Cascais Changes? Cristabella wins the Portugal Trophy practice race

The practice race for the Portugal Trophy Cascais enjoyed excellent conditions which proved challenging for tacticians of the 11 TP52 Series competitors which will embark on the 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit in earnest tomorrow. Britain's Cristabella won the practice race.

The British flagged team on Cristabella proved that good boat speed, smart starting and solid tactics can be the match for any of what would be considered the 2010 Audi MedCup Circuit season's top seeded teams when they won the first official practice race of the season at the Portugal Trophy, Cascais.

Cristabella is one of the oldest boats in the 11 strong TP52 Series fleet but they were able to slip past 2009's defending champions Emirates Team New Zealand on the final run, to take first gun.

Changes to the crew line up, a new rig and a change of sail brand may have contributed to Cristabella's success today - one which will not only be an early season morale-boost to owner John Cook and his team - but it proves that race wins in this fleet need not only be restricted to top budget teams with very recent boats, particularly on this race very open race course which was peppered with wind shifts, gusts and changes in wind pressure.

Champions Emirates Team New Zealand looked ominous and were never out of the top two except when they ducked sterns to get to the slightly favoured right of the first beat. They lead around the final windward mark but gybed slightly early, mid way down the final leg, giving opportunity to Cristabella to profit by holding on longer.

Newcomers TeamOrigin (GBR) made an excellent start to their first official practice race in the fleet with their boat which was only named officially this morning. With four times Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie (GBR) steering, and reigning Star Olympic champions Iain Percy (GBR) and Andrew Simpson (GBR) conspiring to make the tactical calls,  TeamOrigin 1851 was in contention until the leeward gate at the end of the first round of the 2.1 miles windward-leeward track. A fouled retrieval line on their spinnaker dropped them back into the body of the pack and they crossed in eighth.

The race course area falls under the combined influences of the Cascais shoreline and the stronger gradient NW'ly breeze further out to sea, making for interesting differences in wind pressure between the leeward and windward marks.

On this more inshore of Cascais' two possible course arenas, today proved that afterguard members, charged with making the tactical calls, will either relish and rise to the challenges, or live to rue missed opportunities.

As Cristabella's tactician John Cutler noted sagely: " I think all the tacticians are going to be pretty tired after this week. It is a pretty tough race course with big shifts. And that makes it a hard place to sail. If that is where we are going to sail then we can come first or last and it will be pretty easy to do both."

Tomorrow sees the first live broadcast of Audi MedCup TV in which will show all the action from the race course as from 12:50h. The GP42 Series have their first practice race of the season and were all on the water training today, except defending champion Puerto Calero (ESP), who only arrived this afternoon after a difficult delivery passage from the Canary Islands.

Portugal Trophy, Cascais
Official Training Race

TP52 Series
1. Cristabella (GBR), 01:03:24
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), +00:08
3. Matador (ARG), +00:20
4. Bribón (ESP), +00:43
5. Luna Rossa (ITA), +00:48
6. Bigamist 7 (POR), +00:50    
7. Quantum Racing (USA), +01:00
8. TeamOrigin (GBR), +01:16
9. Audi A1 powered by ALL4ONE (FRA/GER), +01:21
10. Synergy (RUS), DNF    
11. Artemis (SWE), DNF