Fierce competition resumes for Audi MedCup

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The Independent Online

The battle for supremacy in the Audi MedCup series has been rejoined, but it does not involve, yet, the might of Britain’s Team Origin, skippered by Ben Ainslie.

Instead, the reigning champions, Emirates Team New Zealand, is being pressed hard by the team they dislodged, Quantum, from the United States.

The Quantum skipper, Terry Hutchinson, had been tactician for the TNZ skipper Dean Barker in the 2007 America’s Cup final against Alinghi. He then put a tour de force on to the European circuit in 2008, but could not prevent the Kiwis from executing their own power play the following year.

Hutchinson modified his boat over the winter, redoubled his analysis and training, and, even though the Kiwis are still in the lead at the halfway stage in the 2010 programme, has thrown down the gauntlet. Even behind the scenes there is some abrasion.

On the second full day of racing in Barcelona, Quantum bombed from being fourth early on to last in the first race and then hammered in two compelling wins to end the day with all ones, 11, 1, 1. Not good enough to match TNZ’s 1, 3, 2.

But TNZ’s lead at the top of this regatta is just five points with Sweden’s Artemis second on 24 and Quantum third with 25. For the season so far, and every race of the five regattas counts, Quantum is now up to second behind TNZ, though with a 25.5-point gap.

A long day had begin late, which seemed to suit Origin as they posted their best result of the day, a third behind TNZ and the Russian team, Synergy. The gray had given way to sunshine and a 12-knot breeze

After a top three, Ainslie and Team Origin could manage only a ninth and a seventh,\though they were lodging a formal protest against Italy’s Prada-backed Luna Rossa having themselves taken a penalty turn.

All the talent in the world is not preventing them from having to go through a learning process in a fleet of 52-footers which has leaned all sorts of little tricks and subtleties to squeeze extra speed. They have done just 22 races in a brand new, Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed boat. It takes more than that, Ainslie’s men are sixth overall in Barcelona, but fourth overall for the season so far.