Personal thoughts and opinions from the frontline of the Audi MedCup Circuit.
Paul Cayard, Helmsman of el Desafio.
The impetus for the Desafio TP52 project was to keep the sports team from the Spanish America’s Cup challenge together and active whilst awaiting the outcome of the Cup.
When we realised there would be quite a delay before a multi- challenge America’s Cup the decision was made to build a TP52, and that was our first challenge; to build the boat in four months! They have done a great job at the base in Valencia using the shore team and the crew.
Assembling the team was quite easy for us. We have 25 crew members part of Desafio Español sailing on two different circuits; the TP52 and GP42s that are both highly competitive. So we were ready to roll!
The TP52 Audi Medcup circuit is the most competitive professional circuit in sailing.
I first sailed this circuit in its first year in 2005, and last year I raced with Matador (then Siemens) in Copa del Rey and then with Windquest in Portimao. So I have sailed a fair amount in the class.
The trick with these boats, apart from the hull shape and the design of course (we have a Vrolijk design, and it is a very nice, fast boat) is to get the rig to work well with the sails through the range of conditions.
You are allowed to adjust the rake of the mast as you sail through the races, so you need to set up the rigging in such a way that you can adjust the rake of the mast automatically to de-power itself as the wind increases, and if it were to decrease, you could rake back and power the boat up.
Getting the settings of the mast just right to match your main sail is one of the keys to speed in this class. And I’m happy because we are going pretty fast and even if we have made some mistakes during the first regatta. But it looks like after five short months we have a boat that is fast and the rig is pretty sorted out. It is a good platform to start the year.
In a new project the key things to decide are who is going to design the boat, where it is going to be built, the mast manufacturer and sail manufacturer to use. The longest lead time was to build the rig and get it delivered here, and unfortunately we couldn’t get a new mast in such a short time. So we are using a fairly old mast – a spare from Audi Q8, a 2006 mast that was broken and we repaired.
Once again we went to in-house sail designer and maker for Desafio Español, Sandro Benigni. The boat is a Vrolijk design as we are able to get a female mould from Bribón and Matador; which was also essential to making our deadline.
I really feel we have the tools to win this regatta. We have only been sailing a short time but after making the key decision just five short months ago to compete, we have a boat in the water, it is well-built and it seems like we have the speed to win. We haven’t sailed perfectly but I think it is an area we can improve on.
I think it is early days to say who our main competition is. Bribón was leading at the beginning and won this one last year, but it really is quite soon to speculate too much.
There are probably ten teams that could win this series at the end of the year. You have to keep grinding away at it. There are sixty races, and none can be discarded. There are a lot of points to be had and a lot to be saved.
More than revolutionising a way of sailing the boat, it is about chipping away, perfecting, and gaining one percent here and there. It’s going to be a slow, steady grind to the top for whoever wins the Audi MedCup Circuit.
I think that one of our strengths is that we have a very good boat, and a tight, unified team. El Desafio had a great success last year in the Semi-Finals of the America’s Cup and that bonded the team hugely; the nucleus is already in place as almost all the team on board comes from that background, and there is a lot of solidarity.
I think that some of the teams have maybe a bit more experience in some areas of the boats but all in all I think we can definitely win the Audi TP52 Medcup.