Photos: Xaume Olleros / 52 Super Series

Audi Azzurra closes

As the TP52s and Soto 40s set sail at the Audi Valencia Cup

Wednesday September 19th 2012, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: Spain

 After three races off Valencia in brisk winds and an awkward chop Audi Azzurra Sailing Team lead the Audi Valencia Cup, the final event of the 2012 52 Super Series.The team from the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda won both of the first two races and led the third. But when a big gust and wind shift struck just in the final metres of the day’s final race, the kite of Audi Azzurra Sailing Team touched the committee boat’s antenna. Having to drop their gennaker and take their penalty turns before finishing properly, the team which is skippered by Guillermo Parada, dropped to a fifth place finish.

If the Audi Azzurra Team finished their day upset at their costly error on the finish line, they still took some considerable satisfaction in having trimmed Quantum Racing’s  lead on the overall 52 Super Series standings from six points to three points today. “It was the perfect day until the last 30 seconds!” affirmed navigator Bruno Zirilli.

While the Audi Azzurra Sailing Team were otherwise on great form, leading all three races, Quantum Racing – the championship leaders - looked distinctly shaky at times. In the first race the overall series leader finished fifth in the five boat fleet. They improved with a third and second, but remain fourth overall in the Audi Valencia Cup standings, locked on the same 10 points tally as Rán – winners of the third race – and Gladiator.

The first race was contested in 12-14 knots of northeasterly breeze and Audi Azzurra Sailing Team, with Parada steering and Vasco Vascotto and Francesco Bruni combining on tactics and strategy, made the best start but as they duelled to the right of the upwind, trading tacks with Quantum Racing, the duo lost out to the group which went left.

Audi All4One led around the windward mark but on the final run smart tactics and good speed saw Audi Azzurra Sailing Team just pipping the Franco-German team at the post.

The second win was more decisive for Audi Azzurra Sailing Team. They led at the first mark and extended on the first run, going on to win by over 90 seconds from Audi All4One.

Jochen Schuemann’s team looked to be set for a consistent day until their jib cunningham blew up in the third race, costing them some minutes to repair it. But thanks to Audi Azzurra Sailing Team’s error on the finish line, they took fourth and so lie second overall on the Audi Valencia Cup standings by just one point.

In the third race Audi Azzurra Sailing Team looked to be in command, leading down the final run. But all of the race had been sailed with a dark cloud over the centre of the leg, yielding two different breezes on the extreme sides of the course. Rán challenged from second at the final windward mark with consistently better use of the breeze. They were just far enough ahead to squeeze across the line to win as the big gust hit, heading them and destroying their spinnaker. Quantum Racing accelerated over Azzurra in the puff to take second, while the erstwhile race leader grazed the rolling committee boat’s antenna with their kite.

Quantum Racing tactician Andy Horton summed up: “It was a crazy day. In the end that big shift on the finish line finally put something in our direction. The cloud line was a convergence line between the right shift and during the race it was meandering back and forth, and we knew that the shift would come. Overall it was not a great day for us. We can sharpen it all up in every department.

"In the first two races Audi Azzurra Sailing Team got away on the first part of both beats. The first race we did maybe ten tacks and ten gybes and even so the two of us were overlapped on the finish line. We did not expect that. The fleet got slowed down and we got up to them. So they had a good one and put a lot of points on us.

"The second one the fleet were bunched up again on the finish line but we were just behind them on that one. And the third one was just kind of crazy. They ended up with a last which was good for us."

Adrian Stead, tactician on Rán added: “It was a mixed day. It is certainly the choppiest we have sailed in this season. We have all got used to sailing in relatively flat water in Palma and the other venues. And so that woke everyone up with a vengeance. The boats are hard work in that and you need to be tuned into it, locking into it off the start is hard, finding your spot to tack is hard. And as the breeze built and shifted with the waves, there were some very difficult times downwind, you really had to get the boat up and smoking.

"We got better as the day went on. Our best downwind was the last one. We read the cloud pretty well and got there in the end, unfortunately destroying a spinnaker at the same time. We are pleased. We are only three points off the lead. The standard is amazing. You make the smallest mistake and you are punished. Race 1 everyone was together on the line. Tacks are so costly in this stuff. Everyone has their quota for the beats and you have to be careful how you use them. Quantum and Azzurra go at each other and it is very easy to get sucked into that. It has been clear they will be doing that all week. Azzurra sailed very well all day. Coming into that finish we knew it was going to breeze up and head us, the question was how much and when.”

Standings Audi Valencia Cup after three races

1 Audi Azzurra Sailing Team (ITA) 7 pts (1,1,5)
2 Audi Sailing Team powered by All4One (FRA/GER) 8pts (2,2,4)
3 Rán (SWE) 10pts (4,5,1)
4 Quantum Racing (USA) 10pts (5,3,2)
5 Gladiator 10pts (3,4,3)

Overall standings

Pos Nat Team Skipper Godó Sardinia Royal  Valencia Tot
1 USA Quantum Racing Ed Baird 14 15.5 24 10 63.5
2 ITA Audi Azzurra Sailing Team Guillermo Parada 14 18.5 27 7 66.5
3 SWE Rán Racing Niklas Zennstrom 16 30.5 23 10 79.5
4 GBR Gladiator Tony Langley 29 20 44 10 103
5 GER/FRA Audi ALL4ONE Jochen Schuemann 35 DNC 24 8 119

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