Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Artemis leads Hyères Trophy after light-wind first day

[Source: Breitling Medcup] In what promises to be an engaging duel for the overall 2007 Breitling MedCup title it was Russell Coutts and the crew of Torbjorn Tornqvist's Artemis which seized the upper hand after the first two races of the Hyères Trophy.

Tied with Vicente Tirado's Caixa Galicia going into this regatta Coutts and his crew eased four points clear thanks to their first and second places from today's two races on the Bay of Hyères.

A long wait for the breeze to fill in and settle was finally rewarded with 7-10 knots of SE'ly wind which saw the first race start at just after 1600hrs and the second windward-leeward contest at 1735hrs.

While Peter de Ridder and the Portugal Trophy winning crew of Valle Romano were first to hook into the benefit of the extreme left side of the course and lead around the windward turn first time around, assured tactical calls from Coutts and a healthy measure of boatspeed ensured Artemis took the lead on the second windward leg and went on to win by four seconds from Vasco Vascotto and crew of Mutua Madrilena.

Vince Brun was bolder in his calls for Alberto Roemmers' Siemens in the second race and was better able to reap that consistent benefit on the left on the first beat of the second race. With good speed in the light conditions, upwind and down, Siemens was able to hold off Artemis in the second race, taking first gun. Added to their ninth in the first race Siemens lie third overall.

Caixa Galicia were just never able to wriggle free and exert their influence on the one sided track, but a fourth and a third leaves Roberto Bermudez de Castro's team in second place, chasing hard on the heels of Artemis.

"So far, so good." Was Coutts' assessment, "It was a bit of a one sided track but we managed to get off the start line well in both races and that made all the difference. We certainly have great boat speed and that also helps in these conditions. Yes, we started a little conservatively because there is no point in being aggressive, you don't need that. We rather like these conditions, our boat really likes that smooth water sailing."

"I think both boats (Caixa and Artemis) are really pretty similar in speed. We had two good start and it is then always a little easier to make yourself look quick in these conditions, but really I don't think there is much between the two boats." Artemis' trimmer Ross Halcrow explained.

"We have a few new sails here, working sails and a few special sails for the coastal race, other than that and a good servicing of everything, a good wet sanding of the bottom of the boat and the foils we have not done anything significant since Portimao," confirms Artemis' boat captain Chris Hoskings.

"We are quite happy really. It is a tough fleet." Caixa Galicia's tactician John Kostecki concluded, "I think most people acknowledge that the Judel Vrolijk designs are a little quicker upwind. If you ask Vasco Vascotto or anyone I think they would agree and that applies not just to Artemis, but to Bribon, to Stay Calm, Siemens, all the Vrolijk boats."

A close encounter between Artemis and Caixa Galicia at the first leeward mark of the second race, when Caixa Galicia looked to have the advantage, seemed set to result in a protest between the two protagonists.

"We did not have a witness and so it would just have been our word against theirs and that would have been a waste of time. We probably should never have let it get to that stage and should have backed away half way up the leg, but we let them gybe first." Assessed Kostecki.

"I don't quite know what happened in the first race." Smiled Vince Brun, Siemens' tactician, "We ducked Russell at one point and we let him get a little further left than us, we were not far away from it, but suddenly it went from good to something awful.

In the second race it was better, and we got to the left and were right on the layline, but it just shows how tight this class is. Because all the boats go at about the same speed when you have a lane you are good, but if you don't and you have someone pinching below you, it is really tough."

Third placed Siemens are on 10 points, the same tally as Stuart Robinson's Stay Calm.

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