Azzurra's outrageous misfortune puts them sixth


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The Independent Online

Sport can dish up some cruel misfortunes, not least for the resurgent Italian crew of Azzurra in the Audi MedCup. After a great start in the 21-mile coastal race the big blue TP52 was leading only to be pipped at the first mark by its red sistership of the Franco-German All 4 One.

The Italians retook the lead only to see a spinnaker rip and then suffer a bodged hoist of another spinnaker, which dropped them from first to last. Bit by bit they fought their way back into the lead.

Then, less than a mile from the finish, the head of the mainsail dislodged itself and sagged like a huge, baggy trouser leg, crippling the yacht as the first of the chasers, just 50m away, bore down for the kill.

Crewman Mamu Caputo was pulled up to the head of the sail, taking with him a spare halyard wire and the recalcitrant sail was re-hoisted for the last few hundred metres to the finish inside the harbour.

But the damage was done, five places were lost, and Azzurra finished sixth.

The win went to the American yacht Quantum, which the previous day had barely been able to get out of its own way and had held a “time for some grip” meeting the night before.

“We have been in a lot of close situations all week and missed out fair share,” said skipper Ed Baird. “Today, all the little things just seemed to fall our way.

Being watched by his predecessor and 2008 winner of the Audi MedCup, Terry Hutchinson, Baird added: “We completely understand the frustration for Azzurra and they did a great job to finish at all. They had sailed a great race.”

The Italians are still second with two final inshore races scheduled for Sunday, but the lead is held by Spain’s Bribon. One of the others to benefit from Azzurra’s misfortunes was Niklas Zennström’s Hamble-based Rán, up from sixth to fifth but still holding up the bottom of the Murcia Trophy table overall.

Another pair of seconds mean that, with one race to go, Tony Buckingham’s Ngoni, skippered in Spain by Kevin Sproul cannot, except in the case of penalty points being added, be beaten in the Soto 40 class.

In seven races Sproul’s record has been three firsts and four seconds, finally putting the previous dominance of Spain’s Iberdrola, with two firsts, two seconds, two thirds and a fourth, to the sword.