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May 24, 2006 17:11 0 comments

Steve and Fred Howe’s brand new American boat Warpath drew first blood in their first ever race as the Breitling MedCup TP52 circuit got under way with a 33 mile coastal inshore race from Punta Ala.

With a telling display of boat handling from Warpath’s core crew of Emirates Team New Zealand America’s Cup sailors, with Dean Barker steering, the new Botin & Carkeek design powered away from Vincente de Tirado’s Caixa Galicia on the penultimate leg, to win by one minute and 40 seconds.

The Spanish Caixa Galica, last year’s runner-up overall, established a slender lead on the first, short windward leg but last year’s Farr design could not shake off Warpath all the way around the course and finally fell prey when as the leading pair eased sheets and raised their big overlapping masthead genoas.

Warpath’s America’s Cup core team only set eyes on the boat for the first time on Monday morning, and had sailed in earnest for less than two hours prior to the start gun, but the boat showed no lack of speed around the mix of all points of sail.

“We went out looking for a top three result but to get a first first time out is pretty much unbelievable in this fleet. We were pleased with the way the boat performed across the wind range.” Explained Barker,

“We had a good start and were right in amongst it, but it was on the Code Zero reach from the last island that the boat was just on fire, it was pretty impressive how quick we were. I think that is because the boat is good and the sails are good and this is certainly a nice position to be in after the first day. I certainly can’t complain. If someone had said to me this morning before leaving the dock that we would win, I would have said there was a high probability we wouldn’t. We are still trying to learn the boat and its modes, so we are delighted.”

From being a matter of boat lengths apart as they negotiated the light breeze through the lee of the small island of Palmaiola, Warpath had gained more than a minute and a half on the final 7.5 mile 50minutes close reach to the last turning mark, and then held their margin on the run home to finish off the Punta Ala sea-wall.

After losing the opening day’s racing due to the lack of wind, the 19 boat fleet were treated to 6-11 knots of breeze, clearing skies and finally sunshine breaking through to pick out the Island of Elba which provided a stunning backdrop to the action.

Not unexpectedly for the first contest of the Breitling MedCup season it was crew errors and gear problems which provided the opportunities for gains rather than tactical sailing around a course which presented limited opportunities due to the high proportion of fetching and reaching.

The Global Championship winning boat Siemens with Britain’s double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker skippering along with Tom Stark’s Rush were recalled for being over the start line. Both waited the best part of two minutes before they responded to the official confirmation. Siemens fought back to 13th place.

John Cook steered his Botin & Carkeek designed Cristabella to fourth place on their maiden race outing also finishing top Corinthian skipper. With American Dee Smith as tactician among a mainly British crew, Cristabella duelled for much of the race with Santa Ana/Stay Calm, steered by Corinthian compatriot, Stuart Robinson.

“I am very pleased. I put my faith in Brendan (Darrer, boat captain) to come up with a fast boat and a good crew and we proved to have that today, and I am delighted to have Dee Smith with us for the first time as world class tactician. Having raced for seven or eight years in Med then I don’t tend to think in terms of Corinthian I just like to do well, and we did today.” Remarked Cook.
Losing Michael Illbruck’s Pinta and Riccardo Simoneschi’s Anonimo on the downwind Santa Ana/Cristabella suffered a failure of their masthead sheave box and had to start the downwind leg with a smaller, fractional spinnaker.

With the halyard having cut into the mast’s carbon laminate, the team have had to lift the rig out the boat and face a race against time to have it repaired and re-stepped ready for tomorrow’s race.

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