September 16, 2015

Spookie Sets the Pace in Portugal.

As the 52 SUPER SERIES 2015 moved to the Atlantic, the regatta standings at the Cascais Royal Cup after the first two races reflect a certain American flavour. Jim Swartz’s Vesper crew instantly made their long odyssey from the USA for their one and only 52 SUPER SERIES of the season worthwhile when they won the first race, while Steve Benjamin’s US team on Spookie followed up their second in the first race with a win in the second contest and so top the standings. And as the DeVos’ owned, American flagged Quantum Racing posted two good, solid third places in the testing conditions to lie second overall as they seek to win their second regatta in a row.

Cascais may be renowned for big winds and big waves, but it was only the latter which was most evident today. A big sea-state left over from an overnight storm made for difficult sailing especially in the shifty, patchy breeze. Over the course of the two races the wind ranged from 270 degrees to 320 degrees and blew between eight knots and 18kts. Changing gear and maintaining top speeds was vital at all times as was precise, accurate helming and great communication between the trimmers and the helm.

Spookie started well enough on both guns. A fundamental weakness identified from last month’s Copa del Rey regatta was turned to a strength today and owner-helm Steve Benjamin proved particularly adept at keeping the boat moving well in the changeable conditions which were so very different, a rude awakening even, after the Med’s primarily flat waters. The odd drizzly passage added a further reminder that summer is almost done.

Benjamin’s crew went right off the committee boat at the first start, Swartz went from the pin end left – offshore and it was Vesper, the fleet’s oldest boat, but highly optimised, which sneaked around the top mark ahead. Quantum Racing chased Spookie across the finish line, poised one wave behind, to take third and complete the Americans’ 1-2-3.

After a front had dragged the wind direction to the right for a period, the second race got under way after a delay. Even so the wind was well to the right off the start line resulting in a very tight, compact grouping after the gun. With the breeze already slackening and shifting by the approach to the first mark, Spookie lead clearly around the first turn ahead. Up the second beat the wind died right away to just seven or eight knots – less in the holes – but Spookie proved invincible. Azzurra reversed their first race loss to Quantum Racing when they pulled through on the last run to take second. The series leaders scored 5,2 for the day, just one point behind Quantum Racing.

Peter Holmberg, tactician on Spookie, acknowledged the contribution played by Olympic silver medallist Steve Benjamin’s steering and highlights Spookie’s speed edge in the lighter winds and big seas: “We have got Steve Benjamin driving which is a nice thing and I think our boat likes the lighter air so it was a good day for us. And we didn’t get in the way of the boats… so that was a good thing too.  First race was even sides but I think it was the sides which were good so we picked the inside and first place came from the outside but it was very close. And I think just having a lane with the freedom to steer where you wanted to in those big waves was key also.”

Holmberg added: “After Palma we put everything on the table that we could improve upon and obviously there was plenty. The starts were the big thing for us and then downwind mode. It’s also your positioning so I have pushed ‘Benj’ to do a certain thing so my tactical options stayed open. Like just to stay in a low lane and not to be high so that we can dictate what we do and not be dictated to. But the start is still number one so ‘Benj’ and I have spent a little time talking about what we were going to do and then all the boat on boat situations and that was good.”

52 Super Series – Cascais Cup (After 2 races)
1 Spookie, USA (Steve Benjamin USA) (2,1) 3pts
2 Quantum Racing, USA (Doug DeVos USA) (3,3) 6pts
3 Vesper USA (Jim Swartz USA) (1,6) 7pts
4 Azzurra, ITA (Pablo/Alberto Roemmers ARG)  (5,2) 7pts
5 Platoon, GER (Harm Müller-Spreer GER) (4,5) 9pts
6 Provezza, TUR (Ergin Imre TUR) (9,4) 13pts
7 Bronenosec, RUS (Vladimir Liubomirov RUS) (6,9) 15pts
8 Gladiator, GBR (Tony Langley GBR) (8,7) 15pts
9 Sled, USA (Takashi Okura USA) (7,8) 15pts
10 Paprec FRA (Jean-Luc Petithuguenin FRA) (10,11) 21pts
11 Alegre, GBR (Andres Soriano USA) (12,10) 22pts
12 Xio/Hurakan, ITA (Guiseppe Parodi ITA) (11,12) 23pts


Guillermo Parada (ARG) skipper-helm Azzurra (ITA)“ ­I think we got through the first day very well. It was a very tough and challenging day with the breeze going up and down from 10 to 20kts, as far left as 210 and as far right as 320. For sure it was very challenging for the whole team and especially for Vasco to decide where to position the boat but the good thing is we made two good, clean starts. We were able to concentrate on the situations and make our own decisions. In the first race we made one [the decision] wrong unfortunately and lost a couple of points and then in the second we were able to stay ahead. It was a good day. The boat is going fast and the crew is working well so we are in good shape for the rest of the week.
How close were the sea and wind conditions to what you expected?
“ We thought it was going to be different because we thought the front was going to cross earlier and we were going to have better sailing conditions. But it certainly wasn’t the case with everything a bit all over the place. All round I think it was a very good day for watching the race. It was very, very bumpy, I think a lot of people were sea-sick but it was a very good day for us. We are in touch with the leader of the regatta, one point behind Quantum so everything is looking good.”

Peter Holmberg USA tactician Spookie USA“ We had a tough first regatta there in Palma so we came in here hoping to do better. It was a very hard day with a lot of waves and not much wind. But we have got Steve Benjamin driving which is a nice thing and I think our boat likes the lighter air so it was a good day for us and we didn’t get in the way of the boats… so that was a good thing.  First race was even sides but I think the it was the sides which were good so we picked the inside and first place came from the outside but it was very close. So I think just having a lane with the freedom to steer in those big waves was key so we got the (committee) boat in both starts which was a good thing.

Ado Stead (GBR) tactician Quantum Racing (USA): “ We are pretty pleased with today. There was quite a lot going on, quite big shifts in the wind with the big front going past during the day and also very big sea- way out there so finding the mode upwind and downwind was quite tricky today and the guys on the boat did a very good job of nailing that. We had an okay first beat, at the top of the first beat in the first race, we managed to get ourselves out of trouble and go round third in the first race so that was good. Second race, we got a little bit caught up in traffic at the top but a good first run got us up to fourth and fifth and then we had an outside chance for second at the finish but third was pretty nice. This was our first regatta here in 2011 with the old Quantum. It’s a good venue there’s lots going on, today we haven’t seen much current but we know there is current there as well, the sea-way had a huge effect today but for us it was a good opening day.

Jim Swartz (USA) and Gavin Brady (NZL) owner-driver and tactician Vesper: 
Jim: “ It’s just good to be here in Portugal. We came here for the waves and the wind and we found it today, so perfect.”
Gavin: “Normally here in Portugal it’s a bit of a right hand course and it’s a race into the beach and into the cliffs but that race we decided it looked a bit better on the left and we decided we have nothing to lose so let’s just go for it. Then in the second leg the right hand side worked so thank goodness for that, we just happened to be in the right place at the right time for that first leg and it was really nice.”
Jim: “I  think it’s a great fleet, to all intents and purposes the best in the world and we love it. It is Europe though and I do I like to spend my summers on Martha’s Vineyard so I can’t do all of them, so we like to come and do one or two of the races here and it’s a fantastic circuit.”