Sunday, 31 May 2009

WMRT: Battle of Britain at Match Race Germany

Collisions and chaos at Match Race Germany 2009

Ian Williams' Bahrain Team Pindar crew leads Ben Ainslie's TEAMORIGIN. Image copyrighr Richard Walch/Match Race Germany.

by Yvonne Reid

In contrast to Friday’s shifty conditions, Saturday’s match racing action was fast and furious in a 20+ knot breeze. The amazing sailing conditions have been the hot topic of conversation on everyone’s lips this week. The sailors are in their element and the spectators are enjoying the show they are providing for them. The Round Robin was completed allowing the Quarter Finals to begin at Match Race Germany, Stage 2 of the 2009 World Match racing Tour.

The sixth quarter finalist was not known until the very last match of the last flight. Reigning Match Race Germany champion Damien Iehl (FRA) of French Match Racing Team sailed through to the next round when he defeated Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing. Both teams needed the win but it was the French man that sealed his advancement.

Iehl was joined in the last six by Ian Williams (GBR) Bahrain Team Pindar, Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Joe Fly, Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin, Mathieu Richard (FRA) French match racing Team and Peter Gilmour (AUS) Yanmar Racing. As Richard and Gilmour finished first and second respectively, they advanced straight to the semi finals, leaving the remaining four to race against each other in the quarter finals for the last two spots in the semis.

The Quarter Finals got underway this afternoon with Francesco Bruni choosing Damien Iehl as his opponent which left British rivals Ben Ainslie and Ian Williams to go head to head.

The all British encounter between Ainslie and Williams looked likely to be a feisty encounter and the two sailing heavy weights didn’t disappoint. The two matches they completed saw 5 penalties awarded, multiple collisions, a man overboard and a black flag disqualification for one of the teams. The first match was a tight encounter with multiple lead changes and the teams were neck and neck until the final lap when Ainslie’s crew were undone by sailing to the wrong weather mark when in the lead. Unfortunately for Williams he was docked ¾ of a point for damaged caused during a port and starboard collision to which he was deemed to be in the wrong.

In the second race Williams edged the start but Ainslie was right on his tail all the way up the first beat. As both boats rounded the weather mark, Williams was hanging on to a slender lead. Half way down the run disaster struck for Ainslie again when hit by one of the bigger gusts of the day, resulting in a spectacular wipe out which laid the rig horizontal. To compound the ensuing chaos, during the broach Ainslie’s tactician, Iain Percy fell overboard and, although he was picked up by the umpires and put back onboard, this signalled race over for the team as they were awarded a black flag disqualification.

“It may have looked spectacular but it didn’t feel good. Iain Percy went overboard and the water certainly was warm enough for a swim,” Ben Ainslie commented after the incident. Ian Williams, on the other hand, was worried about being hit by Ainslie’s mast. “All I remember was Ben’s spinnaker all over me and my initial concern was where his mast was. We all hit the deck for cover,” he said.

The second quarter final pairing of Bruni against Iehl was a much tamer affair but still not free from drama. In a carbon copy situation to Ainslie’s team, Bruni sailed around the wrong weather mark on the second and final lap of the first race whilst in the lead which handed the win to Iehl. In the second race Bruni took the lead early on and was able to put enough distance between him and the pursuing French team to comfortably sail home in first place.

There will be more excitement to look forward to on Sunday as the four quarter finalist take to the water again to fight for their place in the semi-finals. Then we will see the start of the semi finals themselves in the afternoon and with the vastly experienced crews of Richard and Gilmour already through to that round, there promises to be some mouth watering encounters.

Quarter Final Results
(after 4 matches)
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Team 1-1
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Joe Fly 1-1
Ian Williams (GBR) Bahrain Team Pindar 1.25 - 0
Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin 0- 2

Round Robin Results
1st Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Team
2nd Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
3rd Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Joe Fly
4th Ian Williams (GBR) Bahrain Team Pindar
5th Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin
6th Damien Iehl (FRA) French Team
7th Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing
8th Sébastien Col (FRA) French Team/K-Challenge
9th Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Team Onboard
10th Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
11th Eric Monnin (SUI) Team
12th Carsten Kemmling (GER)

Tour Standings
(After 1 0f 10 events)
1. Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing 25 points
2. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 20 points
3. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team 15 points
4. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 12 points
5. Ed Baird (USA) Alinghi 10 points
6. Sébastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team 8 points
7. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Shosholoza 6 points
8. Ian Williams (GBR) Bahrain Team Pindar 4 points

World Match Racing Tour
Match Race Germany

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