A still too-little-known circuit
Text: Vincent Gillioz
The effervescence that prevails over the old port of Barcelona doesn’t seem to disturb Christopher Columbus, who points tirelessly to the ocean from his 60-meter high column. The huge two-storey high VIP tent, the impressive row of Audi Q7s and the giant screen set up at his feet leave him marble cold, or more rightly bronze cold.
The TP52s ran the final of the Audi MedCup under high pressure. The die was far from being cast before the start, even if Quantum entered the event with a certain advantage. The meeting took place in bright sunshine and a gentle sea breeze of about ten knots. The Swedish on Rán, an owner’s boat, were the most consistent in these light airs. The charcoal grey boat won three of the nine races, and finished second on two others.
All4One in the race
Bribon and Quantum complete the podium a few points apart. The French and Germans on board All4One however, helmed by Jochen Schümann and Sébastien Col had more trouble. “Light winds are not our best, said the team manager, Stéphane Kandler after two days of racing. We have to work on the start phases which haven’t worked too well for us these past few days”. Nonetheless, the crew made good progress throughout the week and made it to the podium for the five last races. Quantum Racing was stronger towards the end and won back some precious points to ensure their victory of the championship. A winner in 2008, then second in 2009 and 2010 with Terry Hutchinson, Quantum Racing hence wins the 2011 Audi MedCup, with Ed Baird at the helm.
Far from the public interest
Despite considerable efforts on the part of the race organizers, the Conde de Godo Trophy, the 5th and last leg of the circuit, didn’t attract the crowds. The public milled around the Maritime Museum, the pier and the “Rambla”, but didn’t flock to the pontoons or the screen that broadcasted the live races. “The entertainment offer is huge in Barcelona, says one of the PR agents offstage. We go a little unnoticed. From that point of view Barcelona is not the best destination. Smaller towns where not much happens the rest of the year are far more welcoming and the public interest totally different. I don’t believe the Audi MedCup will come back here.”
A visit to the Race Village, open to authorized people only, and these considerations are swept aside… The crews play the third half-time in front of a generous pasta buffet, the tacticians re-live the regatta, the atmosphere is one of a Yacht Club. Nearby, the dozens of journalists and other PR agents are busy writing their papers. As every day, the temporary TV studio set behind the press center welcomes some of the heroes of the moment. During the daily Audi MedCup news, the rubenesque TV host listens with great attention to the skippers explaining why opting for a left, or right passage had been a crucial choice.
A premier level
Beyond the considerations of public visibility and despite the loss of interest for monohulls among the America’s Cup circles, the Audi MedCup remains a major event on the professional calendar. The line-up still speaks for itself. Such sailors as Ed Baird, Francesco Bruni, Vasco Vascotto, Jochen Schümann or Sébastien Col are definitely well set in their carbon monsters cockpits. The level is even since each leg of the race has been won by a different boat. Contrary to what one would think, the hegemony of one unique competitor was highlighted on the Soto40 monotypes: Iberidrola Team indeed won 4 out of the 5 meetings of the season.
What will the future hold?
Audi has signed with the organizers until 2013. Next year’s edition is therefore guaranteed, despite the announcement of Bribon’s withdrawal from the circuit. Azzura and All4One, flying the German brand’s colors, will obviously continue. And so should the rest of the fleet, even if the time has come for some of the teams to take stock. Stéphane Kandler also took part in the discussions about the older generation IRC52s coming punctually into the competition, to motivate owners to join the circuit. “Rán has proven that a private team could achieve great performance”.
AudiMedCup’s Technical Director, Nacho Postigo reckons the number of teams may not be an issue, as long as the level remains even. About the host cities, Postigo promises a detailed programme before the end of the year: “There will be at least one event in Northern Europe, maybe in the Baltic”. This may explain the German and the Swedish participation next year. Rumour has it that there may also be a leg in La Rochelle.
The American Quantum Racing won the Audi MedCup 2011, at the end of the Catalan leg that was run late September. The sporting level of the “most prestigious international racing circuit” is undeniable since its creation, but the public interest remains disappointing, despite the important means dedicated to the event.
Audi MedCup 2011 ranking :
1: Quantum Racing, USA
2: Bribon, ESP
3: Audi Azurra Sailing Team, ITA
4: Container, GER
5: Rán, SWE
6: Audi Sailing Team Powered By All For One, FRA and GER
7: Synergy Russian Sailing Team, RUS
8: Gladiator, GBR
1: Iberdrola Team, ESP
2: Noticia IV, ESP
3: Ngoni, GBR
4: Patagonia, ARG
5: XXII, UEU