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Breitling Med Cup-White Hot

May 27, 2006 21:42 0 comments

With Dean Barker skippering the crew of Emirates Team New Zealand sailors Fred and Steve Howe’s Warpath won the opening regatta of the Breitling MedCup season, the Punta Ala Trophy on the Gulf of Follonica off Punta Ala.

Barker and crew maintained a consistency across the six races which were sailed in a good variety of wind conditions. They won the first race and the penultimate race and never finished outside the top 10 in a white hot fleet of 19 boats.
Their win in the penultimate race proved conclusive as Barker and allowed their modest ninth place in the final race to ensure they left Tuscany with a six points margin over Peter de Ridder’s Mutua Madrileña.

Also crewed by Emirates Team New Zealand sailors, de Ridder’s team sailed an otherwise impeccable regatta after opening with a disappointing 15th place, devastating the fleet with four consecutive wins, but on the final day they slumped to an 11th when they needed to beat Warpath.
We are just thrilled.” Barker grinned, flanked by navigator Kevin Hall and tactician Terry Hutchinson. “We are pleased because every day we have been learning a little more about the boat and it still has a lot to go. I think that all the way through we have got quicker on every leg.”
It was only on the first day of the regatta, after flying directly from the end of the Louis Vuitton Act 11 in Valencia, that Barker and his team had their first sight of the new boat which was designed by Botin & Carkeek and built in New Zealand by Cookson Boats, completing only in late April.

By way of slight contrast the Judel & Vrolijk designed Mutua Madrileña had an almost optimum build up. Launched in New Zealand it was sailed from Emirates Team New Zealand’s base in Auckland for two weeks before being shipped to Palma, Mallorca where they proved their potential at PalmaVela Regatta.

De Ridder won the Corinthian award, ahead of Michael Illbruck who steered Pinta to third place overall with his Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper John Kostecki calling tactics.

Light winds prevented racing on the first day of the regatta. The 33-mile coastal race, contested in a building sea-breeze which reached 13 knots was won by Warpath. Wednesday’s moderate winds allowed a full diet of three exciting and very close windward-leeward races to be completed under blue skies and sparkling sunshine, this was the best day of racing yet for the growing TP52 class. After taking three bullets around the windward-leeward tracks, with impeccable starting, Mutua Madrileña was just as sharp on the second coastal race of 31 miles. For the fourth time in succession they lead off the start line and were a boat length ahead within minutes, which they built to a comfortable margin by the time the race finished off Punta Ala marina.

Light winds, for the first time from the south west as a low pressure approached, made for an engaging final day.

John Cook’s British boat, the J&V designed new Cristabella, with Dee Smith calling tactics, lead at the first mark of both races and went on to finish fourth overall, while Warpath’s first and ninth clinched their maiden regatta win.

With 19 boats at this first regatta of the new 2006 Breitling MedCup TP52 season, ten of the boats were newly launched this year more than doubling last season’s nascent fleet, with some such as Warpath and Pinta, sailed from almost ‘from the wrapper’.

“It is a fantastic class and I am sure that it is going to be at least after end of the next regatta (Castellon, Spain 4-8th July) before we will feel we might really know this boat. We learned here all the time, but mostly it was just the basics of the boat. How sensitive the boat is to weight and trim downwind for example, was just something that made a difference. And having good target speeds to sail to upwind makes a big difference. I think that our boat handling was fantastic, the guys did a really good job.” Said Warpath’s navigator Kevin Hall.

The seeds of the Warpath campaign were sewn last year at the Breitling Cup when Quantum Sails’ Ed Reynolds approached Barker and crew, who were deputising for Russell Coutts on Lexus, with the idea of them getting involved in the Howes’ campaign.

“We have had a wonderful time here. Really we came thinking a top 12 would be nice, knowing where we were with the boat, but our expectations heightened when we won the first race, but we were always realistic. Only after the first race today did we start to think we might win overall.” Said Warpath’s Fred Howe.

The standard of sailing across the fleet was nothing short of exceptional, but almost all of the owners left Punta Ala with a smile on their face, even if it was just knowing what they have to do before the next event.

All four of the top boats are new builds this year, three from the Judel Vrolijk design office. Significantly for a thriving grand-prix class three of the top four boats were steered by owners, and only three of the top 10 boats were sailed by professionals.

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