Björn Hansen wins the Open de España Match Race
Swedish match racer Björn Hansen and his OnBoard Sailing Team won the 6th edition of the Open de España Match Race in a convincing way and after a day that started with long delays waiting for the breeze, then light and shifty conditions and ending at 8:30pm with a 12 knots of easterly breeze.
When the first race got underway, both sailors went into an aggressive prestart that cost Ainslie a penalty. Nevertheless, the South African got the upper hand on the starting line and went off to the right with a slight advantage. Not only was he able to hold on to it, Hansen slipped back in the second beat, giving Ainslie ample room to offload the penalty at the finish line and win the first race.
Being one race down, Hansen showed his aggressive match racing skills in the second start, squeezing Ainslie behind the committee boat and holding him back. Ainslie threw a fierce tacking duel in the first beat but half way up, umpires judged he tacked too close to Hansen, handing him a penalty. From that point he was unable to recover and with a penalty turn to do he would have to wait for the third and final race to decide the winner.
Before the start of the final race, and with night approaching fast, the breeze was rapidly dying down. Both sailors engaged in yet another close prestart whose clear winner was Hansen. He got the side the wanted and crossed the starting line with better speed. Ainslie stayed close behind him until the leeward mark, when sensing a left shift was coming, opted for the left side of the course while Hansen sticked to the right. The call didn't pay off for Ainslie because when the two Tom28 yachts converged once again after their huge separation, Hansen was several boatlengths ahead. The Swede sailed safely and won the race and the overall trophy.
Iain Ainslie leads Björn Hansen in the first race of the finals. Calpe, 25 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Björn Hansen sails to victory in the second race of the finals. Calpe, 25 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
After almost 9 hours on the water Björn Hansen wins the Open de España Match Race. Calpe, 25 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Petit Final : Iehl - Neugodnikov
After getting eliminated by Ainslie in the semifinals, Damien Iehl had a commanding performance over Neugodnikov. The Russian match racer proved to be an easy opponent for the French who claimed the 3rd place overall with a 2-0 victory in the petit final.
Damien Iehl beats Eugeny Neugodnikov 2-0 in the Open de España petit final. Calpe, 25 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
First Semifinal : Hansen - Neugodnikov
Unlike the other semifinal Hansen and Neugodnikov didn't suffer as much as Ainslie and Iehl from the fluky and shifty conditions. Even if at times they had to sail in a flickering breeze or face huge shifts, none of their races was canceled. The first race took place under light yet acceptable conditions. Despite the intense and aggressive prestart, Hansen crossed the starting line with a clear advantage on the right side of the course and managed to hold on to his lead until the end.
As the breeze was dying and shifting right, the second race was a simple question of who was to call tactics more accurately. It was Hansen that correctly picked the right and his lead grew to frustrating levels for Neugodnikov. He crossed the finish line when the Russian and his crew had just hoisted their spinnaker after rounding the top mark.
Prestart of the semifinal between Hansen and Eugodnikov. Calpe, 25 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Hansen sails to victory against Neugodnikov in the first semifinal. Calpe, 26 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Second Semifinal : Ainslie - Iehl
The close and intense racing and the exasperating wind conditions turned the second semifinal into a nailbiting drama. Ainslie won the first race in a convincing manner, leading his opponent from the start. After crossing the finish line the two crews were forced to endure more than an hour of frustrated attempts by the race committee to set a proper race course and get the 2nd match going. Racing was abandoned twice and with the time limit approaching fast, the race officers were considering the option of declaring Ainslie the winner in order to start the finals.
Finally, at around 6pm the breeze kicked in and the 2nd match started with Iehl squeezing Ainslie in the pre start, forcing him to tack twice on the start line. The French went off with a clear advantage that Ainslie was unable to overcome.
With the two teams tied and a steady breeze of 12 knots, we were guaranteed a close and exciting race and that was the case. Not only during the intense pre-start where Ainslie got the upper hand but also in the first beat, where we counted 12 tacks. Iehl was throwing all the tacks he could but Ainslie held on and won the race and the ticket to the final.
Ainslie leads Iehl in the first race of the second semifinal. Calpe, 26 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Iehl leads Ainslie in the second race of the second semifinal. Calpe, 26 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Ainslie leads Iehl in the third race of the second semifinal. Calpe, 26 April 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Labels: Open de España