Monday, June 02, 2008

Mean Machine wins practice race in TP52 Marseille trophy

[Source: AUDI MedCup] It was an opportunist's victory for Mean Machine, gained on the final gybe of the practice race for the City of Marseille Trophy regatta, but today's race is a clear indication that Peter de Ridder's crew are ready to win again.

The ancient city ramparts around Marseille’s Vieux Port are given over to an exhibition of hundreds of paintings but for most of the 2008 Audi MedCup Circuit’s crews gathered in France’s third city this week the writing may be on the wall, written large today by Peter de Ridder’s Mean Machine team when they seized victory in today’s practice race in the final 90 seconds.

After winning the opening regatta of the Audi MedCup Circuit two weeks ago in Alicante, today’s warm-up contest, raced in 8-10 knots of Southerly breeze amidst a spectacular Mediterranean amphitheatre bound to the east by L’Ile Maire and the Montagne de Marseille Veire, signaled a clear warning that De Ridder’s team will be the crew to beat here.

Practice race in the TP52 Marseille Trophy. Marseille, 2 June 2008. Photo copyright Thierry Martinez / AUDI MedCup

Platoon powered by Team Germany, skippered by three times Olympic gold medallist Jochen Schuemann proved that their hard work in Valencia, tuning their new Rolf Vroijk designed boat and a hard week of crew training after Alicante, may reveal a dividend this week. They were quickest off the start line and made the best tactical call to lead the race all the way until the last 400 metres, but showed very good speed, especially downwind.

The maiden race outing for USA 17 saw Larry Ellison (USA) enjoy his first sail on the Reichel Pugh TP52. With Russell Coutts (NZL) and James Spit hill (AUS) orchestrating the tactical decisions at the back of the boat, USA 17 was seventh at the first windward mark, four seconds behind sister-ship Artemis, and finished ninth.

While it was a gentle introduction for Ellison, Coutts and Co to their new boat and the rest of the 14 boat fleet, local forecasters and team navigators are predicting at least 20 knots of Mistral breeze for tomorrow’s opening races.

Practice race in the TP52 Marseille Trophy. Marseille, 2 June 2008. Photo copyright Thierry Martinez / AUDI MedCup

“Twenty knots would be just fine for us. There is less chance for the tactician to get it wrong when the breeze is up.” grins Ray Davies (NZL), Mean Machine’s tactician, “But really, we are a good team and the crew work is generally very good, so we are happy in the breeze. We had a new mainsail on today which we were testing for when the wind is a little more down the range, but otherwise have not really done anything much to the boat.

It is not quite as busy on the start lines with a couple less boats and the start line was a little longer today. We will be out for a clean start tomorrow and to really let the boat do the work. There is nothing specific contributing to our speed, but we have good sails and good trimmers and generally a nice rig set up which is easy to tune. I don’t think there is anything in the hulls particularly because it is the same shape as others.”

Jochen Schuemann, Platoon Powered by Team Germany's helm and skipper was not reading too much into their performance today:

"We have done some good work on the boat since Alicante, and have learned the right things about the boat. We obviously struggled to have the boat finished before the first event, and now we have settled in a little bit better, have done a little a bit of work on rig tuning, optimised a few things, but essentially learning the rake and sails is a major thing.

We are always optimists but I think we had the right strategy it was so clear which side was favoured today. We did all the right things and that made us look really good but in general lining up with the rest of the competition we have always been happy how we do. We have a good boat - we’ll see how it goes."

James Spithill (AUS), tactician/strategist on USA 17:

"Like any new boat it takes a lot just to learn it and get the optimum out of it, the boys did a great job to get us here in such a tight time frame. My exact role is sitting on the side and hiking very hard and helping out when needed really, obviously Larry is going to drive, Russell is doing tactics so I will assist when needed. Larry did a great job in Austria driving and is doing so here .It should be fun and from what I hear we should have some good wind.

We want to get the boat performing as well as we can and get a good result but it is tough on the first regatta with a brand new tool but the only way to improve it is to race new boats so that is what we are going to do, and each day we will get a little bit better. We are just taking one event at a time will focus on this one event for the time being and see how we go.

The boats are a lot closer this season as the old boats are still very competitive- its going to be nice."

Racing starts tomorrow (Tuesday) with the first of nine scheduled windward-leeward races.

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