Friday 19 December 2008

New Zealand sailor in lead at Sail Melbourne Regatta

by Zoe Hawkins, Yachting New Zealand

24-year old North Shore sailor Mike Bullot is leading the Laser Full Rig division of the prestigious Sail Melbourne Regatta, which is part of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.

Out of five races, Bullot, from Murrays Bay Sailing Club, has secured two wins and a second. Once his worst race, an eighth place, is dropped, he sits on 13 points, one point ahead of Matias Del Solar of Chile, and ten points ahead of Milan Vujasinovic from Croatia.

New Zealander David Weaver sits in fifth place in the same class, and another seven New Zealanders are in the top half of the 39-strong Laser fleet after six races.

In other divisions, David McDiarmid and Andrew Archibald are sitting in third place in the 49er class after nine races. Antonio Cozzolino is second in the RS:X Men’s class after five races, Sara Winther is sixth in the Laser Radial after six races, and Kate Ellingham is fifth in the RS:X Women and Youth class after five races.

Racing was called off on the first day, with many classes unable to get in a start. The second day was also reasonably light and the third presented 10-15 knots of wind at Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.

Racing concludes on 21 December.

Sail Melbourne

Monday 15 December 2008

Team Ceeref wins the battle; Banco Espirito Santo wins the war

Fantastic breezy fleet racing for the RC44s off Lanzarote. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget.

by Andy Rice

It was a punch-up between Team Ceeref and Banco Espirito Santo for fleet racing honours in the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup, and also for the 2008 season title. Nothing was certain until the boats had crossed the line in the final high-wind race in Lanzarote.

Lanzarote, December 14 2008 – Having dominated proceedings all week in the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup, Igor Lah nearly let victory slip from his grasp as Team Ceeref struggled to make sense of the big windshifts that tumbled off the mountains of Lanzarote in gusts that sometimes blew up to 27 knots.

Meanwhile the Slovenian’s closest rival - both at this event and for overall honours in the 2008 RC44 fleet racing season - was having a much better time in the tricky, puffy conditions. Owner of Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros credited Russell Coutts for making sense of the 40 degree shifts as the Portuguese boat picked up a 1,2 in the first two heats while Team Ceeref struggled with a 3,4.

The Portuguese were now within striking distance of the Slovenians for winning the event in Lanzarote, and were looking more secure in the defence of their lead in the 2008 rankings. Going into today, de Barros held a slim 3-point advantage over Lah in the season points scoreboard, and Ceeref had been the class act of the past week. Now de Barros had a bit more breathing room, and if he could win the final race with Ceeref last then perhaps he could steal the Gold Cup trophy too. With the strength and variable direction of the northerly wind, anything was possible.

Unfortunately Artemis had to bow out of the final race as keel problems forced Torbjorn Tornqvist to head home early. The battle for the remaining five boats was intense, with the whole fleet nose to tail at the leeward mark. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero led round that mark and while the other four boats tacked inshore, Daniel Calero kept on driving out to the right. When Calero tacked back to converge with the fleet, he was well ahead. The local spectators were getting excited at the prospect of a surprise win by a young and inexperienced team over some of the best professional sailors in the world.

The Canaries crew sailed a beautiful beat to lead handsomely around the final windward mark. However the chasing pack poured down behind them in a huge gust. At this stage Team Ceeref was way back in last place, and looked in danger of losing the Gold Cup if Banco could find their way through to first. But Ceeref tactician James Spithill called for an early gybe with the new breeze as the Slovenian boat hit 22 knots boatspeed in a gust of 27 knots. BMW ORACLE Racing was next to gybe and these two boats were locked in a high-speed battle for the lead. Ceeref prevailed, surging across the finish line in first place and securing victory in Lanzarote, to go with their match racing victory three days earlier.

Banco Espirito Santo was second in the fleet racing, followed by Team Aqua who edged third place by just a point from BMW ORACLE Racing.

RC44 season winners - Team Banco Espirito Santo. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget.

Any disappointment that Patrick de Barros had for not winning the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup was easily compensated for by his season victory. And Daniel Calero was happy despite having lost that last race which seemed to have been his. He is hugely encouraged by his team’s progress over the past week, and will be training harder than any team in the two months before the fleet returns to Lanzarote in late February.

They said:

Patrick de Barros, owner, Banco Espirito Santo: “Mission accomplished, thanks to Russell, and a fantastic crew. It was a great season, and today was very exciting. Russell did a great job, the boat was fine, we didn't blow anything up, everything went well."

Igor Lah, owner, Team Ceeref: “Patrick was dominant today, so congratulations to him, fortunately we won the last race. In sailing you need some skill and a bit of luck. That's what we had on the last run to the finish. I think it was exciting, racing here is great. No matter about the result, the sailing is so nice, I really look forward to coming back.”

Daniel Calero, owner, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero: “It was extremely good fun. I wasn't frustrated by losing the last race. We chose the good side of the run, but then a big gust came from the left, nothing we could do, and we were happy to finish like this. We had a lot of fun this week. We have learned so much in this regatta.”

Mark Mendelblatt, tactician, BMW ORACLE Racing: “The races we had a third and second in, we were last in both of those at some stage. And the race we were last in, we were leading at one point. With these boats and this kind of wind there were quite a few passing opportunities.”

Chris Bake, owner, Team Aqua: “I think we sailed phenomenally well today, other than ending up in the wrong spot downwind on a few occasions. In these races we were second round the windward marks, only to lose it on the downwind. But we had great boatspeed upwind, and managed to position ourselves much better on the start. This was a great venue, fantastically well organised.”

Torbjorn Tornqvist, owner, Artemis: “Life has its ups and downs. Sailing has its ups and downs, that's for sure. Yesterday was a good day, today not so good. The boat broke down, we had to retire. That was disappointing. But the positives were that this was our first event as a team, and we were able to sail competitively in challenging conditions. I'm going to take away the experience of a very fun boat, and look forward to come back better prepared in February.”

Russell Coutts, tactician, Banco Espirito Santo: “It was an awesome week for sailing, you just don't get much better than that. It came down to almost the last race of the season to decide the series. I'm really happy with the season. Obviously we've got to get the boats a bit more reliable, having more breakdowns than I'd like, so we'll be working hard to iron out all those things for next season.”

Fleet-Race, Puerto Calero, final results after 10 races (including the DHL Trophy):

(Name of team, helmsman, results, points)

1) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 1,1,2,1,2,4,4,3,4,1 - 23 points
2) Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros, 5,4,3,3,3,1,3,1,2,3 - 28 points
3) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 2,2,4,4,1,6,5,2,1,5 - 32 points
4) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 4,3,1,2,5,2,6,5,3,2 - 33 points
5) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 3,7,7,7,4,3,1,4,6,7 - 49 points
6) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, Daniel Calero, 6,5,5,5,6,5,2,7,5,4 - 50 points

2008 Fleet-Race Season (top six boats only)

(Name of team, nationality, helmsman, points)

1) Banco Espirito Santo (Portugal), Patrick de Barros - 154 points
2) Team Ceeref (Slovenia), Igor Lah - 159 points
3) Team Hiroshi (Italy), Armando Giulietti - 180 points
4) Team Aqua (United Arab Emirates) Chris Bake - 182 points
5) BMW ORACLE Racing (USA), Larry Ellison - 242 points
6) Sea Dubai (United Arab Emirates) DIMC - 276 points


RC44s: Artemis goes the distance to take the DHL Trophy

RC44s in close fleet racing off Lanzarote. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget.

by Andy Rice

You can’t just turn up in the RC44 class and expect to win, but 13th December saw the new owners come to the fore in the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup in Lanzarote. Torbjorn Tornqvist steered Artemis to victory in the long distance race for the DHL Trophy, and local owner Daniel Calero came second.

