Monday, October 15, 2007

Mathieu Richard wins Bermuda Gold Cup

[Source: World Match Racing Tour] Mathieu Richard of France became the third consecutive first-time winner of the King Edward VII Gold Cup today when he defeated Sweden’s Björn Hansen, 2-0.

Richard and his Saba Sailing Team crew of Greg Evrard (mainsail and tactics), Olivier Herledant (headsails) and Yannick Simon (bow and traveler) rolled through the regatta with a 12-2 record and won $35,000 of the $100,000 prize purse.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Richard, 31, of Nantes, France. “We went 3-0 in the quarterfinals and semifinals and 2-0 today. I guess it was our week. Everything worked well onboard. To win such a prestigious event is great for us.”

Hansen and his Team crew of Martin Stromberg, Johan Tempelman and Will Thompson finished the regatta 15-5 and won $20,000. They entered the final having won 13 of 14 races, but couldn’t overcome the steamrolling Frenchmen.

“We were very happy to make the final, especially after we had to send a crewmember home,” said Hansen. “(Richard) might’ve had a bit of luck today, but we’ve been lucky throughout the week, so it probably evens out.”

Hansen’s primary tactician, Thomas Hallberg, left the island at the beginning of the week due to ill health. Thompson, of Bermuda, joined the crew the day before the regatta started.

In the Petite Final, Ed Baird of the U.S. defeated Bermuda’s Blythe Walker 2-0 to finish third and place Walker fourth. Baird and his Alinghi crew of Rodney Ardern, Lorenzo Mazza and Piet Van Nieuwenhuyzen won $15,000. Walker and crew Adam Barboza, Carola Cooper and Somers Kempe won $8,000.

Baird also won the Wedgwood Heritage Trophy, awarded to the sailor who embodies the spirit of the sport and is a willing ambassador.

Richard led the first race from start to finish. He started at the committee boat end of the line on port, tacked to starboard, found a puff, and was gone. Typical of Richard’s precision-like effort all week, he led by half a leg at the first leeward mark and was never threatened. But he needed luck in the second race to capture the championship.

With the wind shifting hard to the right as a rain squall passed, Hansen took the early lead off the start line and extended to about 45 seconds halfway through the three lap race. But Richard kept plugging away and found his opportunity on the third upwind leg.

With the wind shifting back and forth and varying in strength between 3 and 10 knots, Richard got to the right of Hansen halfway up the leg.

“He tacked to port and we tacked to cover him, but I knew it was getting close,” said Hansen. “He tacked back to starboard and got a puff. We got headed and tacked back to starboard but there was no wind.”

Richard closed up to overlapped to windward on starboard. When both boats tacked to port to round the mark Richard was to leeward and luffed three times trying to gain separation. He finally got it the third time, bore off to round the windward mark and got a puff as his spinnaker was set.

Richard quickly opened a two boatlength lead, which he held to the finish. As they crossed the line assured of victory, the crew jumped up and down, hugged and high-fived each other. They’d been in a final of a World Tour event five times before, only to finish second. They’d finally broken through.

“We had a crew meeting before this event,” said Simon, the 32-year-old bowman. “We said we have to do more, we have to take risks. We hadn’t sailed well the past three months. We’d been getting good results, but not victories. Everyone sails the same at this level, so we knew we had to take risks to win.”



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