Matthew Sheahan reports from the sidedeck of the new Artemis

They represent the leading edge of racing yacht design yet have a second life under IRC that can turn them into even faster boats. And when the oldest boat in the fleet wins the practice race of the opening event of the Audi Medcup in Alicante, beating three brand new designs in the process, it becomes clear why the TP52 class continues to attract so much attention.

Complex boats, tough competition and close racing has characterised the TP52 fleet for several years and if today’s practice race was anything to go by, the standard of racing has gone up another notch.

With windward/leeward legs of just 1.6 nautical miles apiece, perhaps the racing was always going to be tight for the first two mark roundings, but to see the fleet scramble around every mark like a flock of worried sheep simply illustrated how competitive this class has become.

Riding aboard the side deck of Torbjorn Tornqvist’s new Judel Vrolijk designed Artemis (scroll down for video) where Russell Coutts is tactician and chief helm whisperer placed me at the heart of the action. The new boat, Tornqvist’s third TP52 in as many years, is one of three new boats for this season, Matador (Judel Vrolijk) and Emirates Team New Zealand (Botin Carkeek) are the other two. All three are highly refined machines where windage and weight have become this season’s obsessions and where control lines and halyards don’t just run under part of the foredeck, but inside the entire boat.

Below decks the black carbon interior is a cat’s cradle of Spectra cheesewire with blocks, strops and pad eyes littered throughout the mine like interior.

“In many ways, because we’re using block and tackles instead of hydraulics, these boats have become more far complex than an America’s Cup boat,” explained skipper Jared Henderson. When you start to look behind the scenes and trace the various control lines back and forth through the boat under bunks and cabin soles, you begin to realise what he means.

Foredecks and coachroof’s have changed shape this season too following a tweak in the class rules that allows a more practical use of internal volume. This in turn has seen teams utilise the new deck shapes to seal genoas more efficiently. On Artemis, a recess for the spinnaker pole is just one of several details that highlight the obsession with windage. Neoprene sleeves around the mast collar, gooseneck and vang attachments are further indications.

Offset companionway hatches are becoming more popular as is keeping the secondary winches low down and on the starboard side to both reduce windage and make life easier and more efficient for the port hand windward mark roundings.

But it’s not just the boats that have moved on, the event is developing too.

This season includes a new series to be run in parallel for the GP42 class. We will be reporting in more detail on these exciting pocket rockets later in the season.

Shoreside facilities for the public have expanded as well with a travelling exhibition forming a new part of the circus.

But perhaps the biggest step forwards in bringing the racing ashore and closer to a broader audience is the use of Virtual Eye’s telemetry system and the web display system provided by Betomorrow, to provide America’s Cup style live animations for free. Access to this can be gained by simply clicking on the banner on the Audi Medcup homepage . Live coverage will start from the first race on Wednesday.

Racing starts at 1300 local (1100GMT)

In the meantime, here’s a short side deck shot video from the weather rail of Artemis with 2 minutes to go to the start.