Saturday saw the RC44 fleet compete for the DHL Trophy, the long distance race which on this occasion was a 15-mile race along the coast to Arrecife Airport and back to Puerto Calero. Dean Barker called some good wind shifts up the windward leg to the first turning mark near Puerto Calero, allowing Torbjorn Tornqvist to steer Artemis into a small lead ahead of the chasing pack.

However, Patrick de Barros is the proven master of the long distance format in the RC44 fleet, and gradually the Portuguese owner steered Banco Espirito Santo to within striking distance of Artemis on the final reach to the finish. Just as it looked like these two might be in for a photo finish, one of the Portuguese crew lost his footing and suddenly de Barros was forced to tack round and fish his man out of the Atlantic.

It was a quick man-overboard recovery, and no one was harmed, but it did allow Artemis to race home to an easy victory, with local boys on Islas Canarias Puerto Calero sweeping past to second place ahead of Banco. Daniel Calero was delighted after a frustrating week of gear breakdowns and poor crew work. Today his team showed real signs of improvement and they could well be a force to be reckoned with by the time the fleet returns next February for the first event of the 2009 RC44 season.

Even if Patrick de Barros was upset not to win the day, his third place at least secured him a comfortable overall season victory for the DHL Trophy. He also had a good outing in the two windward/leeward heats which took place before the long distance race.

In the first race it didn’t start at all well for de Barros as he was called back after breaking the line by little more than a second. Russell Coutts now had his work cut out as tactician, but managed to grind Banco back into the pack, eventually claiming third across the line. This race should have been Artemis’s for the taking, as Tornqvist led nicely into the leeward mark. Instead of rounding it, though, the Swedish boat smacked the mark, forcing Tornqvist into a penalty. In so doing, he failed to keep clear of BMW ORACLE Racing and by the time he had completed all his penalty turns the Swede was back in last place, although Artemis would eventually pull back to fourth at the finish.

Team Aqua was the boat to profit most from this leeward mark mayhem, with Chris Bake stealing the lead up the final beat and taking the winner’s gun ahead of Team Ceeref.

In the second race, Aqua had a brief spell at the front of the fleet on the first beat, but with the 18-knot wind flicking from side to side in dramatic fashion, the United Arab Emirates lead was shortlived. In fact Aqua would eventually slide to the back of the fleet through no major error other than falling out of phase with the wind shifts. It was Larry Ellison’s turn to lead around the windward mark as BMW ORACLE Racing surged down the run ahead of the pack. Towards the top of the final beat, however, Coutts had found some good shifts and Banco Espirito Santo sneaked around ahead of the Americans. De Barros did a gybe-set out to sea, Ellison continued shoreside, but the Portuguese move proved to be a winner. A good day for de Barros and his crew.

Not such a good day for Team Ceeref, with Igor Lah just turning in average set of scores. Fortunately for him, no one else has managed to find much consistency. So going into the final day of competition the Slovenian boat still holds a useful points advantage over a tight-knit bunch of three - Banco Espirito Santo, BMW ORACLE and Team Aqua.

Tomorrow the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup concludes after the final three fleet races, with the prizegiving due to take place later in the afternoon.

They said:

Patrick de Barros, owner, Banco Espirito Santo: “In the inshore racing we had a third and a first, we're very pleased. We were very fast downwind, the crew did a fantastic job downwind. On the long distance we lost one of our crew overboard. We tacked back and grabbed him, threw him back in the boat. We were racing with Artemis for the lead at the time.”

Igor Lah, owner, Team Ceeref: “A tough day. The distance race is not our speciality. We tried to do our best but it didn't work out. I don't know why, something doesn't work. In the other races it was an average day. We didn't lose a lot, so everything is still open.”

Mark Mendelblatt, tactician, BMW ORACLE Racing: “Apart from Ceeref, it's probably pretty darn close between us. Whoever does the best job is going to get second. We don't want anything horrible to happen to Ceeref, but anything's possible. Hopefully tomorrow we're going to come out blazing.”

Daniel Calero, owner, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero: “I feel very good. The motivation was really high among the crew. That counts for a lot in a boat. In my opinion, 90% of the performance of a boat is motivation. After days of try and fail, try and fail, try and fail, finally we are getting somewhere. We didn't fail too much today. We really enjoyed the long distance race.”

Torbjorn Tornqvist, owner, Artemis: “Good moments and bad moments. We had a good start in the first race, but we came too close to the leeward mark and hit it, and had to do a turn. It's not a fun thing to do, but these things happen. It's a new boat, our first regatta. Finally in the coastal race we got a good start, found the groove, we did a good race tactically, didn't make any mistakes. The RC44 - it's a fun boat to drive and I enjoy it a lot.”

Chris Bake, owner, Team Aqua: “We got the first race right, crew work was good, we were back to our old selves. To do well in these boats, everything has to go right. If you’re slow off the start, or slip up at a mark, or get out of phase with the wind, then you're toast. In the second race our two upwinds were just sailed badly, going in the wrong direction for too long in the wrong breeze.”

DHL Trophy:

1) Artemis
2) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero
3) Banco Espirito Santo
4) Team Ceeref
5) Team Aqua
6) BMW ORACLE Racing

Fleet-race, provisional results after seven races (including the DHL Trophy):

(Name of team, helmsman, results, points)

1) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 1,1,2,1,2,4,4 - 15 points
2) Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros, 5,4,3,3,3,1,3 - 22 points
3) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 4,3,1,2,5,2,6 - 23 points
4) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 2,2,4,4,1,6,5 - 24 points
5) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 3,7,7,7,4,3,1 - 32 points

6) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, Daniel Calero, 6,5,5,5,6,5,2 - 34 points

Igor Lah steers Team Ceeref to near perfection in the fleet racing

Team Ceeref leads the way in the breezy fleet racing off Lanzarote too. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget.

by Andy Rice

After James Spithill steering Team Ceeref to victory in all 10 match races of the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup, on 12th December, owner Igor Lah continued that winning streak in fine style, taking three of the four fleet races, and finishing second in the other. Can anyone stop the Slovenian team?

The wind just never seems to stop in Lanzarote, not that anyone’s complaining in the RC44 fleet. Why would you, when you’ve got 20 knots of breeze against a stunning backdrop that looks like you’ve landed on another planet?

If there is any cause for complaint, it’s that Igor Lah and James Spithill have a stranglehold of this event, and they appear to be almost as dominant in the fleet racing as they proved to be in the match racing series. Off the start line of the first race today, Team Ceeref made a bad start and were forced to tack on to port as the fleet sailed away to the Lanzarote shore. However the Slovenian boat found a good right-hand windshift after a couple of minutes, Spithill called for a tack and Igor Lah’s crew turned a losing position into a lead, which they would hold to the finish.

Team Aqua were lying second at the first mark, had a poor downwind leg and dropped to fourth at the leeward mark. With the leading bunch going left up the final beat, Cameron Appleton liked Aqua’s angle on port tack on the seaward side of the course. Owner Chris Bake banged the corner and came right back into the fight, rounding just behind Artemis in third place at the final turning mark.

On the final run to the finish Artemis broke the gooseneck fitting on the mast, and they managed to nurse the boat across the line in third, having yielded second place to Team Aqua. It was an all-too-short outing for Artemis owner Torbjorn Tornqvist who was forced to retire from racing for the remainder of the day as the crew of the Swedish boat set about fixing the carbon gooseneck in time for tomorrow.

