Monday, 15 December 2008

Monsoon Cup Day Two: A Game of Snakes and Ladders

Former Bermuda Gold Cup winners (2007, Mathieu Richard, and 2008, Johnie Berntsson) compete against each other in Malaysia. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

by Tracey Johnstone

The leaders are struggling and the followers are powering through to deliver wining results as the top match racing teams finish day two in the 2008 Monsoon Cup.

The day was full of exciting racing with crashes, penalties, mistakes and celebrations as the top 12 international match racing teams fought for dominance on the waters of Terengganu, Malaysia, in the final event of the World Match Racing Tour.

The excellent conditions allowed the race committee to complete eight flights.

Today’s results are a reflection of the true challenges of match racing as leaders falter in their performance in one event and yet can pull up and deliver podium finishes in other tour events. This year alone the tour has eight different winners over the eight events preceding the Monsoon Cup.

At the start of the event Ian Williams’ Bahrain Team Pindar holds the top place in the ISAF Match Racing World Championship on 92 points. In second place is Sebastien Col’s K-Challenge team on 88 points and Mathieu Richard’s French Spirit team on 77 points. Facing down the competition today in shifty breezes, strong currents and strong competition, all three leading teams are going to have to work harder, and look for a lot of luck, to keep themselves in the running if they want to qualify for the quarter final.

Richard Sydenham calls the line for Ian Williams. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

At the top of the leader board so far in the round robin stage with seven wins and only one loss is Paolo Cian’s Team Shosholoza.

Cian has now beaten Mathieu Richard, Adam Minoprio, Torvar Mirsky, Magnus Holmberg, Johnie Berntsson, Nurul Ain and Dato’ Peter Gilmour. His only loss has been to Williams in yesterday’s racing. Cian’s dominance on the race course playing the shifts and working the strong current has been outstanding.

“It is an important event and an important Tour for Team Shosholoza. I strongly believe the World Match Racing Tour is an important part of world match racing. My team is sailing the boat very well so I am confident enough that I can come back into the race and this is an important approach to match racing. If you make a mistake, you are still in the match.

“It is just the beginning. We are going to the quarter finals and then we start again,” Cian said.

On only just beating Keith Swinton by a matter of seconds Cian said “I must congratulate them (Swinton’s Black Swan Racing Team) and the way they are sailing the event. They don’t look like newcomers. They sail the boat very well and I am not the only one to get penalties in the pre-starts.”

Hot on the tail of Cian is Torvar Mirsky’s Mirsky Racing Team and Adam Minoprio’s Black Match Racing Team both with six wins each. Mirsky has rolled over the top of Richard, Holmberg, Berntsson, Ainslie, Swinton and Nurul Ain. His losses were to Cian and Minoprio.

Minoprio sailing with good boat speed and confident crew work has now beaten Williams, Col, Mirsky, Ainslie, Gilmour and Swinton. His only loss was to Cian. “We had a good day plus a win against Ian (Williams) in one race. We got lucky and the rest of the race was really close and the lead changed a lot,” Minoprio said.

So the pattern emerges as Cian stands out from the two nearest challengers who are yet to beat the feisty Italian.

The match of the day was undoubtedly the battle between 22 year-old Torvar Mirsky and 23 year-old Adam Minoprio. Both were placed equal fourth on the World Match Racing Tour leader board going into the Monsoon Cup. Their match really was a battle of the young guns.

Mirsky went into the match with five wins while Minoprio had four. It was race of determination and tactics as the two young crews showed why they are placed equal fourth on Match Racing Tour score board. Minoprio timed his start brilliantly and was right on time crossing the line a boat length clear of Mirsky. Outstanding crew work from the Mirsky racing Team crew had them gaining ground, but as Mirsky tacked the jib caught around the winch slowing the Mirsky Racing Team down. Mirsky continued to bite away at Minoprio’s lead covering every move of the other team, but it was not enough with Minoprio and his Black Match Racing Team taking a decisive victory over Mirsky and his Mirsky Racing Team.

