British underdogs start strong in Audi MedCup

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The Independent Online

The champions were struggling, the British new boys were searching for rhythm, and the British underdogs were embarrassing their Olympic, medal-heavy rivals as the 2010 Audi MedCup series kicked off in Lisbon.

With 27 Olympic medals shared by various crew members on the 11 TP52 yachts – plus more by the backroom boys - and five America’s Cup teams mounting major campaigns the key was to be fast out of the blocks and first blood went to the 2008 champions from America, Terry Hutchinson and crew on Quantum. Perhaps British tactician Adrian Stead had brought new thinking to a boat given a new deck over the winter.

Behind them by just six seconds was Britain’s Cristabella, with Tim Powell on the wheel, Olympic bronze medallist John Cutler calling the shots, and the whole crew feeling extra confident in a new mast and sails.

But Team Origin, with a brand new Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed boat, six golds and silver to their combined credit, and skippered by Ben Ainslie, was two places further back, the defending champions, Emirates Team New Zealand, were sixth and the scale of the competition was emerging.

Race two saw Hutchinson drop to fifth as Karol Jablonski steered the Russian boat Synergy to first, Cristabella slipped to eighth, but still ahead of Origin in ninth, and the Kiwis were dog last. Thuis was not how the script was meant to play.

What a change around in the third race of the day. Over the seven-mile course and in a chilly 12-knot north-westerly, the New Zealanders finally found some form and scored their first win, chased home by Origin with Cristabella third to lead overall, but, with up to nine races scheduled by the finish on Sunday and every result to count, the Trofeo de Portugal will take some winning.