Although no other team could match Ceeref for consistency, everyone had their moment at the front at some point. Best of the rest was BMW ORACLE Racing, with Larry Ellison steering his boat to victory in race three, aided by new tactician Mark Mendelblatt. Russell Coutts, who had been Ellison’s tactician for the match racing, switched over to Banco Espirito Santo for the fleet racing. The Kiwi tactician found some good shifts on the shore side of the course but couldn’t fully unravel the mysteries of the shifty and gusty race track. Owner Patrick de Barros said there didn’t seem to be any way up the middle of the course. It was a matter of picking your side and throwing all your chips on one corner, and hoping that you’d picked the right one.

The combination of shifts and gusts made for an interesting time downwind. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero were competitive against the more experienced teams on the upwind legs, but poor crew work let them down on many of the offwind legs. They shredded four spinnakers in the course of the day, and owner Daniel Calero joked that he would be introducing corporal punishment to the crew tomorrow, hoping that the threat of the cane would stem the flood of boat handling errors.

Tomorrow the fleet racing contest continues with two windward/leeward races followed by the long distance race for the DHL Trophy.

They said:

Igor Lah, owner, Team Ceeref, after winning three of today’s four races: “We'd like to come again to Lanzarote! We made no mistakes, and everything was perfectly done, and then it was very simple. If everything works, and you have no technical problems, then life becomes easy. That's what we have been practising for all year. James tells me where to go and I go there. If you have simple instructions, it is much easier.”

Mark Mendelblatt, tactician, BMW ORACLE Racing: “Winning a race today, that felt really good, to break the run of losses in the match racing. It’s just going to be tough to beat the Ceeref guys. We've got to find a way to sail a little bit better, but overall we had fun today and sailed well. I've sailed with some of the guys but I've never sailed with Larry or BMW ORACLE. They left it up to me to call the tactics, and I made some good calls, and made some bad ones, but overall it went very well.”

Patrick de Barros, owner, Banco Espirito Santo, talking about a difficult day: “We had one or two races when we really up there, but we had a bad call on a tack at the weather mark, we got squeezed, we had to gybe out, and we lost the race there. It's very difficult to gain in these conditions. You either have to go full left or full right, it seems you really have to stay out of the middle of this race course. Russell makes the decisions, I just try to do my best at the wheel.”

James Spithill, tactician, Team Ceeref: “It was good fun, a lot of passing lanes, a lot of opportunities out there. It’s great sailing these things downwind. We had a couple of runs where we were getting 22 or 23 knots out of the boat. Just sensational.”

Cameron Appleton, tactician, Team Aqua, on the hazards of spinnaker handling: “A small tear can lead to a big tear. It's been a big day for spinnakers, and it's not going to stop after today!”

Daniel Calero, owner, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, seeing the funny side of a difficult day: “I hate spinnakers, I always like to break them. Today we broke four spinnakers, and I'm not talking about little rips, I'm talking about four spinnakers, totally destroyed. The language on the boat was very friendly, very polite. ‘Excuse me, would you mind helping me take down this spinnaker please?’”

Daniel Calero, on how he plans to encourage the crew tomorrow: “I have a thin piece of wood [a cane] and I'm going to slap the crew on the backs of their hands. I think that should improve the crew work. If it doesn't, then at least I will feel better.”

Torbjorn Tornqvist, owner, Artemis, on his brief but enjoyable outing in race 1: “It was very good sailing, exciting. But I couldn’t say it feels like home yet [steering the RC44]. Far from home, in fact!”

Fleet-race, provisional results after four races:

(Name of team, helmsman, results, points)

1) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 1,1,2,1 - 5 points
2) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 4,3,1,2 - 10 points
3) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 2,2,4,4 - 12 points
4) Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros, 5,4,3,3 - 15 points
5) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, Daniel Calero, 6,5,5,5 - 21 points
6) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 3,7,7,7 - 24 points


Team Ceeref score a perfect 10 in the match racing

James Spithill steers Team Ceeref to victory in the RC44 match racing. Image copyright Nico Martinez.

by Andy Rice

James Spithill delivered another match racing master class 11th December, winning all five of his matches for the second day running in the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup. This means that Igor Lah’s Team Ceeref win the 2008 Match Race Series by a dominant margin.

More wind and more drama on the Atlantic race course for the concluding day of match racing at the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup. Before the start of racing, BMW ORACLE Racing broke the gooseneck fitting on their mast, preventing owner Larry Ellison from competing in today’s five heats.

The first big match of the day was between Banco Espirito Santo and Team Aqua, with Cameron Appleton bringing his customary aggressive pre-start tactics to bear against Mark Mendelblatt helming for the Portuguese team. Appleton trapped Mendelblatt in coffin corner, leading off the port end of the start although still finding himself with a fight on his hands from Mendelblatt. In the end, however, Aqua pulled clear and won their match.

Appleton also got the better of Dean Barker in the pre-start, just as he had in their match on the previous day. However Barker was unflustered by his early mistakes and kept Artemis in the match, rounding bow-to-stern with Team Aqua around the top mark. They went round the bottom mark overlapped, with Appleton claiming the inside but failing to round up quickly enough, according to the umpires who gave him a penalty.

With the wind blowing around 20 knots and the RC44s planing at more or less windspeed, Appleton felt there wouldn’t be time for him to complete his penalty just before the finish line, so instead he elected to gybe on the final upwind leg. Appleton hoped that he might just be able to keep Team Aqua’s nose in front, but the Swedish boat rolled over the top of the United Arab Emirates team and Barker stole the win back from his Kiwi rival.

While Mendelblatt had suffered at the hands of Appleton earlier in the day, the American helmsman got the better of James Spithill in the pre-start, relegating Team Ceeref to the unfamiliar position of being last off the start line. The Australian helmsman initiated a tacking duel against Banco Espirito Santo, trying to wriggle clear of Mendelblatt’s close cover. Half way up the beat, Spithill went for the duck, bearing away behind the Portuguese transom and breaking into clear air to the right of the race track. The two boats separated, and when they converged it was Igor Lah’s Slovenian crew who had found the better wind on the right. Spithill was back in control and his clean sheet remained intact.

Meanwhile in the other match of flight 9, Artemis was leading Daniel Calero’s local team on his chartered RC44, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero. The Spanish team’s lack of RC44 experience showed when they trawled their spinnaker in a poorly executed hoist. Helmsman José Maria Ponce rounded the boat up into the wind, as the crew fought to get the big blue fishing net back on board. Eventually one of the crew stripped down to his Speedos and dived into to free the halyard from the head of the wayward sail. Calero quipped that they had always meant to go trawling, as the fishing in this area is excellent, so he claimed.

Calero retired from that race with the ‘fishing’ incident, but the Spanish team got their act together for the final match against Banco Espirito Santo. The Portuguese crew led the locals all the way round the race track until the final hoist, when a small tear in the spinnaker resulted in the sail exploding just seconds after the final hoist of the day. The Puerto Calero team seized their moment, rolled over the top of the wounded Portuguese and won their first match on the water, to go with the bye which everyone earned against the absent BMW ORACLE today.

So it was a good day for the new team in the RC44 fleet, but an excellent one for Igor Lah, James Spithill and the whole Team Ceeref crew. They sailed a perfect day, winning the match racing event in Lanzarote and securing the 2008 match race season by an emphatic margin from BMW ORACLE Racing, who finished second in the year’s rankings.

Tomorrow the fleet racing contest begins, with three races scheduled.

They said :

Igor Lah, owner, Team Ceeref: “James proved that he's the best in this class. The whole team has worked hard all year. We try to practise a lot. Everybody works as one.”

Michele Ivaldi, tactician, Team Ceeref: “We've been match racing a long time. This crew is pretty strong. We can use few words to make a long plan. The way the crew is working on the boat and the way we're talking is very advanced. It's a quiet boat, especially when things go well, there's not much yelling needed. The same people have been sailing in position for more than a year and a half. Good crew work is the key, and winning is a big credit to everyone on the crew.”

