Soto 40's sunshine debut in Europe, Container lead the TP52's

Yesterday was the big day for the 52 Series fleet but today is an historic one for the Audi Med Cup Circuit and for the S40 fleet as they contemplate their first races as a class in Europe.

It looks like they have been blessed with potentially great conditions with predictions os 9-14 knots of N-NW’ly wind. As yesterday, racing will be round on the westerly, offshore Race Area 2.

In fact the variation between the navigators and weather experts seems to show some differences of opinions. Hugo Rocha, the Portuguese tactician on Bigamist in the Soto 40 fleet thinks there will be slightly less wind than forecast, Nacho Postigo tactician on Patagonia believes we might see 18-19kts.

If there were clear signs of nerves and stage fright in the TP52’s with some rash decisions, lacklustre starting and rusty crew work evident in that fleet, so today the focus will be on the Soto 40’s as they take centre stage. Iberdrola are tipped as the form team after launching their boat first in Europe and unrolling the most structured training programme from their base in Valencia.

According to their rivals, yesterday they were smoother and more refined in their crew work but certainly not unbeatable.

Five S40’s take to the start line. Local hopes rest with the two Portuguese boats, Pedro Menonca’s Bigamist and Frances Lobato and his team on XXII Portuguese Sailing Team.

Tony Buckingham’s Ngoni team (GBR) were ironing out some of their small kinks yesterday and are a successful, experienced team while the South American team on Patagonia have Audi MedCup Circuit technical director as tactician.

In the TP52 fleet it is very tight. Container (GER) will head out into the sunshine and brisk spring breezes with a two points lead, looking to maintain that same level of consistency into their second day on the Audi MedCup Circuit.

For both classes two races are scheduled today. This season the maximum number of eight races per regatta for the S40’s and nine for the TP52, a reduction which reflects the feedback of the crews who felt that three race days were too long. So for the TP52’s than means a maximum tally over the season of 45 races including one coastal race per regatta. Here in Cascais the coastal race will be Saturday.

Norberto Álvarez (ARG), skipper, Patagonia (ARG): “Clearly, there are great competitors here. We are worried because we came here with a 2010 set of sails, since the newest one is in Argentina, where we´ll race shortly. The boat is fast, we are testing a double-section mast that worked well yesterday. The competition here is huge and the organization is great, impeccable. We´ve been racing this boat for two and a half years, and almost eight in different Patagonia boats. The good thing about this boats is that there´s no secret to them, they are all One-Design. Yesterday we saw a close race, there are very good crews and I don´t think that we have any particular advantages over them. We are a bunch of friends who has been sailing together for a lot of years and we are going to compete against well-prepared professionals, so I´d say that the disadvantage is ours”.

Nacho Postigo (ESP), Patagonia (POR): “Yesterday was our first day as a fleet and the one thing which was immediately obvious was that we are all not so far from each other, we were all close. And I think we were all expecting there to be bigger differences in speed between us all. We were all racing together as a pack and that makes a big difference when you compare that to the GP42 racing of last year where there were three generations of boat racing together and so in some conditions there were some which were really quick. In other conditions there were two which were really quick, but here we were all pretty much at the same speed. It is relatively straightforward to get the boats up to speed and then it is small increments, there is no changing keels or having to work hard on the boat between regattas. These are the virtues of a one design.

And then it is very challenging for me personally, coming from the TP52, where there is a coffee grinder, gybing the big gennaker with four pairs of hands was not easy, it was challenging but it is the same challenge for every one. But of course it is the same challenge for everyone.

They are physical boats and very technical in little details: so for example if the helmsman changes direction too quickly, too quickly that screws up the whole manoeuvre, so teamwork is very, very important.

It is a very, very exciting today. There has been so much talk through the winter and a lot of passion about the class, and so we are really looking forward to starting today and seeing the class grow in Europe. It is an important moment.

