The 2008 Audi Med Cup is about to get under way here in Alicante. Twenty boats are present, with a little more than half the fleet sailing new boats just built this winter. The season consists of six events, over five months, with a stand alone event for a World Championship in October in Lanzarote. For the complete schedule visit www.medcup.org

I am sailing with the Spanish team, El Desafio. The team built a new Vrolijk designed TP52 last winter at their base in Valencia. Following the postponement of the America’s Cup last fall, Desafio decided that the sporting program for the team in 2008 would be to compete in the TP 52 circuit and the GP 42 circuit. The GP 42 was already in place and in fact, the team won the 2007 season with Laureano Wizner at the helm and a crew made up of the Desafio Español sailors.

The decision to build the new TP 52 was taken in mid-December and I for one thought it could not be done. But Agustin Zulueta, Managing Director of Desafio Español was confident his “boys” could do it. The mold of Bribon and Matador, two 2007 designs that were very good, was used to speed up the process. The boat was started on January 4th and was launched on April 20th! They built the entire boat in the Desafio base in Valencia – with the shore team and crew! The longest lead time item was a new mast. A new one could not be built in time. So the team acquired a spare mast from TP52 Anonimo from last year and we are starting out with that. The sails are by North Sails designer Sandro Benini who has done a great job designing sails for this fleet for the past four years.

We spent the last ten days tuning up the boat and getting the bugs worked out while sailing out of our base in Valencia. We hosted the Quantum Racing team with Terry Hutchinson as the helmsman. We got some good training in and now feel we have a solid platform to build on.

Today was the final day of practice and in fact, we had a practice race. The wind was 10-12 knots with relatively flat seas. The direction at the start was 165 degress and it moved left steadily through out the day to 130 degrees. We had a good start at the committee boat and sailed straight out to the left with Quantum, Platoon and Cam. At the first windward mark, Quantum was leading and we were fifth. Up the second windward leg, we got left of the three boats that were between us and Quantum and passed them to finish second. Not a bad way to cap off our training.

The racing will be very difficult and competitive. I am sure that at least ten of the 20 competitors could win this event. Consistency will be important and probably difficult to attain as so many boats are brand new and still sorting things out.

The format for the regatta is ten races with all races counting.Two windward/leeward races are scheduled per day for Tuesday Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Thursday will be the coastal race and there will be two scoring opportunities in that race; one at the midpoint and one at the finish.

I am not sure what the forecast is for tomorrow but it will be a battle.