Cameron Appleton, helmsman, Team Aqua: “We've sailed the boats the longest, and the class increased the length of the rudders recently, so now you can do a little bit more manoeuvring than you used to on the boats. We were trying to put the other guys off by being really confident with our boathandling in the pre-starts. It can work against you, but every time we race Deano there are plenty of fireworks.”

Dean Barker, helmsman, Artemis, looking forward to fleet racing: “Torbjorn [Tornquist, owner of Artemis] arrives in Lanzarote late tonight. He hasn't sailed on these boats in more than four or five knots of wind. It will be all on.”

Daniel Calero, owner, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero: “Banco Espirito Santo broke their spinnaker on the last downwind leg. We were lucky because the other day we were the boat breaking everything, but today it was good for us.” On trawling their spinnaker after a bad hoist: “That area is really good for fishing. The first two races were bad for us, so we said, ‘Let's fish a little bit and then go to the owner's dinner!’”

Mark Mendelblatt, helmsman, Banco Espirito Santo: “We controlled the Spanish all the way round but we ripped our chute on the last run. It had a bit of a tear as we hoisted and it blew up about 50 metres later. We tried to luff them on the way to the finish but they got over the top of us and they beat us. I'm enjoying these boats, and would have liked to do a better job for Patrick, but tomorrow it's calling tactics for a different team, BMW ORACLE. I want to do well for my team, but I'll be cheering for Patrick too.”

Match-race, final results after 10 flights:

(Name of team, helmsman, No of victories / defeats, points)

1) Team Ceeref, James Spithill, 10/0 - 10 points
2) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton 7/3 - 7 points
3) Artemis, Dean Barker, 6/4 - 6 points
4) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 3/7 - 3 points
5) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, José Maria Ponce, 2/8 - 2 points
6) Team Banco Espirito Santo, Mark Mendelblatt, 2/8 - 2 point


‘Rusty’ Spithill leads the match racing after day one of the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup

Banco Espirito Santo chases BMW ORACLE Racing. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget.

by Andy Rice

Lanzarote delivered on its promises of strong wind 10th December, with the six RC44 teams battling to master the gusty conditions while also trying to win their five flights of intense match racing. The only boat to keep a clean sheet was Igor Lah’s Team Ceeref, helmed by James Spithill.

When the wind is gusting up to 25 knots, with some big shifts thrown in for good measure, sometimes winning in the RC44 fleet is a matter of keeping the wheels on the wagon. So it didn’t look too good for Team Ceeref when, on the first beat of the first race, the hydraulic ram on their forestay broke. This immediately led to the jib being shredded to within a few yarns of its life. They were lucky it didn’t disintegrate altogether. At this point James Spithill was still leading the match from his colleagues on board BMW ORACLE Racing, but with Larry Ellison rapidly closing in on the wounded Croatian boat.

Thanks to some “creative trimming”, as Spithill put it, they managed to get to the top mark just ahead of the American boat without the jib breaking completely. It was neck and neck on the fast downwind leg but Igor Lah’s team rounded the leeward mark first. They extended to win quite comfortably when the American boat broached a few hundred metres before the finish line.

Having survived that early scare, Team Ceeref sailed a near faultless day, looking solid in the pre-start and going on to win all five matches in some challenging conditions, with the north-easterly wind shifting hither and thither off the mountainous coast of Lanzarote. Not a bad outing for Spithill who, after many weeks of high-speed training on BMW ORACLE’s giant multihull, admitted to being “a little rusty”.

Team Aqua lost their last match of the day against Ceeref, but apart from that it was an excellent set of races for Chris Bake’s team from United Arab Emirates. Kiwi helmsman Cameron Appleton sailed some aggressive pre-starts and made them work well for the team. He also took maximum advantage of his rivals’ errors. In the match against Banco Espirito Santo from Portugal, Team Aqua was leading round the final turning mark but had problems setting their spinnaker. Mark Mendelblatt looked set to surf the Portuguese boat into the lead when they suffered their own spinnaker problems through a messy gybe. Appleton was off the hook, and regained the advantage to seal victory.

Islas Canarias Puerto Calero are the new kids on the block in the RC44 class. This was their fourth day sailing the boat, and what a tough way to start their campaign - against the world’s best match racers in some of the toughest conditions. Gear breakage and unfamiliarity with equipment proved their undoing, but against Aqua they led all the way round the race course. However on the final run to the finish, Chris Bake’s team were the first to spot the big left-hand shift and they gybed almost as soon as they rounded the windward mark. José Maria Ponce found himself stranded on the outside of the new breeze and had to flog the spinnaker to get across the finish line. An opportunity missed, but he and the rest of Daniel Calero’s crew are fast learners. Perhaps tomorrow they will get their first victory in the RC44 fleet.

Larry Ellison was steering a brand new boat, and so was suffering the inevitable teething problems. However, the Americans looked stronger as the day went on and in the final match against Artemis they managed to beat Dean Barker, moving BMW ORACLE Racing into third overall with a 3:2 scoreline, and relegating the Swedish team to fourth overall with 2:3.

Today was windy. Tomorrow is expected to be windier. Another day where it will be all about keeping the wheels on the wagon.

The match racing event concludes tomorrow, followed by three days of fleet racing.

They said :

James Spithill, helmsman, Team Ceeref: “The battle with Larry [Ellison] was a high point. The in-house battles always seem to be the closest. We had a problem when the hydraulic ram on the forestay blew out on the first beat. The jib was shredded, just held together by a few yarns for the rest of the race, so we had to be creative with our trimming. It was a good effort by the crew to be able to stay ahead.”

Chris Bake, owner, Team Aqua: “It was a wild ride, well over 15 knots most of the time, gusting up to 24. The reaches were wild, the pre-starts were intense. It was full on. Everyone was focused, it was just a great day's sailing.”

José Maria Ponce, helmsman, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero: “We had many problems during the race, breaking many things. From the first downwind leg of the day, the grinding pedestal was not working and you cannot win races like that. But we have a good team, with more experience after today, so I look forward to having a much better day tomorrow.”

Dean Barker, helmsman, Artemis: “That was pretty average from us. We had a few issues, which meant we ended up with three losses, not ideal. But it will be tricky conditions again tomorrow, so anything can happen. This was the first time we raced as a crew in some real breeze, so we’ll just chip away tomorrow and see how we go.”

Dirk de Ridder, crewmember, BMW ORACLE Racing: “Our last race was a high point, beating Dean. It’s always good to beat Dean Barker. He's one of the best. Now we have some boat work to do. We had a problem with the jib halyard, which meant we couldn't drop the jib downwind, and that makes it hard to set the spinnaker.”

Mark Mendelblatt, helmsman, Banco Espirito Santo: “That was my first time helming in the match racing in these boats, and I took a beating, a proper beating. We had a couple of opportunities to win races but I found a way to blow it! In our match against BMW ORACLE we thought we were over the line, so we stopped and then realised we weren't over, so that was frustrating. One of those days. But I'm loving the opportunity to do this. We had as much fun as we could have had today with the results we got.”

Match-race, results after five flights:

(Name of team, helmsman, No of victories / defeats, points)

1) Team Ceeref, James Spithill, 5/0 - 5 points
2) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton 4/1 - 4 points
3) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 3/2 - 3 points
4) Artemis, Dean Barker, 2/3 - 2 points
5) Team Banco Espirito Santo, Mark Mendelblatt, 1/4 - 1 point
6) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, José Maria Ponce, 0/5 - 0 points


Puerto Calero conditions will test the RC44 fleet to the limit

RC44s racing off Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Image copyright Nico Martinez.

by Andy Rice

The RC 44 Gold Cup takes place in Puerto Calero (Canary Islands, Spain), on December 10-14. This event is the last regatta in the RC 44 2008 Championship Tour. The season’s match, fleet race and long distance champions will be crowned. The pressure is rising: there is a lot at stake.

