Team Origin problems continue in MedCup

Stuart Alexander
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:43

New regime, new boat, new track, old problems for the star-studded Team Origin competing in Europe's champions' league of sailing, the Audi MedCup.

The Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed TP52 has a new keel bulb after the wings, which adorned the boat when making its debut in Portugal last month, were banned.

The team director, Mike Sanderson, has been replaced by the Australian Grant Simmer as his former boss, Ernesto Bertarelli, considers whether he will ever try to win back the America's Cup.

And it seems clear that, while Simmer will be in day to day control of the team backed by Sir Keith Mills – he of Tottenham Hotspur and Olympic Games bid fame - the silver and triple Olympic gold medal skipper Ben Ainslie will run the show on the water.

He is aided by some impressive talent, which includes double gold medallist Iain Percy and, standing in for the absent gold medallist and imminently a father, Andrew Simpson, is another American one, Stevie Erickson.

Marseille is an unforgiving venue and promises to be particularly unfriendly by the end of the regatta on Saturday and Sunday.

The Rade du Sud, with its film-set backdrops of the city and the islands in the bay, offers some good patches and even more pothole traps. So it was disappointing to see Ainslie have to recover from an unpromising start in the first race, push up to third, but finish fourth.

In the second race he was over the line early for the start. From that, he recovered to seventh, no mean feat and particularly galling for two behind him, the Spanish winner of the first race, Bribon, also a premature starter with Britain's last America's Cup skipper Ian Walker as tactician, and the German-French All4One, second in the opener to Bribon, where another man with three golds and a silver, Jochen Schuemann, has brought huge improvement.

Race three, in lighter, and so more unreliable breeze, produced a seventh. Not a happy debrief.

Entitled to feel better was the crew of the other British boat, Cristabella, where Olympic bronze medallist John Cutler calls the shots. Since fitting a new mast and buying a whole new suit of sails the boat has shown much better speed and the day ended with a sixth, a fourth, and a third.

But feeling the pressure was the reigning champion and runaway winner in Portugal, Emirates Team New Zealand. A 10th, a fifth and sixth is just not up to snuff.

Embarrassingly, the lanterne rouge was finally handed to Luna Rossa, the blue-blooded Italian team backed by Prada fashion house boss Patrizio Bertelli, and with a Brazilian tactician, Torben Grael, who has five Olympic medals.

Missing from the line-up is its helmsman, another Brazilian, Robert Scheidt, who has two golds and two silvers. He is training on Lake Garda for the Olympic sailing regatta at Weymouth in August and his place was taken by former world champion in the Melges 24 class, Lorenzo Bressani.

Two fifths and a 10th was his tally. In this fleet, world champions are cut even less slack than Olympic medallists.

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