Cristabella crew excel at the Audi MedCup

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The Independent Online

Britain's star-studded and medal-strewn sailors were again struggling for pace and consistency in waters off Barcelona as the third of this year's Audi MedCup series fired up after a 24-hour delay.

Instead it was the unsung crew of the second British boat, Cristabella, that was grabbing the limelight with a second and first in the opening two races. The combination of Tim Powell on the helm and John Cutler calling tactics was working well until they were forced in the wrong direction soon after the start of the third race. They found themselves at the back.

Playing catch up is painfully difficult in a class that races over short courses and being quick out of the blocks is vital, though, as vividly demonstrated by the Prada-backed Luna Rossa, Lady Luck can help. The all-Italian team – no Robert Scheidt, no Torben Grael – carded a ninth, an 11th and then roared home first.

Team Origin's director of sailing, Mike Sanderson, has gone and been replaced by the even more senior Grant Simmer, designer Juan Kouyoumdjian has left the project and has yet to be replaced and there has been a crew reshuffle, in part to tighten up choreography of handling the 52-foot boat.

Skipper Ben Ainslie is one of the most feared and respected sailors in the world, tactical input from Iain Percy and Andrews Simpson can at times be dazzling (that's six Olympic golds between those three) and a seventh is provided by American coach Stevie Erickson. The talent runs from top to bottom of the crews list.

But a 10th, a sixth and a third was not the script they would have written and afterwards Ainslie's summing up was candid and concise: "It was a tough day and we struggled a bit," he said. "Some days it doesn't stick and it didn't stick for us. But, there is a good feeling on board."

Listen: Camper president explains the Volvo entry to Stuart Alexander:






The Barcelona regatta is additionally sponsored by the Mallorca-based footwear company Camper and boss Lorenzo Fluxa took the opportunity to introduce his new alliance with ETNZ, who will supply the players and manage his Volvo round the world race entry.

Grant Dalton is firmly in charge and the TNZ design team of Botin and Carkeek is busy drawing a boat that will be built in New Zealand by Cookson.

Dalton also took the chance to deny any trace of tokenism in the appointment of Chuny Bermudez, who skippered Delta Lloyd in the last race and is crewing on Cristabella, to a crew skippered by Chris Nicholson.

Fluxa did not discount the possibility of continuing the campaign through to the 2014 Volvo as TNZ both strengthens its stable and underpins the return of Auckland to the Volvo stopover list.

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