Puerto Calero, Lanzarote, 9 December 2008 - The Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup starts tomorrow, with some strong Atlantic breezes in store for the first day of match racing.

The six teams got a taste of the sort of conditions they can expect in the 300m-deep Atlantic waters off the coast of Lanzarote today. With the sun shining, the air temperature nudging just over 20 degrees Celsius, and the north-easterly breeze gusting just over 20 knots, today’s practice fleet race offered a taste of the spectacular racing in store for the next five days.

Dean Barker was at the helm of Artemis II, Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Swedish entry, and the New Zealand skipper sailed deep into the left-hand corner of the course, close to the tuna fish nets beneath the spectacular volcanic cliffs of Lanzarote. “We felt we were in a pretty strong right phase off the start line, so we figured it would go back to the left at some point. It did and we were able to capitalise on it.” They certainly did, as Artemis sailed to a commanding lead at the first windward mark, which the Swedish team extended to an even bigger victory two laps later.

Larry Ellison also opted for a left-hand strategy up the first windward leg, often having to live in bad air from Artemis to get over there, so BMW ORACLE Racing was some way behind at the first mark, but still led the chasing pack around the first mark in second place. However down the first run the American boat was overhauled by Igor Lah’s Team Cereef and Chris Bake’s Team Aqua.

Team Cereef pulled out early from the practice race, while lying in second place, but tactician James Spithill was happy with their outing. “We had good wind, really shifty, but I think it’s going to be pretty fun. The forecast for the next few days is quite windy and we are looking forward to some great sailing.”

Chris Bake flew into Lanzarote and jumped on to his boat, Team Aqua, with minutes to spare before the first of the practice starts organised by Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio today. The sailor from United Arab Emirates is known for enjoying strong winds, and he is looking forward to Lanzarote providing his favourite conditions. “There has been a lot of expectation coming here - bigger seas, bigger wind. And now we’re here, what a spectacular landscape! I’ve never been here before. The conditions were unbelievable. We had 8 to 20 knots, and everything in between and all in the space of about 10 seconds. You can definitely the air mass here, it feels like there’s more weight to the wind than some of the lake venues that we’ve been racing in.”

Daniel Calero knows the conditions in Lanzarote better than anyone. The general manager of Puerto Calero has spent his whole life here, so he knows what to expect. However, the experience of his crew with RC44 racing is limited to the past three days, when Russell Coutts has been lending his knowledge and experience to help bring Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero up to speed. Calero is fully aware of the mountain he has to climb if he is going to be able to take on some of the world’s best sailors. “The other teams are focused on racing, and we are still learning to sail this boat. Today we had some breakages, blocks blowing up and things like that, and José [Maria Ponce, the team’s match racing helmsman] and I were struggling to get the same speed and angle as the other boats. The RC44 is very dynamic. Downwind these boats are really fun; we had 19 knots of boatspeed at one point.”

Organised by Puerto Calero, a superb real estate development on Lanzarote's seafront, the RC 44 Gold Cup begins on Wednesday December 10 with the match racing event. After a full round robin held in two days, the team owners will then steer their boats for three days of fleet racing. The DHL Trophy regatta will take place on Sunday; the winner of this race will be awarded with the DHL Trophy, whilst the points of the regatta will be incorporated in the fleet race ranking.

The teams involved in the Gold Cup:

BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison / Russell Coutts
Ceeref, Igor Lah / James Spithill
Team Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros / Mark Mendelblatt
Team Aqua, Chris Bake / Cameron Appleton
Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist / Dean Barker
Islas Canarias Puerto Calero – José Calero / José Maria Ponce

RC 44 Championship Tour 2008

Fleet race - Provisional results after five events - (Ranking, name of team, helmsman, points)

1) Team Hiroshi – Città di Milano, Armando Giulietti, 100 points
2) Team Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros, 126 points
3) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 136 points
4) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 150 points
5) Team Sea Dubai, DIMC, 196 points
6) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 209 points
7) Organika, Maciej Navrocki, 237 points
8) Cro-A-Sail, Miroslav Reljanovic, 241 points
9) Beecom, Isao Mita, 248 points
10) Mascalzone Latino, Vincenzo Onorato, 327 points
11) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 330 points
12) Magia, Fabio Apollonio, 351 points

Match race - Provisional results after five events - (Ranking, name of team, helmsman, points)

1) Ceeref, James Spithill, 6 points
2) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 13 points
3) Team Banco Espirito Santo, different helmsmen, 14 points
4) Team Hiroshi – Città di Milano, Seb Col & Armando Giulietti, 16 points
5) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton, 17 points
6) Team Sea Dubai, Markus Wieser, 23 points
7) Beecom, Isao Mita, 30 points
8) Cro-A-Sail, Morten Henricksen, 31 points
9) Organika, Philippe Presti, 31 points

DHL Trophy - Provisional results after five events - (Ranking, name of team, points)

1) Team Banco Espirito Santo, 8 points
2) Team Hiroshi – Città di Milano, Armando Giulietti, 9 points
3) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 18 points
4) Team Sea Dubai, DIMC, 21 points
5) Organika, Maciej Navrocki, 22 points
6) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 25 points
7) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 25 points


Mirsky Racing Team report on Finals Day at the Monsoon Cup

Mirsky Racing Team on finals day in Malaysia. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by Kinley Fowler

Today was Peter Gilmour's time to shine once more, taking out the finals 3-1 to New Zealand's Adam Minoprio to become the champion of the Monsoon Cup for a second time. Despite being knocked out of a chance for making the top 2, we took down the current 2 time world champion Ian Williams 2-0 in the petit finals to seize 3rd place.

It was a semi finals series that wasn't meant to go our way, losing the first race within mere metres of the finishing line. After leading the entire race, Gilmour managed to squeeze into the lead at the finishing line, knocking us down to 2 losses. We then bounced back in the next prestart, forcing him onto the wrong side of the starting boat, but the tide sucked us up into the start boat and we were snagged. With 2 penalties on us and an easy minute's lead off the line, Gilmour went on to win the series 3-0.

It is never easy to come back from such a demoralising loss, but we regrouped and beat Williams in two closely fought matches to take the remaining podium spot. Although we lost the Tour Card into next year's World Match Racing Tour, this 3rd place will put us in a comfortable position to get one of the remaining two Cards from the ISAF rankings.

Our crew work and communication is starting to come together well, and we are performing at a very high level as a unit. Next year's Tour will have the toughest fields we have seen yet, but if we continue to build on what we have learnt throughout this season, we could cause some serious damage.

A special thanks to Line7, Harken and the Royal Perth Yacht Club for their support.


1st Peter Gilmour
2nd Adam Minoprio
3rd Torvar Mirsky
4th Ian Williams
5th Paolo Cian
6th Sebastien Col
7th Magnus Holmberg
8th Mathieu Richard
9th Ben Ainslie
10th Johnnie Berntsson
11th Keith Swinton
12th Nural Ain

Mirsky Racing Team

BlackMatch Runners-Up at Monsoon Cup; 3rd Equal on Points in Overall World Championships

It's all on at the bottom mark as we defend our lead against Ian Williams, the result was a penalty to the Brits. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

by David Swete

An incredible comeback back in our semi final match up with recently crowned World Tour Champion Ian Williams, saw us win 3 straight races this morning and secure our spot in the 2008 Monsoon Cup Final. Facing a 2 nil deficit overnight we were backed into to a corner with the Brit on match point, but we came out fighting and won our 3 'must win' matches in very exciting fashion.