Olympic champion turned match racer, Ben Ainslie and his Team Origin, created high drama this afternoon when they collected the committee boat anchor chain at the start as they went into the last few seconds of their match start against Minoprio and his Black Match Racing Team. Both teams were fighting closely when they approached the start line. Minoprio pushed Ainslie from behind forcing him close to the boat. Battling the strong tide, Ainslie collected the anchor line while Minoprio sailed away comfortably.

Team Origin tangle with the committee boat. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

Ainslie in commenting on his anchor chain experience noted he was under quite a bit of pressure at the time.

“To be honest we did not sail a great race today. We made a lot of bad mistakes. But, I have a really good team around me and we will just keep plugging away. It is all part of match racing; getting through the rounds and getting better each time.”

If that wasn’t enough Peter Gilmour and his newly named Yanmar Racing Team, in his late afternoon match against Cian, also hit the committee boat at the start allowing Cian to sail freely away. Gilmour’s team freed the boat and continued sailing, but he still carried a penalty out of that incident.

Gilmour said afterwards “it was quite simply a mistake. The rope on the anchor is very, very long out there. Sometimes the committee boat is at a slightly different angle. You turn downwind and put the keel abeam of the flow of the current. It is like a trap if you don’t realise it is coming up. In fact we were watching Ben (Ainslie) and that was how we worked out how to get off quickly”.

The match between Williams and Holmberg was re-sailed late in the afternoon after Williams asked for redress from the committee for taking the VIP guest off Holmberg’s boat and leaving an extra passenger with Williams, which in his opinion slowed him enough to lose the race.. The first match was sailed with Holmberg winning. But, on hearing the protest, the decision was made to re-sail the match. The drama did not stop there with two huge collisions between the two boats in the pre-start doing nothing to help the tension between the two teams as they lined up for second attempt at their match race. Williams sailed the match with a noticeable hole in the starboard side. The resulting protest committee hearing for the damage caused resulted in Holmberg being deducted one point.

Swinton and his Black Swan Racing team delivered two of the more surprising results of the day Young Swinton is new to the international match racing circuit with his first major World Match Racing Tour event the King Edward VII Bermuda World Cup where he finished sixth. Today Swinton out matched tour leader Ian Williams and second placed Sébastien Col.

"It was definitely good to beat the two top-ranked guys. We have had lots of races when were in a good position to win and we made some really bad mistakes. It has really come down to experience, which we do lack compared to some of the other guys here. Compared to Bermuda, the boats here are similar to most of the other boats on the tour so everyone starts fairly evenly. It has come down to teamwork and experience,”
Swinton said.

After collisions with the committee boat from Ainslie (twice), Gilmour (once) and the wing umpire Principal Race Officer David Tallis said “I feel like I’ve done four rounds with Mohammed Ali today. It was an eventful day what with all the close racing and collisions it just didn’t stop.”

An overview of the racing area, as Peter Gilmour races Magnus Holmberg. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

Peter Gilmour announced an exciting new partnership with Yanmar Co Ltd and officially announced the formation of Yanmar Racing. The appointment of a new sponsor will allow Peter Gilmour to focus on the 2009 WMRT season. “We are delighted to announce our partnership with Peter he is a charismatic leader in the sailing world. His passion to be the best in the racing arena ideally mirrors Yanmar’s passion to provide the best engine in the marine world” commented Osamu Sugano from Yanmar.

Win/Loss Record
Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Shosholoza 7 – 1
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand/Blackmatch Racing Team 6 – 1
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team 6 – 2
Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar 4 - 3
Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin 4 – 3
Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team/K Challenge 4 – 3
Dato Peter Gilmour (AUS) Yanmar Racing 3 – 4
Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge 3* – 4
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team/Team French Spirit 2 - 5
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 2 - 6
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 2 – 6
Nurul Ain Bt Md Isa (MAS) Perak Sailing Team 0 - 7

* Deducted 1 point for damage

World Match Racing Tour

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