Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Match Race Open de Espana, Calpe: Morvan and Williams One Step Closer to Finals

Ian Williams' Team GAC Pindar. Image copyright RCNC.

by Pierre Orphanidis

Pierre-Antoine Morvan and Ian Williams dominate the round robin in Calpe, finishing tied at first place, and then score two bullets each in the first two races of the best-of-five semis.

The third day of the 2011 edition of Open de España, World Tour Qualifier event for St Moritz Match Race, finished with two clear leaders, France's Pierre-Antoine Morvan and British Ian Williams. Under a strong, but very shifty, northerly, blowing between 15 and 18 knots and considerable swell, the two skippers came on top of the round robin, tied at first place with 8 points each, and then prevailed in the first two races of the semifinals.

Williams (GBR) vs. Robertson (NZL) in the semi-finals. Image copyright RCNC.

New Zealand's Phil Robertson clinched the third spot with 7 points but the real battle was to take place for the fourth place. Given the tight schedule, event organizers had decided to eliminate the quarter finals and move on to the semis right after the conclusion of the round robin. Three skippers, Bertrand Pacé, Keith Swinton and Simone Ferrarese, were tied with 6 points each. However, Ferrarese advanced to the semis on countback, having beaten Swinton and Pacé.

Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) vs. Simone Ferrarese (ITA) in the semis. Image copyright RCNC.

Morvan chose to race against Ferrarese in the semifinal, an obvious choice given the fact the Italian was viewed as the weaker of his three opponents. Indeed, the Frenchman proved easily he had made the right choice as he prevailed over the Italian in both semifinal races with considerable ease. In both starts he was off the line with good pace, ahead of his opponent, but chose to play it safe, marking closely Ferrarese. In both races he crossed the finish line comfortably ahead of his opponent.

The two races between Williams and Robertson were, as expected, not as straightforward. The two skippers, respectively 5th and 8th in the world match racing rankings, threw all the available tricks at each other in the prestarts but at the end of the day it was Williams that came on top. In the first race the two yachts were close together off the starting line but a few hundred meters up the first beat, the outhaul on Robertson's boat broke and the young kiwi skipper had no option but to abandon as it was impossible to fix the breakage.

Pierre-Antoine Morvan's Match ETM. Image copyright RCNC.

Robertson had all it took to win the second race but instead he shot himself in the foot and squandered the opportunity to tie the score. He got a penalty at the prestart but a combination of good crew work and excellent tactics in the late-afternoon breeze allowed him to build a very comfortable cushion over Williams. As the two boats were nearing the finish line, everyone was reckoning Robertson had the necessary distance from Williams to offload his penalty and win the race. However, the young kiwi skipper misjudged the distance and offloaded the penalty inside the line. Williams was approaching fast from behind, crossed the line and bagged the second point.

The semifinals will continue on Sunday with the remaining races, followed by the finals. The forecast isn't as promising as Saturday but the race committee is confident it will be able to complete its scheduled races.