Perhaps our most exciting match was the deciding one to send us through to our second World Tour Final this year. Adam yet again nailed the start, managing to lock Ian out above the start boat layline, but an aggressive Williams proceeded to go between us and the boat and we protested. When the start gun went we were both judged over the line and had to return to the start, although Ian still had the advantage so was handed a second penalty by the umpires, one of which he had to take immediately.

Ian still held a narrow lead at the top mark and sailed us beyond the top mark where he cleverly did his penalty to even the game back up however we had gained a small lead. On the downwind the Pindar Racing Team kept attacking us as they brought better wind pressure up from behind, but on approach to the bottom mark Adam called for us to drop our spinnaker and we went for the luff to defend our lead. Our crew work during this manoeuvre was awesome and the British team failed to react in time, their spinnaker hitting our boat and they were handed yet another penalty while we had a clean mark rounding and extended to take the victory.

Our ability to fight back from 2 nil down against the World Tour Champion was phenomenal, however it was not enough to spur us on to win the final against the legendary Peter Gilmour, who beat Torvar Mirsky in their semi final showdown, defeating us 3-1. The final saw a very one sided race track and Gilmour had his finger on the button, managing to win the favoured right side in every pre-start, although we did take a convincing win in the second match. BlackMatch would like to congratulate Peter Gilmour and his Yanmar Racing team on a great win here in Malaysia.

Nick lays one on the big fella after an emphatic Semi-Final win over Ian Williams and his Bahrain Pindar Racing Team. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

Our second consectutive 'Runner Up' placing at World Tour Events saw us finish the World Tour on equal points with ISAF World #1 Mathieu Richard and tied for 3rd, although the Frenchman pipped us to the podium because of his First placing at the St Moritz event. We are very happy with this result in our first year on the World Match Racing Tour, and are extremely motivated after securing our entry to the World Tour events next year with our result here.

BlackMatch would like to thank their sponsors Fedex Express and Line 7 New Zealand. Also a big thank you to our friends and family and our yacht club the RNZYS.

BlackMatch Racing

Gilmour Steals the Show at the Monsoon Cup 2008

Peter Gilmour and crew celebrating after winning the Monsoon Cup 2008 (Sunday the 7th December 2008), with BlackMatch/ETNZ (2nd overall) to the left and Mirsky Racing Team (3rd overall) to the right. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by Tracey Johnstone

King of the Monsoon Cup for the second time is Peter Gilmour and his Yanmar Racing team.

Challenged on every part of the race course through four very tough races, Gilmour and his team of Yasuhiro Yaji, Rod Dawson, Thierry Douillard and Kazuhiko Sofuku, are deserved winners of the 2008 Monsoon Cup.

After several months of leading the Monsoon Cup event management team, Gilmour then had to turn around and focus his energies on the competition. It is a testament to the skills of this sailor that he was able to make the seamless move from Race Advisor to successful skipper.

Peter Gilmour leads Adam Minoprio in the finals. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

“I feel very elated. It has been a long few months for us to pull the event together and then the deck was pretty well stacked against me for doing well here. I have tremendous crew here, which kept me concentrating, kept me sailing. They are not too hard on me when I make basic mistakes like running into committee boats and just keep me rolling along.

“Clearly we were very lucky to be in the final. We probably did not deserve to be on the race course, but here we are and we won the final.

“The result is great for 2009. We look forward to going on the Tour and being a part of all that. It is very exciting,” a clearly elated Gilmour said.

Peter Gilmour and his Yanmar Racing Team at the 2008 Monsoon Cup. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

Gilmour had a tough trip to the top, finishing tied on five match wins with Sébastien Col, Magnus Holmberg and Ben Ainslie at the end of the round robin series. On a count-back Gilmour went through to the quarter finals where he raced Col, winning his semi final place after five hard and at times, controversial matches.

The semi-final for Gilmour was an extraordinary situation where his opponent was 22-year-old Torvar Mirsky, a one-time match racing student of Gilmour’s. It was a battle of wits; skill and experience which saw Gilmour dominate the matches to win 3-0.

2008 ISAF Match Racing World Championship
Ian Williams has taken out the 2008 ISAF Match Racing World Championship ahead of Sébastien Col (French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge) in second place and Mathieu Richard (French Match Racing Team/French Spirit) in the third.

Petite Finals
In the Petite Final Torvar Mirsky (Mirsky Racing Team) and recently anointed Match Racing World Champion, Ian Williams (Bahrain Team Pindar), took to the water to redress their semi final losses as they both refocused and looked to finish third in the event. A tough battle between the two with Mirsky dominating both matches to take out third place Monsoon Cup honours.

Overall Monsoon Cup Results
1st Peter Gilmour, Yanmar Racing (AUS)
2nd Adam Minoprio, ETNZ/Black Match Racing (NZL)
3rd Torvar Mirsky, Mirsky Racing Team (AUS)
4th Ian Williams, Bahrain Team Pindar (GBR)
5th Paolo Cian, Team Shosholoza (ITA)
6th Sébastien Col, French Match Racing Team / K-Challenge (FRA)
7th Magnus Holmberg, Victory Challenge (SWE)
8th Mathieu Richard, French Match Racing Team / French Spirit (FRA)
9th Ben Ainslie, Team Origin (GBR)
10th Keith Swinton, Black Swan Racing (AUS)
11th Johnie Berntsson, Berntsson Sailing Team (SWE)
12th Nurul Ain bt Md Isa, Perak Sailing Team (MAS)

World Match Racing Tour

Mirsky Racing Team report on Monsoon Cup Day Four

by Kinley Fowler

A day filled with drama and emotion came to a close with both semi finals well underway, and the fight for the World Match Racing Champion title decided as Ian Williams is crowned champion for the second year running. The focus for us has now shifted onto securing a top 4 spot on the Tour, and hopefully winning the Monsoon Cup.

After finishing 2nd in the round, we were given the power to choose our quarter final opponent after Paolo Cian had picked Adam Minoprio. We decided on Magnus Holmberg of Sweden, as we felt our crew work could outshine his. Although it wasn't an easy win by any means, our decision paid off, and we defeated him 3-0.

We then opted to race the winner of the Gilmour/Col quarterfinal series, leaving Minoprio to race defending champion Ian Williams who won his first two races. The Gilmour/Col racing went into the full 5 matches, and was eventually decided in a nail biting race which saw Gilmour come out on top dashing the Frenchman's dreams of winning the Tour title.

Our first race of the semi finals got underway late in the evening just before the sun set and yet another monsoon squall shot through Kuala Terrengannu. Gilmour got the jump on us at the start, and with the power of the right managed to maintain his lead to the top mark. We fought with every effort to get back at him but the old fox wasn't going to let us near, so we were left to go down 1-0 until racing begins again tomorrow morning.

A special thanks to Line7, Harken and the Royal Perth Yacht Club for their support.

Mirsky Racing Team

BlackMatch Through to Semi-Finals at Monsoon Cup

BlackMatch Racing in Malaysia. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by David Swete

With the final race of the round robin completed, the top 8 teams were decided for the quarter finals which saw Ben Ainslie's Team Origin on the wrong side of a tie break and narrowly missed out. Sebastian Col, Magnus Holmberg and Peter Gilmour were the benefactors of a tie breaks, while Ainslie missed out after he lost in an epic must win battle with Richard. In a repeat of last year Ian Williams just scraped through after narrowly winning his match against Johnie Berntsson on the last gybe to the finish.

So the scene was set for an awesome quarter final, and it really did deliver with the last semi finalist decided under extreme controversy. Top qualifier Paolo Cian decided to race us, with Mirsky choosing to race Holmberg while Richard decided to settle the World Title there and then and in a bold move chose to race Williams. The other pair to race were Gilmour and Col in what would be a very tough competition with a very interesting climax.

