USA 17 wins Marseille

USA-17, the American boat owned by Larry Ellison (USA) and skippered by 3 times America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts (NZL), the current MedCup Circuit champion skipper, won on her first and only outing planned for the 2008 series. The brand new all white TP52 missed the opening regatta of the season three weeks ago in Alicante and will take no further part in the Audi MedCup Circuit as the BMW Oracle race crew focus on their main goal, winning the 33rd America’s Cup.

The City of Marseille Trophy Regatta came to a premature end on Saturday afternoon with the famous Mistral wind still blowing strong. At more than 28 knots on the Rade Sud race area, racing was cancelled without anyone even leaving the Vieux Port of Marseille, and USA-17, the overnight leaders, ended their one and only regatta Audi MedCup Circuit with a win. Just behind them was the Swedish boat Artemis with BMW Oracle Racing team-mates on the identical Reichel/Pugh-designed hull. Artemis was six points adrift of the lead after eight races including one 40-miles coastal race.

The partnership between the two boats USA-17 and Artemis (SWE) – the new TP52 of Torbjorn Tornqvist’s (SWE) 2007 champions – has been a key part of the American boat’s success in Marseille, helmed through parts of most races by Ellison himself. Although the new USA-17 was only launched on 21st May, the settings and tuning notes gathered from Artemis in Alicante earlier last month were be applied directly to USA-17 to get her up to speed quickly.

After a modest 6th and 5th on the opening day, USA-17 won three races to complement their two 3rd places, a 2nd place and a 4th place, always looking quick and at home in the strong breeze over a regatta where the wind speed never fell below 15 knots.

“Marseille has been an awesome race track, really interesting with plenty of breeze, but the good thing as well is that it has always been changing with the shifts, so there has never been a ‘must-have’ side of the course. It has been about playing the shifts all the time,” said USA-17’s helm and co-strategist James Spithill (AUS).

“We exceeded our expectations by a lot at this event. We are more than happy to win. I think obviously Reichel/Pugh designers did a good job giving us a nice design especially in the conditions we had. We had the boat moving along nicely. The team combined well, quickly, and we can still improve a lot more, but we did enough to get there in the end,” said Russell Coutts.

“I would love to do more on this Circuit. It is a great circuit. It is not that we don’t want to do more, but we have to focus on the multihull for the America’s Cup. That’s obvious, but there will be a time when we come back into this class and enjoy it again.”

Jose Cusi’s Bribón, steered by Dean Barker (NZL) with double Olympic medallist Ross MacDonald (CAN) on tactics, arrived in Marseille in second place in the Audi MedCup Circuit standings. Bribón leaves France’s third city with a seven point lead over Artemis, the boat that moved furthest up the rankings.

Over a challenging regatta where 3 were eliminated from racing due to damage inflicted from collisions at the first mark of Thursday’s coastal race from which two boats were subsequently disqualified, Bribón finished 3d overall in the regatta and the Spanish TP52’s consistency continues to prevail.

“We are more satisfied with the result than the performance in reality,” said Ignacio Triay (ESP), Bribón’s project manager and trimmer, “We had been suffering a lot with the conditions of wind and waves because we could feel that the boat was not going as well as the boats leading here in France. We have been working hard all week trying to find the right settings for the rig and also improving the crew work on board. We were not good enough to win the event here and we feel that maybe we could do better with these conditions, but on the other hand we are really satisfied because the boats that were going well in light airs in Alicante, were not so good here and vice versa. The boats with problems in light airs have done well here in Marseille. So we have been consistent – never brilliant, but always there, which is why we are leading the Audi MedCup circuit.”

Marseille has offered fabulous race conditions to the 14 TP52’s that participated. Strong winds, bright sunshine and a unique setting are but a few of the components of the regatta’s success. The race course area is peppered with an array of challenging wind shifts and is always able to produce great tactical racing, while the coastal race to the south east to picturesque Cassis, was set against one of the most stunning, rocky backdrops in the Mediterranean. Marseille is a great venue for the Audi MedCup and it is the intention of the Audi MedCup organisers to return here next year.