Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Spanish ready for a breezy battle

Yesterday was a reserve day, today was blown off with too much wind and 2-metre waves outside the breakwater, and tomorrow there is a fear that the wave state might still prevent racing, even if the breeze is forecast to be a little lighter.

That means the continuation of the Semi Final between the Kiwis and the Spanish might not get going again until Thursday, the last scheduled day of racing. There is a reserve day down for Friday, but there’s no way the Kiwis would want it to go any further.

When the spectator fleet comes out in force on the weekend, Desafio Espanol seems to find an extra gear. Their weekend racing record is excellent so Dean Barker must get the job done by the end of the working week.

If the two teams do get racing in the stronger breezes that are now blowing in Valencia, you’d think the Kiwis’ boathandling would see them safely through. But Desafio coach Eddie Warden Owen doesn’t see it that way. “In the two crucial gybes in Sunday’s race, the Kiwis made mistakes, they gybed too fast, they weren’t sure what we were doing, and our guys really handled it very well.

“We put them under pressure. When you’re behind, it’s pretty hard to pass. I say to the guys, ‘Get round the windward mark first, it’s very hard for someone to pass you.’ In practice racing, if you get a boatlength ahead of your B boat it rarely gets past. I say: ‘Treat the opposition like the B boat, what would you do against the B boat? Feel confident, relaxed, he’s the one that’s got to get round the outside of you.’

Also, Warden Owen reckons ESP 97 really comes on song in the stronger winds. “We like the breeze, our boat performs better up the wind range. The Kiwis are pretty comfortable in the light stuff, it looks like they’re optimised down the wind range and we’re optimised further up the wind range. Stronger breeze suits us quite well.”

So, while most of us watching in Valencia keep on thinking the Kiwis need just one more race to close out the series, the Spanish are determined to continue defying expectations. Warden Owen says the team’s confidence is growing by the day, and Karol Jablonski is proving more consistent in the pre-starts than Dean Barker. There could be more surprises in store.

No comments: