ran out of breeze whilst the older, black hulled boat just kept rolling away.

On the second run Eamon Conneely's Patches was one of the first to recognise a hole developing in the middle of the course and gybed away immediately to the right, offshore, and gained the best of the breeze, rising to second which they held, tailing Valle Romano Mean Machine through the scoring gate – albeit 3 minutes and 59 seconds behind the runaway leaders - and then across the finish line.

Once the late afternoon strong NW'ly land breeze arrived to spur the fleet to the finish, with a fast fetch to the finish in up to 15 knots of breeze.

To the benefit of the hundreds of spectators who lined the sea walls and watched from an armada of anchored boats enjoying the Algarve's evening sunshine, the finish was laid right up off the Marina Portimao inside the entrance to the Rio Arade, creating the customary sting in the tail for those who failed to spot the drop in breeze over this final half mile.

By the time thy took the finish gun Valle Romano Mean Machine were still three minutes and 12 seconds clear of Patches.

Russia's Rusal Synergy narrowly failed to hold off the superior firepower of Coutts and the 2007 design Artemis on the 3.5 mile final fetch to the finish but were still pleased to post a third and fourth for the day, while Artemis scored fourth and third.

Ray Davies, Valle Romano Mean Machine's tactician recalled:

"It was an incredible race – the breeze was fighting between different transitions we seemed to get every one right. We are extremely happy with the way the day went. The first three quarters of the race was very dynamic – all over the place. The guys did an incredible job on board, all our sail changes were smooth and we went the right way."

" We have had some very good local knowledge from Pedro Neves. He really helped us out on our training days here with a little bit of advice this morning with what normally happens in these conditions and it turned out to be spot on. He has given us a good picture of what to expect and he was right – it was really satisfying to get it right. We are pretty happy to have five out of seven wins. It is great to see the team working so well together.

"We definitely have our mojo back. Whether it is putting the flames back on the boat or that we have stopped drinking limoncello I don't know which one has made the difference but we are happy with where we are."

Aretmis' Russell Coutts remarked:

" It was a strange kind of race with a transition between several different breezes and so it was pretty tricky. We were happy to get out of it the way we did. We had more boat speed than them (Rusal Synergy) with our general staysail, a slightly different sail combination and that made a big difference. In this regatta so far we have had our ups and downs and are still second overall I think and, in the circuit, doing well. I like this type of coastal racing and in fact would like some longer legs still just to mix up a bit."

Ian Walker, skipper of Patches, who now lie third overall, ten points behind Artemis:

" It was a bit of a day when it didn't pay to be too near the front. We made a big gain when we saw Caixa and Artemis falling into a bit of a hole on the second run and where we made our biggest gain."

" Looking across the rest of the fleet it is down to how you race. Mean Machine won the Committee Boat yet again and went right and won the race, like the fourth or fifth time they have done that this regatta and hats off to them. The first beat is important although today there were chances because of the size of the shifts, people making huge gains and losses and we were just happy to stay out of trouble. This regatta hasn't gone for us so far but what we have done is kept fighting and not had any bad results so a good coastal like today should just jetty us back into contention. It is not so much being prepared for it as much as just really keeping your eyes open and having to make very quick decisions, as things happen very fast."



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