Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Valle Romano Mean Machine leads Portugal Trophy after breezy opening day

[Source: Breitling Medcup] Peter de Ridder and his razor sharp 2006 Breitling MedCup champion crew on Valle Romano Mean Machine proved the masters of the big breeze today as they opened the Trophy of Portugal regatta off Portimao with a seventh and two wins to round off a thrilling opening day with a lead of one point ahead of Russell Coutts and the crew of Torbjorn Tornqvist's Artemis.

With the NW'ly wind gusting to 24 knots and averaging in the low twenties for most of the second two contests today, racing was as testing as it was exciting.

Although the waters remained relatively flat there was no room for crewing errors, especially on the gennaker hoists and downwind gybes any small mistakes were heavily punished.

It was without question the most exciting day's racing for over year of Breitling Med Cup racing. Proving that they have speed to burn in the breeze, Stuart Robinson and the crew of Stay Calm replicated exactly what they did in practice on Monday, and lead the 18 finishers home by more than one minute.

But the chances of a repeat performance by Stay Calm in the second race were extinguished when their main halyard failed and they had to retire to effect a repair. Stay Calm's troubles were not complete, as they were called over the start line in the third race, but still managed to battle back to earn a fourth and lie eighth overall.

Valle Romano Mean Machine were smart off the start line, and twice broke to the right, inshore side of the course early.

In the second race – Valle Romano Mean Machine held Bribon, with James Spithill enjoying his first race on a TP52, on the helm, 33 seconds astern while Artemis added a third to their second.

And in the final race of today's trio De Ridder and crew twice got the better of Alberto Roemmers' Siemens on the downwind legs thanks to precise gybing angles and riding the biggest gusts, as called by afterguard Ray Davies and Tom Dodson to score their second win by 18 seconds while Thierry Peponnet drove Balearia across the line in Siemens' waker to third.

"I think the venue is excellent. A great breeze makes it really fun to sail these boats and really exploit the planing conditions that they really were made for. And it is nice to be on top of the results again." Remarked de Ridder,

"It was down to a bit of everything today. It was down to good starts, and our afterguard Ray Davies, Tom Dodson and Jules Salter did a great job of positioning us well on the race course, and our trimmers did an excellent job ensuring the boat really stayed well balanced and felt excellent."

"The new boats are definitely a little bit quicker but I think we proved that if you sail smart you can still win. We had a little dip I think in the two events in Mallorca. In Portals we ended up with two 25's for disqualifications and without them we would have been third overall. And I think that at Copa del Rey we were just out of whack a bit."

"But if you look at today's first race it was five new boats, Anonimo and us."

Ado Stead, Stay Calm's tactician was far from despondent at having missed out on a race when their 2007 Judel Vrolijk design is so evidently on song in the stronger winds:

"What happens happens." He acknowledged, "It was great racing and we are happy to come away with a one and four. The guys and girls on our boat put everything into it and did a great job."

"We had a problem with the inboard end of a batten and that affected the main halyard. After one of the recalled starts we had a go at fixing it, but we only got less than half way up the beat before it came down. Then we went to a quieter cove and had a go at re-running the halyard and got back in time for the third race, only to be called over. We recovered well and had a really storming last run, taking four boats, to get fourth, so we are really pleased, not disappointed."

After a second, third and a fifth today to lie second Artemis' owner Torbjorn Tornqvist concluded:

" Everything went well for us today. We knew we should do better in the brisker winds so we are all quite happy. Things went well no hiccups with the equipment. With boat handling as well of course it is a very professional team, working well together knowing what they have to do at all times – there is a good spirit on the boat which is also very important. Sailing conditions are fantastic, you couldn't ask for better – strong winds, flat waters and the races are very well organized."



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