Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cautious pre-starts for hot Monsoon match racers

[Source: World Match Racing tour] The first day of the Monsoon Cup started with pomp and ceremony as the fourth edition of the final event int the World Match Racing Tour was officially launched today in Terengganu, Malaysia.

On the water three flights were conducted in the late afternoon breeze with tactics and strategy the key factor in achieving success on a race course with challenging tidal conditions and shifting breezes.

In Flight 1 the toughest match was between Sebastien Col and Ben Ainslie. From the start Ainslie kept a tight cover on Col. On the last leg Col gybed to get into less current, but Ainslie still held the lead. Col then tried to use the left-hand side of the course to utilise the western river current successfully closing the gap between the boats. The finish was a heart-stopper as both boats slipped gently towards the finish with only a matter of half a boat length between them on the line.

Torvar Mirsky beats Ben Ainslie on the opening day of the 2008 Monsoon Cup. Pulau Duyong, Terengganu, 3 December 2008. Photo copyright AUS

In the other Flight 1 matches Nurul Ain raced against her mentor, Peter Gilmour. Even with good boat speed she found it tough to match the skills of Gilmour and his team. Gilmour played the highly favoured right-hand side of the course finally taking out the match about three boat lengths ahead of Nurul Ain. Keith Swinton raced Mathieu Richard with Richard winning by a comfortable margin.

'It was a pretty tough day today. We found the pre-starts against Richard really tough,' Swinton said.

Paolo Cian and Magnus Holmberg met in the final match of the flight. Cian held a comfortable lead throughout the match to finish first.

In Flight 2 Torvar Mirsky met Ben Ainslie. Mirksy started aggressively and found the breeze which took him around the course ahead of Ainslie. A decision to take the left-hand side of the course in last work of the match cost Ainslie as he sailed into a glassy patch. At the finish Mirsky finished over one minute ahead of Ainslie.

In the other Flight 2 matches Magnus Holmberg comfortably beat Keith Swinton, Paolo Cian beat Mathieu Richard and Sebastien Col beat Johnie Berntsson.

For Berntsson it was his time racing the Monsoon Cup. 'We are trying to learn conditions. It is pretty much what we expected, but we did not handle the situations as we should so this was a learning day for us and hopefully we will get better tomorrow,' Berntsson said after racing today.

Iain Percy at the bow of Team Origin. Pulau Duyong, Terengganu, 3 December 2008. Photo copyright Sander van der Borch SubZero Images

Four matches were held in the Flight 3 with Ben Ainslie out-sailing Johnie Berntsson and young-gun Torvar Mirsky beating Mathieu Richard adding another second match to his results for the day. In the match between Sebastien Col and Adam Minoprio both struggled with the current in the pre-start with Col running into Minoprio's stern. At the finish Minoprio led Col by only a few boat lengths.

At one from one on the results Minoprio is happy with his day. 'We had a tough race with Sebastien Col. He had just done two before us. We did all right.'

Col says his start against Minoprio was not his best as he was looking too much at the current. 'In match racing, you need good starts,' Col said.

Williams and Cian in the prestart. Pulau Duyong, Terengganu, 3 December 2008. Photo copyright Sander van der Borch SubZero Images

The toughest match of the day was between defending Monsoon Cup champion Ian Williams and his old foe Paolo Cian. Cian went into the match unbeaten in the regatta with two wins already to his name. Cian won the start with Williams squeezed under the start boat. A red flag penalty on the start did not deter Cian from hunting Williams around the course as the breeze softened and shifted. On the last leg Williams covered Cian gybe to gybe to win his first match in the 2008 Monsoon Cup.

There was clearly some difference of opinion on the incident between Williams and Cian on the start of their match.

'I thought the call was reasonably clear. We thought Paolo had gone through head to wind initially and we flew a flag which the umpires ‘greened’. I guess they considered Paolo had not gone through head to wind. And then later on he definitely did go through head to wind and we had to avoid him,' Williams said.

From Cian’s side he said 'there was not a change of control. I was not very happy about the flag and then not very happy about the red flag. I think we were in the controlling position. After the penalty I think we were still in control so maybe it was an aggressive red penalty. You must take into account that this can happen. The way we came back into the race means we are sailing the boat really fast'.

Tomorrow is the second day of racing with the continuation of the round robin stage.

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