We took it to the Italian's and although we were defeated in the first match, we showed our experience in the Bakewell White 36's and managed 3 straight wins to earn our spot in our fourth World Tour semi final this year. Mirsky won 3-0 over Holmberg with Ian William's stepping up a massive gear and taking out his quarter final out 3-0 over ISAF world #1 Mathieu Richard.

Col and Gilmour were locked at 2 all in their show down and crossed the line side by side in the deciding match. The win was given to Col by the finish boat but the wily Gilmour thought his spinnaker had crossed the line before Col and lodged a red flag protest. Video evidence was used in the hearing and although Col's bow clearly crosses the line in front of the Australian's, it was deemed that the spinnaker of Gilmour's boat crossed ahead of the unlucky French Team. With the two French team's ousted from the competition the World Title was handed to Ian William's in somewhat anti-climatic circumstances and the big show down was not to be. Instead we were left with the unenviable proposition of racing the Brits in the semi-finals while Mirsky was to take on Gilmour in an all Perth affair.

Currently we are trailing Williams 2-0 and have the huge task of winning 3 straight races tomorrow if we are to proceed, while Mirsky is 1-0 down against Gilmour. We know we will need to sail out of our skins tomorrow if we are to make our second final on the World Tour, but we remain confident. We would like to congratulate Ian and his Bahrain Pindar Racing Team on their World Title crown and we are looking forward to giving them a run for their money in the remaining races of the semi-final tomorrow.

BlackMatch would like to thank their sponsors Fedex Express and Line 7 New Zealand. We would also like to thank the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and our friends and family.

BlackMatch Racing

Team Shosholoza First to Make Quaterfinal Cut at Monsoon Cup

Cian's phenomenal nine wins from eleven matches in Malaysia! Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by Di Meek

A phenomenal run of nine wins from 11 matches so far has secured Team Shosholoza's Paolo Cian and his crew an early spot in the quarter finals of the 2008 Monsoon Cup after three days of tough racing in Terengganu, Malaysia.

Event journalist Tracey Johnstone of couldn't put it better when she says Cian has "has had a brilliant event to date. Never wavering in his ability to work with the difficult conditions on the waters of Terengganu, he has certainly made the round robin stage his own."

Cian, Torvar Mirsky and Mirsky Racing Team and Adam Minoprio with his Black Match Racing Team/ETNZ who are also through to the quarter-finals will be able to sleep well tonight. But six of the best international match racers - defending champion Ian Williams, Sebastien Col, Mathieu Richard, Magnus Holmberg, Ben Ainslie and Peter Gilmour - will have to wait until tomorrow to battle for the five available places left in the quarter final after shifting soft breezes forced a postponement of the final and deciding flight of the round robin. They are all sitting on equal points of five wins each.

But for Cian and his Shosholoza crew who are sponsored by Breil Milano and MSC Crociere the pressure is off - for just a short while anyway!

“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 (Williams) 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.

So far Cian has only lost to Williams who is also the current World Match Racing Tour leader and Ainslie, the triple gold Olympic medallist heading up Britain's Team Origin.

Cian was philosophical ahead of his match against Ainslie today:

"I think that every match is a different story and it is very reliant on the weather conditions and the current conditions so you know if it is a match you can attack or you want to be a little smoother and try to slip away. Ben Ainslie and Sebastien Col are top sailors all over the world and they have demonstrated in different classes, in match races, America’s Cup and so on. It will be tough like every time.”

Cian challenged Ainslie every moment of the match, but the British took the lead to finish ahead. It was a different story with Col who he smartly out-foxed to bag another win.

"It happens sometimes! But our team is very upbeat and we are looking forward to doing battle again tomorrow. We have had incredible support from our sponsors Breil Milano and MSC Crociere and from so many fans who have sent us messages of support. It makes us more determined and we want to thank all of them. It has been fantastic!" said Cian.

Team Shosholoza managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno said he hesitated to comment on the team's incredible success so far: "I am so very, very superstitious so before I say anything I would like them to win the event! But I am very proud of them. Paolo is a fantastic skipper, they are a great team and they are sailing fast. I am thinking of them all the time."

Team Shosholoza

World Match Racing Tour

Ian Williams Retains his World Match Racing Crown

Ian Williams and Bahrain Team Pindar retain their World Match Racing Title. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by Tracey Johnstone

Ian Williams of Bahrain Team Pindar, match racing skipper extraordinaire, has retained his world title taking out the 2008 ISAF Match Racing World Championship trophy.

Williams led the championship point score with 92 points going into the final event of the World Match Racing Tour. His nearest rivals for the title, Sébastien Col and Mathieu Richard, had to make it to through the quarter finals of the Monsoon Cup to stay in the hunt for the championship trophy.

World Champions: Bahrain Team Pindar. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

Both Col and Richard were knocked out of the quarter finals leaving the pathway open for Williams to storm through and hold onto the coveted World Championship trophy.

In the final event of the Tour, the 2008 Monsoon Cup, Williams was effectively handed the World Championship title after Col lost his last quarter final match against Peter Gilmour after a technical protest.

Ian Williams (centre) and from left Mark Nichols, Gerry Mitchell, Richard Sydenham and Simon Shaw retain their World Match Racing Championship title at the Monsoon Cup 2008. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

“It was a strange to win on a protest decision that didn’t involve us, but I really felt we deserved it, The way we sailed today, we deserved to win. Mathieu (Richard) sailed really well against us and we just didn’t give him any chances. To beat him 3-0 is unprecedented.

“We are really satisfied with the way we performed when the pressure came on. When it came to the quarter finals, Mathieu threw down the gauntlet by choosing us and we responded extremely well and stepped up our game.”

With the Monsoon Cup still at stake nothing could stop the best international match racers in their quest to win their quarter final matches to secure one of the four semi-final berths.

Bahrain Team Pindar at the 2008 Monsoon Cup. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

The Monsoon Cup is the final event in the World Match Racing Tour and was the deciding event in the 2008 ISAF World Match Racing Championship.

The eight teams contesting the quarter final stage had to battle heavy monsoon downpours, strong river current and gusty 15 to 20 knot winds.

Through to the semi finals are Torvar Mirsky and his Mirsky Racing Team, World Champion Ian Williams and his Bahrain Team Pindar, Adam Minoprio and his ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing and Peter Gilmour’s Yanmar Racing.

Round Robin winner Italian Paolo Cian (Team Shosholoza) was up against 23-year-old kiwi Adam Minoprio. It took four matches for Minoprio to shake off the event leader.

“Fantastic result. To get picked again after the round robin; last year we missed out on the semi-finals finishing 2-3 to Gilmour and this year we beat Cian 3-1, we are stoked. We had our time on distance really sorted and we were feeling very comfortable in the boat. We managed to win every start.

“In the first race (they lost to Cian) we mucked up the tactics on the beat and then in the rest of the races we sorted it out,” Minoprio said.

Veteran match racing circuit skipper, Sweden’s Magnus Holmberg (Victory Challenge), team went up against Australian Torvar Mirsky. Mirsky dominated each of their three matches, the last one showing just why Mirsky is at the top of the international rankings as he drove home his advantage to beat Holmberg by over four boat lengths.

“We convincingly beat Magnus. He is such a big name in the sport. It feels like all of our hard work and all of our experience, and all the practice we have had this year is finally paying off at the best and biggest event. We are really happy with how we are going,” Mirsky said.

Mathieu Richard (French Match Racing Team/Team French Spirit), who held third place on the world match racing championship score board going into the Monsoon Cup, was up against defending Monsoon Cup champion Ian Williams. Williams came out of the start line in each of their matches with incredible aggression. And was on fire winning three straight matches and qualifying for the semi-final stage.

“I don’t think we have ever beaten Richard 3-0 in a best of five before. We have had so many close races over the years. To come out 3-0; we are really pleased with how we performed,” Williams said.

