Wednesday, 6 October 2010

WMRT: Emerging Talent Puts Top Seeds on the Ropes in Bermuda

Phil Robertson (NZL) leads Lucy Macgregor (GBR). Image copyright Subzero Images/WMRT.

by Talbot Wilson

An adrenaline-filled First Qualifier Session at the Argo Group Gold Cup produced a host of upsets today with notable top seeds failing to assert dominance over their unfazed opponents. For added spice, eyes were also focused on newly-crowned ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Champion Lucy Macgregor (GBR) Match Race Girls to see how she would measure up to her male counterparts.

Macgregor had a shaky start, losing her first two matches, the second against a young Kiwi skipper who’s starting to make big waves in match racing – Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing. “The competition here is incredibly tough and Lucy fought really hard to tie us in knots, so it was fantastic to squeeze past her right at the finish.”

A relaxed Mathieu Richard (FRA), the Tour Leader, prior to racing. Image copyright Subzero Images/WMRT.

However, the 24 year-old turned her game around in the most emphatic fashion to annihilate current World Match Racing Tour leader Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team in the next race. With the French skipper still smarting from an earlier defeat, the gutsy Macgregor crossed just ahead as they approached the first windward mark, then played the gusts to perfection downwind, extending her lead to five lengths at the leeward mark, which proved decisive.

Macgregor reflected: “We made silly mistakes in our match against Phil and handed him victory. We’re learning all the time – the boats here need a different skill set to the ones we normally sail which makes it tough out there.”

Rising star Reuben Corbett (NZL) Black Sheep Racing pulverised formidable opposition to take victory in all three of his races. Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Racing Team – winner of the Qualifying Rounds last year – was first to fall to the 23-year old Kiwi. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team fared no better, and even last year’s Argo Group Gold Cup winner Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN succumbed to Corbett’s onslaught.

Damien Iehl (FRA) leads Reuben Corbett (NZL). Image copyright Subzero Images/WMRT.

Tough Going for Local Talent

Local knowledge of the many wind shifts in Hamilton Harbour has yet to prove a significant advantage for the local sailors. Lance Fraser (BER), the youngest skipper in the event’s 103-year history, failed to win a match today but put up impressive fights against the biggest names, including Ainslie. Blythe Walker (BER) lost his first match against Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group but was leading Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team until the approach to the second windward mark. However, the Australian found a great right hand windshift that left him perfectly positioned to round the mark inside Walker.

Video from Day One in Bermuda:

Tomorrow the scene is set for a day of fierce battles, with skippers intent on pulling out all the stops – and pushing the rules to the limit – to avoid an early exit from the competition.

Standings at end of First Qualifier Session:

Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team - 2-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE)Hansen Global Team - 2-1
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing - 2-1
Taylor Canfield (USA) - 2-1
Mathieu Richard (FRA)French Match Racing Team - 1-2
Lucy Macgregor (GBR) Match Race Girls - 1-2
Michael Buckley (USA) MB Racing - 1-2
Terry McLaughlin (CAN) - 1-2

Reuben Corbett (NZL) Black Sheep Racing - 3-0
Adam Minoprio (NZL)ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing - 2-0
Eric Monnin (SUI)Swiss Match Racing Team - 2-1
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN - 1-1
Damien Iehl (FRA)French Match Racing Team - 1-1
Jakub Pawluk (POL) - 0-3
Lance Fraser (BER) - 0-3

Alvaro Marinho (POR) Seth Sailing Team - 3-0
Torvar Mirsky (AUS)Mirsky Racing Team - 2-0
Ian Williams (GBR)Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group - 2-0
Johnnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team - 2-0
Dave Perry (USA) - 0-3
Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) - 0-3
Blythe Walker (BER) - 0-3

Argo Group Gold Cup
World Match Racing Tour