Ran leads the way on the practice day in Sardinia

When they won today’s 52 Series Practice Race Niklas and Catherine Zennström and their Ràn team enjoyed a morale boosting reminder that they are just one of several 52 Series teams which are in shape to leave the capital city of Sardinia next Sunday with the Region of Sardinia Trophy in their possession.
Their positive momentum took a dent in Marseille last month when their shiny new Vrolijk designed, English built boat was hit and their transom damaged in an unfortunate joust with the British boat Gladiator.

But today the mainly British crew, with renowned Kiwi tactician Gavin Brady, kept the current TP52 world champions Quantum Racing (USA) astern to the finish line, taking first gun in today’s exciting practice race.

“It doesn’t really mean that much, but winning certainly puts a smile on your face and puts everyone in a good mood. And it is reminder to us all that we can do it.” was navigator Steve Hayles’ (GBR) evaluation of the importance of today’s first gun. It sets them up well for tomorrow’s first points scoring races at the Audi MedCup Circuit’s third regatta of the five which constitute the 2011 season long championship.

The 2011 racing campaign for the couple’s crew spans not just this, their debut this season on the Audi MedCup Circuit, but also continues their successful racing with their larger IRC 72 footer, almost all offshore.

In their native Sweden they took line honours in last week’s 400 miles Gotland Runt and just lost out on winning overall by a matter of minutes whilst their next major offshore target with their ‘big boat’ will be defending their Fastnet Race overall title which they won in 2009 with a race strategy which several described as ‘near perfect’

By comparison to the long offshores the Audi MedCup Circuit is about short, supercharged sprints and tight boat-for-boat tactics.

Today’s practice race, contested in a brisk southerly sea breeze which reached 20kts, proved that Ràn have the legs to win races, and if they can slightly raise their level of consistency they can surely be among the regatta title challengers here.

The 52 Series’ only owner driver at this regatta, Zennstrom made an accomplished start and Ràn was in position to pass Quantum Racing down the first run. The American flagged team charged down the last leg and were in Ràn ‘s wake on the finish line with Marseille Trophy victors Container (GER) skippered by Markus Wieser (GER) finishing third.

Conditions are expected to be brisk for this regatta’s first two planned windward-leeward races tomorrow, though forecasts suggest it will be the NW’ly Mistral, which accelerates down the long, flat and dusty valley upwind of the race area

The practice race was also a reminder how close the racing is expected to be here. Jose Cusi’s Bribon (ESP) were among the early contenders as were Audi Azzurra Sailing Team, who are a Sardinian team which would deliver a huge boost if they could return stronger results off the island which is home to the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda whose burgee they race under.