Gaining numbers will be important. I think we are on the right path already. There is a lot of interest, potential owners are now starting to see the boats in magazines and on TV, and they are asking for more and more information. And I think that by the end of the year we will be seeing a good increase in numbers and for sure double figures for next year. I am tactician now on Patagonia. It is not an easy place to take on this role.

Normally the better tactician you are the better navigator you are because the more you can preview what the tactician is going to want then the better it is. You give the information before it is asked for. But the navigator does not make the decisions. Now, all the decisions are taking by me, which is a nice challenge.

Yesterday Iberdrola were very consistent on each start and upwind everyone was very similar in speed, and downwind we were similar but they had practised a lot more, especially gybing, downwind and mark roundings and each time they are gaining half a boat length, half a boat length, and by the end that is ten boat lengths. I expect them to be leading or be top two or three for sure.

We should see a little delay today but 12-19 kts of wind.”

Juan Luis Páez (ESP), navigator, Iberdrola Team (ESP): “We face the first race a bit worried just because it´s the debut. We don´t know how are we going to react in competition but we know that we have gone through a good solid preseason. We have a feeling of uncertainty even when we know that we are the team that has spent more time with the boat. Yesterday we saw that it will be a close fight and that it will be hard to win. We can´t determine yet if we will be sailing better with strong or light winds, but I think that we´ll do better with constant wind and not a lot of pressure changes. We might be seen as a top candidate to win the race, but the fact is that all boats are the same. Yesterday we won a very tight race. The moment you make a mistake, you might drop back to the fourth, fifth or last position”.

Hugo Rochas (POR) tactician Bigamist (POR): “My forecast for today is a little less wind. I think they are nice boats which are big in South America. In Europe I think they will grow well for next season.

The boats are great to sail. Upwind it is normal, easy and downwind when you gybe it is more physical with no pedestal, so it is harder for the crew. For the manouvers it is not easy.

Yesterday we did not get a good start and improved in the second upwind, finishing second.

Iberdrola is a very good team so we will have to see what we can do against them. And I don’t think there is any special advantage for us being in Cascais on our home waters.”

Francisco Lobato (POR), skipper, XXII Portuguese Sailing Team (POR):“The boat is quite fast and fun to sail. Anything but last is going to be very good for us, because we are learning how to handle the boat. This is the first time that we sail as a team together. Iberdrola are quite good and Bigamist is also a good team. The rest of the teams have experience with the boat, but we don´t have that. We´ll do better with less wind, because we´ll be vulnerable handling the boat with strong winds. We are confident because we sail at home, we know the race course and we know what can happen.”

Kevin Sproul (GBR), tactician Ngoni (GBR)” “It will be very exciting and yesterday it was very exciting. It was very close and the downwinds were fast. They were really full on. I was trying to do the runners, pull the main across and look after the vang and I only managed one out of the three! The rig stayed up but we did spear it in.

The key is getting smooth, we were ragged yesterday as it was the first time we were really under pressure to get things done in a race. So we have to be smoother and refine the rig a bit more.

I had us go the wrong way on the downwind and so I think we have to focus on getting what is going on in the inside of the boat sorted out so I can get my head out and see what is going on. We missed a couple of downwind shifts – more pressure really – if there was pressure on the left then there was big difference with the rest of the course. That was a shame. We were right in there.

Our owner is not here but we are relatively sorted. Mark Lamy is steering and is used to it and has steered a lot on the Farr 40 and the Mills 40.

It is quite exciting because it is new boat and everyone has more than enough to do on it, more than one job to do. It is very exciting. We looked at it before an wondered if it really would do 16-18 knots downwind and we were quicker than that at times yesterday, it is really quick.

I think what differentiate this from say a Melges 32 is that it is a big dinghy and this is a proper keelboat upwind and a dinghy downwind, and at this size at 40 foot this is the way to go. For an owner this is big enough and relatively speaking very good budget wise.”