As ever in the very evenly matched white hot 20 boat TP52 fleet, starting in the front rank proved critical. A solid midline start from Siemens, which has Ian Walker steering and 1996 Star Gold medallist Vince Brun, sailing his first TP52 regatta, on tactics ensured the black hulled Reichel Pugh design was one of the first to profit as the left side of the course paid. Brun kept them working the left and they followed Cristabella in second around the first weather marks.
With the breeze over the Bay of Palma at a modest 6-9 knots for most of what proved to be the only race of the day, Siemens rounded the right hand gate mark at the leeward turn, quickly benefiting from a favourable windshift which was proved a passport to a lead of one and a half minutes at the final weather buoy.
While Eamon Coneelly’s Siemens ran out a comfortable winner, Cook’s Cristabella – with Dee Smith as tactician – finished second and the Roberto Bermudez de Castro skippered Caixa Galicia took third gun with five times Olympic medallist Torben Grael sailing as tactician. “ It was good start for Vince in his first ever TP52 race.” Smiled Walker, renewing a partnership which won the 1998 Melges World Championships along with trimmer Simon Fry,
“We have sailed together before so that makes it a little easier. We had a nice start, it wasn’t the best and some of it kind of fell for us after that. Vince went all the way to the left and that worked. And at the bottom of the second beat we came round with the wind all the way to the right and then that worked really well because we had a nice lane away from the spinnakers coming down, and then it just headed 25 degrees and it was all good from there. If only they were all that easy!”
“The second beat we just nailed the left and it was a soldier’s course once you were in front, a nice course to be leading on.” Observed Siemen’s trimmer and sail programme coordinator Fry of North Sails UK. “ There probably weren’t that many passing lanes after the first three or four minutes. We had a new superlight jib which was fine on the first beat and we have a new A 1.5 (spinnaker). It’s certainly nice to be leading overnight, we are happy.”
For Cristabella, which finished 16th at the Regata Breitling and never cracked a top five finish, a second is a useful start, but Brendan Darrer is not taking too much store from a single race: “It’s a nice way to start the regatta, but it is just one race. Dee did a good job and the whole team sailed well.” Commented boat captain and pit man Darrer.
“ It is a good start for us in a very important regatta that I want to do well in.” said Cristabella’s tactician Dee Smith, “ We had a good solid start and I just wanted to stay fast off the line and let’s get off to the left side from the line which was favoured right. There was one decision when Santa Ana came by on port tack and couldn’t quite cross and we waved them by. Maybe if they had forced us to tack then they might have been first to the weather mark.” “Tim (Powell) was driving downwind and John (Cook) steered the start and upwind and that seems to work well just now because John can stay very focused and Tim’s expertise downwind is valuable, driving on the Volvo (Ocean Race) and that is a good team right now.”
Torben Grael’s first serious race outing with Caixa Galicia proved a formidable one, finishing third: “We did a little sailing before the start and had worked out that the left was where we wanted to go. And that gave us a good cushion on the fleet.”
For series leaders Mutua Madrilena which has 2005 series winning Vasco Vascotto skipper back among the team, fourth place was is just the kind of foundations they were seeking, as navigator Wouter Verbraak observed:
“The forecasts we had were slightly conflicting and we did not want to be completely locked out if the right looked good, and so we decided to start safely in the middle of the start line. So we had a good start and found a nice lane quite quickly and at first the right did look quite good so we decided not to go too far left, and in the end we were quite happy to get round the weather mark in the top five because that was the main goal. And downwind it was very tricky because of the patchy wind, the seabreeze was not very well settled. But we learned from last week and the strategy of just going all the way to the layline which was good.”
Recalled Verbraak “Play conservative and keep the options open all the time. That is the important thing at this stage. Vasco helps us out with the general strategy, with opportunities and the general positioning, managing the fleet. But we leave it very much to Tom (Dodson) and Ray (Davies) to call the shots. And a top five finish is a good way to start any regatta.”