Dato’ Peter Gilmour faced Sébastien Col (French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge) in his quarter final bout. Col going into the Monsoon Cup was second on the World Match Racing Tour scoreboard. In the first match Gilmour made the fatal mistake, for the second time in this event, drifting into the line of the race committee boat and collecting the anchor line. This closed him out of the first match.

He rebounded in the second, lost out in the third, fought back again in the fourth, and then again in the fifth sailing a tactically clever final race, hunting Col down to the last second. Col was awarded the win over the finish line but after a controversial jury decision the race was awarded to Gilmour. Sebastien’s hopes of gaining the World Championship title were snatched away in a hearing rather than on the water. “I did not agree with decision however I will discuss this further with the umpires and learn from it” said Col.

Semi-Finals resume tomorrow with Ian William’s leading Adam Minoprio 2-0 and Peter Gilmour leading Torvar Mirsky 1-0.

World Match Racing Tour

Mirsky Racing Team report on Monsoon Cup Day 3 - against Peter Gilmour

Peter Gilmour receiving a penalty after taking to close to Torvar Mirsky (Thursday 5th December 2008). Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by Kinley Fowler

Tensions rose today as the fight for a spot in the quarterfinals intensifies. As 6 teams are left to battle it out, we took another step forward today winning both of our matches against Peter Gilmour and Ian Williams, guaranteeing us a top spot alongside Paolo Cian and Adam Minoprio with 8 wins and 2 losses.

A strange wind direction meant that the race committee were forced to set a very short, 3 lap race. First up we had Peter Gilmour whose crew work is second to none. We managed to get a small jump off the start, and in an act of desperation Gilmour tacked too close to us at the top mark, earning himself a penalty. He kept the pressure on trying to force an error, but we were just able to clutch on to our marginal lead to the finish.

One more race of the round is yet to be completed before the quarterfinals get underway tomorrow. We are up against Sebastien Col who is heavily involved in the tussle for the remaining quarter's spots, so we expect it to be a fiery match.

A special thanks to Line7, Harken and the Royal Perth Yacht Club for their support.

Mirsky Racing Team

Monsoon Cup: BlackMatch in the clear with Cian and Mirsky, while 6 teams remain in contention for 5 remaining slots

Tom and Trae winding the BlackMatch boat up to speed in Malaysia. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by David Swete

In the shiftiest day seen so far here at the 2008 Monsoon Cup, we managed to improve our scoreline to 7 wins 3 losses and secure our spot in the quarter final. We are currently lying a close third with one race to go and are guaranteed this position, although we can overtake Torvar Mirsky tomorrow if we beat Holmberg and he loses to Col. Cian has sailed an excellent regatta so far and has secured the top qualifying position, while further down the field there is a very tight race for the 5 remaining quarter final berths, a six way tie which includes all 3 of the world title contenders.

A collision results in a penalty for Gilmour. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

Now this is where the interesting stuff begins, our final race tomorrow is against Holmberg where a win to us could see him ousted, this is the same predicament for Col who is racing against Mirsky. Ian Williams who is the defending champion has a pressure match against an out of contention but eager Johnie Berntsson, while Ainslie and Richard come head to head to see who will go through in their match. Two time Monsoon Cup champion Peter Gilmour is also still in contention, however he has no more racing and will be relying on Richard to take out his match against Ainslie if he is to proceed.

Pre-start action against World #1 Mathieu Richard, the Frenchman won in a very close race keeping his hopes alive. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

A late run today by Mathieu Richard, who had to win all of his matches today to stay in contention saw the world number 1 showing his class, taking 3 victories and an all important win over Ian Williams. Adding to the drama was a decision to deduct Magnus Holmberg of a full point due to his involvement in an incident with Ian Williams. The incident resulted in serious damage to Ian's boat and the decision has definitely contributed to the bizarre 6 way tie that has occurred.

BlackMatch would like to again thank our sponsors FedEx Express and Line 7 New Zealand. Also a very special thank you to the RNZYS and the support of our friends and family.

BlackMatch Racing

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

BlackMatch Tied for Second after Day Two in Malaysia

Adam Minoprio (with Tony Rae, aka Trae, alongside), racing in Malaysia. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

by David Swete

Another spectacular day of sailing here in Malaysia saw plenty of exciting tight racing and the young guns coming through with BlackMatch and Mirsky Racing Team currently tied for second. Flying the flag for the 'old boys' is Paolo Cian who had a fantastic day, managing to finish with 7 wins and only 1 loss. Williams, Col, Gilmour, Holmberg and Ainslie are a further two points behind on 4 wins but a massive collision between Holmberg and Williams in the last match of the day, could see one or both of these teams in a little spot of bother in the protest room. Perhaps a big surprise so far is that Mathieu Richard, who is a serious contender for the world tour, has only 2 wins from his 7 matches and has a lot of work to do if he is to make the quarter finals.

Our victories today included a 'Black Flag' disqualification over Team Origin Skipper Ben Ainslie and an all important win over rival Torvar Mirsky. In our race against Ben we managed to lock him out at the boat end of the start line, forcing him to follow us around the start boat. Unfortunately for the Team Origin crew they misjudged the tide and got entangled on the committee boat, eventually needing assistance to free themselves which resulted in the disqualification.

Minoprio leads Mirsky in their match. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

A heated pre-start against our Australian rivals saw Adam again nail the start and manage to luff Torvar and his crew above the committee boat. They trailed us off the start line and a fierce tacking duel ensued with us still having the advantage at the top mark. The Perth team made inroads down the first run and at one stage were rolling us to windward, but we defended well and luffed hard which resulted in a penalty to Torvar when he failed to keep clear, this essentially handed us the victory.

We also managed a lucky win over Ian Williams after the World Champion went to the wrong top mark, but this perhaps was karma after we lost our race against Paolo Cian in very unfortunate circumstances. After leading Paolo for the entire race, we were on our final run to the finish when a team (who will remain nameless) from another match gybed on top of us when they were clearly out of their own race and forced us to gybe off, giving victory to the Italian's. After this incident it was good to have a little luck go our way which is very helpful against such an awesome lineup at this event.

Looking to tomorrow we would like to keep building on a good start and hopefully qualify well in the top 8 for the quarter finals. With the top qualifiers choosing who they are to race during quarter final stage, it is always very interesting. As we found out last year when Peter Gilmour choose to race us even though we had qualified second, it pays to be one of the teams choosing.

BlackMatch would like to again thank our sponsors FedEx Express and Line 7 New Zealand. Also a very special thank you to the RNZYS and the support of our friends and family.

BlackMatch Racing

Mirsky Racing Team report on Monsoon Cup Day Two

Torvar Mirsky competing in the Monsoon Cup. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

by Kinley Fowler

With tricky winds and rapid current, day two proved to be a more challenging day for us, but with solid crew work and consistent communication we were able to come out of the day on top, finishing up with 6 wins and 2 losses.

We had two big grudge matches today against the fellow Perth team Black Swan Racing headed by Keith Swinton, and New Zealand’s Adam Minoprio and his Blackmatch Racing. Both races fired up on all cylinders, but we were only able to outsail Swinton, as Minoprio’s team sailed smooth and fast after already winning the start to take it out.

Mirsky Racing Team leads Keith Swinton's Black Swan Racing crew in their match in Malaysia. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

Tomorrow holds some big races for us as we still have to face Williams, Col, and the big gun Peter Gilmour. Although we are sitting comfortably in 3rd place, we still have a lot of racing to do. Thankfully we have a strong foundation to build on and are taking positive steps in the right direction to taking this one out.

A special thanks to Line7, Harken and the Royal Perth Yacht Club for their support.

Mirsky Racing Team