Origin suffer gear failure in Audi MedCup

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The Independent Online

Fighting back from gear failure, Ben Ainslie and his Origin team could only contemplate the might have beens after an exhausting 39-miler in the Audi MedCup.

On the first leg of the coastal race towards Cassis the top of the headsail pulled out. In sorting out the mess and having to replace the damaged sail with a smaller one distance and places were lost. In a westerly wind which was to build to over 20 knots Ainslie pulled back up to fifth only for a halyard to break and the boat plunged back to ninth.

At the first regatta of the series in Portugal last month, it was the offshore race that saw a slide from initial success. The eventual 6th off Marseille did not just cost two places from the third overall the British America's Cup challenge team was in before; it put them back into playing catch-up just as their Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed boat had shown all-round speed. Sailing trouble and error-free races can pay major dividends.

The race was won in some style by the 2008 champion Terry Hutchinson's Quantum and, with the race scoring points ands a half, that consolidated his lead over the Argentinian yacht Matador. Jochen Schuemann held on to third overall and Dean barker's Emirates team New Zealand, with a second in the coastal, climbed strongly to fourth overall.

Skipper Ainslie, was immediately involved in a dash back home as he is also booked to take part in Saturday's annual Round the Island race. He is due to fly back to Marseille the same evening knowing that any racing on the final day, Sunday, is threatened by strong winds.

Other early birds over the Solent will see 1,750 yachts gathering off Cowes for the 50-mile anti-clockwise dash around the Isle of Wight, the 79th organised by the Island Sailing Club. The professionals chase records and publicity but, satisfyingly often, small boats with a handicap time allowance, garner the overall winner's trophy, the Gold Roman Bowl.

Record times are at the disposal of the wind gods and are divided between monohulls and multihulls. This year the forecasters say there will be a light to moderate breeze out of the north-east, which should make for an easy passage west to the Needles rocks and lighthouse and may increase in strength by mid-morning as the fleet works its way round the eastern end of the island and back into the Solent through the forts off Portsmouth.

The current monohull record is held by Mike Slade and his 100-foot Leopard and he is back to try and better the three hours 53 min. he set in 2008. He will have to work hard; the boat recently had to abandon an attempt to set a new west-east transatlantic record when it ran out of wind.

Also back to defend is multihull record holder Francis Joyon with a bright red 100-foot trimaran, Idec, trying to beat the three hours, eight min and 29sec he set in a 60-footer in 2001.

There will be a clutch of Extreme 40 catamarans, but an absolute avalanche of club racers and cruisers, the first group starting at 05.10.

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