Monday, 15 December 2008

Monsoon Cup: Six Sailors Chase Five Quarter Final Spots

Paolo Cian races to yet another victory. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by Tracey Johnstone

Six of the very best international match racers will be battling it out on 6th December for the five available places in the quarter final of the 2008 Monsoon Cup.

At the completion of racing the scene is set for what will be one of the most exciting and compelling days of match racing in the history of the discipline. Six of the 12 teams competing in the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia are now on equal points with five wins each.

But, there are only five places left to fill in the quarter final group.

Defending champion Ian Williams, Sebastien Col, Mathieu Richard, Magnus Holmberg, Ben Ainslie and Peter Gilmour are all tied on equal results at the end of today’s racing. The final and deciding flight of the round robin, which would have ended the agony for these teams today, was wisely postponed late in the afternoon due to the shifting soft breezes.

Now all six teams will have to wait and worry until tomorrow. Four matches are scheduled. The results will have a major impact on which teams will qualify for the quarter final.

Williams started today drawing boat number one, which was the one damaged in the crash between Williams and Holmberg in re-sail match late yesterday. Williams did not seemed fazed by the boat draw going out against Sebastien Col and decisively defeating him.

A determined Ian Williams and Bahrain Team Pindar. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

Back on the water in flights 15 and 16 Williams could not deliver the same result falling to Mirsky and then to Richard. “What a day. It started off very well for us with our race against Sebastien. But, the last two races we had just did not go for us. Sailing against Torvar; we had a great pre-start as he really put the pressure on us right through the start. He put enough pressure on that we made an error and from there he gave us no way back.

“The other race was against Mathieu. We started very well, but he kept the pressure on and in the end we made quite a big error going to the wrong gate mark which cost us the race.”

Sebastien Col won only one of his three matches today. After the battle with Williams, Col came back out to win over Gilmour. The battle was in very light airs with both teams squeezing everything out of their crews and the boats. Col however knew how important this match was, found breeze of his own and took out the match. Unfortunately in his battle with Paolo Cian, he was out-foxed and finished behind Cian.

Col says tomorrow is a new day with the match against Mirsky his focus. “The easiest way for us to make the quarter final is to win our match against Torvar. It is going to be hard day tomorrow.”

Mathieu Richard delivered when it mattered most, winning all his matches today. “Today we knew we had to win all the matches so we were very highly concentrated, highly motivated. There was huge pressure on the boat, but it was good for the sailing as we sailed very well and we won all the matches. Tomorrow we try to have the same spirit, to focus on what we have to do and be very concentrated to win the match.”

Richard will be racing Ben Ainslie and his Team Origin in the final flight of the round robin stage. Ainslie had a roller-coaster day beaten by Peter Gilmour and Magnus Holmberg, then beating series leader Cian, Now locked on five wins and up against Richard, Ainslie said “match racing, you always come down to the wire. It is going to be a big day tomorrow morning, especially racing Richard.”

Magnus Holmberg and his Victory Challenge team were also fighting for their Monsoon Cup survival after losing one vital point as a result of yesterday’s altercation with Williams in the re-sail match. Today Holmberg fought back hard beating out Ainslie and Minoprio. He is very pleased to still be in the battle for quarter final qualification. “The current results show the competitive level of the field. It is really great to see the final event for the World Championship coming out like this.”

Dato’ Peter Gilmour and his Yanmar Racing crew was another team with a roller-coaster ride today winning their matches against Ainslie and Swinton, but then losing against Mirsky and Col. Gilmour showed his pupil a few tricks on the race course today before Mirsky took the upper hand. The Yanmar team constantly tried to trick Mirsky into a penalty situation by covering Gilmour’s every tack and gybe. In the end Mirsky just piped Gilmour on the finish line after a very exciting race.

Gilmour now says he is not sure his team’s result is enough to secure him a quarter final berth. “I think we are in a fairly weak position compared to some of the other teams here. If they want to keep that eighth spot open for us, we would be quite happy to take it.”

The three teams who have made the cut for the quarter final are Paolo Cian and Team Shosholoza, Torvar Mirsky and Mirsky Racing Team and Adam Minoprio with his Black Match Racing Team/ETNZ.

Cian has had a brilliant event to date winning nine of his 11 matches. Never wavering in his ability to work with the difficult conditions on the waters of Terengganu, Malaysia, Cian certainly made the round robin stage his own.

Team Shosholoza and Paolo Cian charge to the top of the round robin. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

“I feel very relaxed at the moment because I know the pressure is somewhere else. Tomorrow it will be completely different. As far as I remember last year Ian ended the round robin in the seventh place and then won the Monsoon Cup. So it means it is very difficult and tricky out there. Today we sailed quite well, but we made a small mistake on the pre-start with Ben (Ainslie) and then took the right mark and sailed away. I am sure tomorrow the pressure will be on again,” Cian said.

Out of the Monsoon Cup after three days of brilliant racing are Keith Swinton (Black Swan Racing), Johnie Berntsson (Berntsson Sailing Team) and Nurul Ain bt. Md Isa (Perak Sailing Team).

Swinton will be remembered for his tenacity and skill improvement during the event. He came to the event after winning the Asian Match Racing Championship. He walks away with four wins from the Monsoon Cup having beaten world champion Ian Williams and second placed Sebastien Col.

Johnie Berntsson came into the Monsoon Cup fresh from winning the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda. Nothing seemed to go his way in Malaysia as he fought the conditions and the high quality competition. He finished the event in the round robin stage with three wins after beating Minoprio in the second last and very light-air flight of the day.

The diminutive and softly-spoken Nurul Ain was the only female competitor in this year’s event. She came to the Monsoon Cup after winning the Malaysian Match Racing Championship. While Nurul Ain finished the event with no wins she readily admits she tried her best. “I felt a bit inferior because everyone is so skilful. The boys are very well experienced and I felt a bit scared, but I did try my best,” Nurul Ain said.

Results at the end of the Round Robin
Team Shosholoza (ITA) Paolo Cian, 9 - 2
Mirsky Racing Team (AUS) Torvar Mirsky, 8 - 2
Black Match Racing / ETNZ (NZL) Adam Minoprio, 7 - 3
Bahrain Team Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams, 5 - 5
Team Origin, Ben Ainslie (GBR) 5 - 5
French Match Racing Team / French Spirit (FRA) Mathieu Richard, 5 - 5
French Match Racing Team / K-Challenge (FRA) Sebastien Col, 5 - 5
Yanmar Racing Team, Peter Gilmour (AUS) 5 - 6
Victory Challenge, Magnus Holmberg (SWE) 5 - 4
Black Swan Racing, Keith Swinton (AUS) 4 - 7
Berntsson Sailing Team, Johnie Berntsson (SWE) 3 - 7
Perak Sailing Team, Nurul Ain bt Md Isa (MAS) 0 - 10

World Match Racing Tour

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