Monday, 13 October 2008

BlackMatch Defeats Ben Ainslie in Epic Semi-Final in Bermuda

Smiles all round as BlackMatch book a place in the finals. Image copyright Charles Anderson.

by David Swete

There were many surprises Saturday on and off the water today. The first was the realization that our semi-final opponent was not in fact Johnnie Berntsson from Sweden, but three times Olympic Gold Medallist and America's Cup Helmsman Ben Ainslie!

After Friday's press conference it was announced that we were to take Johnnie on in the semi-final. It was not until this morning that Team Origin's Coach spied a change in the notice of race that indicated we were to take on the British team, which also included Olympic Star Gold medallist Ian Percy.

It was an unenviable position to be in taking on a team with such talent but when facing a 2-1 deficit that saw Ben on match point, we really stepped our game up to take out the next two pressure matches and qualify for the 2008 King Edward VII Gold Cup final.

BlackMatch keeping their heads out of the boat in Bermuda. Image copyright Charles Anderson.

In our first match we forced a penalty on the Brits when they attempted to swing below our stern but crashed straight into us on port. Their fleet racing skills showed through in the end though and they sailed away to have a big enough advantage to do their penalty turn on the finish line.

We took the next race out comfortably when they misjudged the start and were over the start line when the gun went. We sailed very well tactically in this race and defended our lead well to level the scores.

BlackMatch too close for comfort while racing Ben Ainslie. Image copyright Charles Anderson.

In our third match we had an even start but they again showed excellent speed and won by a narrow margin to go to match point.

The fourth match saw a split tack start, we were extremely confident in the right hand side of the course during our pre-start manoeuvres so Adam fought hard for the committee boat end of the line, we won the boat and backed our call against the Olympians to make huge gains in better pressure on the first upwind.

They fought back hard and on the second upwind. We were 'tack for tack' but still maintained a 2 boat length lead by the top mark to take the victory and again level the scores.

The deciding match saw a very heated pre-start. We were in total control of the start and had the Team Origin Crew on the ropes, locked out above the committee boat end of the start line. They bailed out and attempted to gybe around to start, instead of bearing away and going for a conservative start we went for the kill and tacked to follow them.

Both of us were bearing away to gybe for the start and they gybed straight in front of us, our only avenue was to continue with our gybe inside them but the British team kept altering their course at us and there was a collision. There were protest flags from both boats but the penalty went against them while we also had better speed off the line that gave us the advantage we needed to take out the semi final 3-2 and progress through to the final tomorrow.

Congratulations on the water after a great semi-final. Image copyright Charles Anderson.

An all-Swedish affair in the other semi-final saw the in-form Johnnie Berntsson defeat Mattias Rahm convincingly 3-0.

Berntsson and crew are happy to reach the finals. Image copyright Charles Anderson.

We are absolutely ecstatic to have beaten such a respectable competitor in Ben Ainslie here in Bermuda, but we are very wary of the form that Johnnie Berntsson has discovered and are looking forward to the challenge of winning our first World Tour Event tomorrow.

We would like to congratulate all of the semi-finalists as it is such a huge achievement to make it through to the final 4 of 24 competing teams.

BlackMatch would like to thank their sponsors, FedEx Express and Ross Munro from Line 7 New Zealand. We are very proud to have the support of such world renowned companies. We would also like to thank our yacht club the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and also our friends and family for their great support this year. Ee hope we can go one better and take out the final tomorrow.

BlackMatch Racing

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