Saturday, August 25, 2007

Valle Romano Mean Machine wins Portugal Trophy after a windless final day

[Source: Breitling Medcup] In like a lion, out like a lamb, racing for the Breitling MedCup TP52 circuit’s Portugal Trophy on the beautiful Algarve coast may have opened Tuesday with an invigorating blast of over 25 knots, but with insufficient wind Friday and Saturday, but it expired with barely a whimper today as the current Breitling MedCup 2006 champions, Peter de Ridder and his crew, emerged with their first overall regatta win this season.

Monaco based De Ridder and his crew – which includes six members of the Team New Zealand America’s Cup team – collect the Portugal Trophy, the Corinthian Trophy for the regatta’s top owner-helm, and the Santa Ana Trophy for winning the 25.18 miles coastal race.

Even the two days of too-quiet breezes and long hours sitting waiting for wind, and a few spots of rain -could not erase the memories of two great opening days of racing as the Circuit ventured out of the Mediterranean and on to Portugal’s Atlantic coast for the first time ever. The Bay of Lagos provided a challenging and interesting race course which was more than complemented by the excellent facilities ashore including a luxurious 1300 sq m crew’s chill out lounge.

After finishing second in Alicante at the 2007 season’s curtain raiser in June, Valle Romano Mean Machine’s Portuguese triumph is the first this season by a 2006 build boat. De Ridder’s crew, with Ray Davies calling tactics supported by Tom Dodson as strategist, won four of the six races including winning both stages of the coastal race.

Their final score of 17 points gave them a cushion of 15 points over Russell Coutts and his crew of Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis, while Ian Walker and the crew of Patches, Eamon Conneely’s Irish flagged Reichel Pugh designed boat earned their first podium place of the season, finishing third, ten points behind Artemis.

An exciting showdown is set for Hyeres, France where the five regatta Circuit concludes, starting on September 10th.

After leading since the Breitling Regatta last month Vicente Tirado’s CxG Caixa Galicia, skippered by Roberto Bermudez de Castro has been caught this week by Artemis.

Both now head to France locked at the summit of the leaderboard on an aggregate of 173 points after four regattas – Alicante, Portals, Copa del Rey and Portugal, already 13 points greater than De Ridder and team’s 2006 winning tally over the six 2006 regattas.

Winning owner-skipper Peter de Ridder summarised "We are certainly a bit sorry that we could not race today and yesterday because we need racing to get the extra discard but after it is all over now we are pretty happy with the result."

"We started pretty confidently with a seventh and it grew from there. Getting four bullets (first place guns) from five starts we were really just happy to enjoy it, and it certainly feels good to be back."

De Ridder is in the advanced stages of ordering a new boat for next season, asked if he might have second thoughts, given how well his 2006 Judel Vrolijk design, which was built in Wellington by Hakes Marine, has performed here, he responded:

"No, we are having a new boat. We certainly seem to get the best out of the old lady, but the fact is that her younger sisters – the 2007 generation boats – are a little bit quicker, but it is also interesting to note that already this season the leaders have more points after four regattas than we won the series with last year over six regattas."

Strategist Tom Dodson remarked:

"After Palma we decided that we really needed to have a look at what we had. We don’t have a coach and we did really think that we would carry some of our speed that we had last year forward to this year, and by Palma it was clear that we were lacking. So we had to go back to school a bit and go out and have a look at what our competition was doing, taking notice in the practice races and learn something from the competition. We made a few small changes and it has made a difference."

And on the idea of the circuit visiting more different venues, tactician Ray Davies added:

"It is good to come to new and challenging venues. We get a bit tired of Palma and the one sided tracks but it is refreshing to come to a new venue, it’s only a shame we didn’t get racing today and yesterday, but we have enjoyed Portugal and will be back."

Having joined the Mean Machine team this season Jules Salter, Navigator, who finished second on his Volvo Race debut with Paul Cayard and the Pirates of the Caribbean gave an insight into how the winning team learned the new venue:

"We start by having really good weather forecasts to build up a picture – using Clouds (Roger Badham) but these guys on the boat really help and we usually discuss what we think is happening and apply what we think. It has been really challenging here, with the extremes it has been tough, but then when you get it right it fills you with confidence because you can start to believe in the theories."

Said Roscoe Halcrow, Artemis’ trimmer:

"We had a good regatta. We really enjoyed sailing here. It is just a shame that the breeze that we had on the practice days and for the first races didn’t continue on, as it is was a lot of fun in the big breeze, sailing downwind, it was a real nice change after being in the Med. We did not do anything different to the boat for here. The boat is as the boat is, and we just put on some heaver sails as you would do."

"We are pretty comfortable across the range, but it is a fun change sailing in the breeze. Against Caixa I think they maybe have a little bit of an edge under 10 knots, we are pretty even in that mid range in that 12-13 knots, and we have a slight edge above that. We could get a bit of everything in Hyeres, maybe even too much wind to sail with some Mistral action."



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