Friday, September 11, 2009

Light winds cause extremely long day at Danish Open

[Source: World Match Racing Tour] Conditions off Aarhus took an even more extreme turn for the second day of the Danish Open, organised by the Royal Danish Yacht Club. While competitors awoke to dense fog off Marselisborg Havn, this was burning off by the time battle commenced mid-morning.

The surprise race in flight nine of the round robin was when America’s Cup and match racing veteran Peter Gilmour and his YANMAR Racing team were dispatched by 49er Olympic gold medallist, match racing newbie, Jonas Warrer.

“He did a very good job,” admitted Gilmour. “He was very early for the start and did a very good job of slowing down in the light conditions and thumped us off the start line. So we were seven or eight boat lengths behind to start with. Then wherever he went it was good for him and wherever we went it wasn’t good for us. So that lead extended and it wasn’t until the end of the race that we started to get back close enough to him. But they held off very nicely, congratulations to them. He sailed very coolly for someone new into match racing. It wasn’t intimidated at all, it was very nice to see.”

The second day of the Danish Open started with excruciatingly light winds. Aarhus, 11 September 2009. Photo copyright Per Heegaard

Unfortunately after this one flight was sailed the wind shut down, the northwesterly gradient wind fighting the southeast sea breeze. The crews waited. All the boats came in and there was more waiting. Lunch time in the tent overlooking the race area was accompanied by no wind, the air so still that you could hear a pin drop on the opposite side of the marina. More waiting. It was not until 6pm local time, just as the crews were considering heading back to the hotel the entire Danish Open entourage is staying in, that finally the gradient northwesterly re-established and the signal came to get afloat again.

Three more flights were hastily sailed in breeze occasionally gusting up to 10-12 knots. In an about turn of his fortunes from the morning, none of these were to prove good for Jonas Warrer. In the first race he was seen off by the 22 year old New Zealander Phil Robertson.

A product of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squad’s famous youth training program, that has over the years produced some of their top sailors such as Gavin Brady, Robertson gained entry to the Danish Open after having won the Warren Jones Youth Regatta in Perth, Western Australia, in February. This is only his second regatta on the World Match Racing Tour following on from Troia Portugal Match Cup in June.

“Yesterday was a little tough - we were a little disappointed,” said Robertson of how he is finding this regatta. “We aren’t quite confident in the boat. It is our first time in the DS37. Yesterday we got beaten up boat-wise, but we had some really good races. We didn’t sail badly, it was just little things. It is awesome to be here. We get the Nationals back at home once a year and when we race Dean [Barker, Emirates Team NZ skipper] it is the best race we get. You learn so much more. We love racing at this level and the more we do the better we’ll get.”

A black flag on Jonas Warrer saw Jes Gram Hansen take the win against his fellow country man. Aarhus, 11 September 2009. Photo copyright Per Heegaard

After losing to World Match Racing Tour leader Adam Minoprio in the next flight, Warrer’s next race was decimated by Danish veteran match racer Jes Gram-Hansen, culminating in him being disqualified within moments of crossing the line.

“We had starboard entry and two minutes into the prestart he got a penalty in a port-starboard situation. Then we were able to keep the control for the start.” Gram-Hansen hooked him and the 49er Gold medallist was faced with the choice of a double penalty for deliberately failing to keep clear or being over early. Unfortunately he chose the latter option and was also over early by three or four seconds and was involved in a collison with Gram Hansen. With three penalties and an OCS, Warrer was history, while Gram Hansen was docked half a point for the collision.

While the inter-French team match between Sebastien Col and Mathieu Richard was one of the most close fought of the day, so was the dust-up between Gilmour and Minoprio in today’s final flight.

“Their tactician Cam [Cameron Dunn] did a real good job keeping them close, we could never extend,” said Minoprio. “Coming into the last top mark they got a nice lift and we got a bad right and they came right on to us so that when we were rounding us they were a lot faster. They went over us and hoisted above us, but we were happy for them to go over us as it was a very long starboard gybe [to the finish]. So we set a kite for the gybe set and laid the finish line and there was nowhere for Gillie to go. So it was good to get another one over him.”

With Minoprio winning both matches today he hopes his fortunes are taking a turn for the better after a disappointing first day of the regatta that saw him end up with a 1-4 scoreline. “We have a long regatta to go. We have turned it around from yesterday, but we have four more races and we have to pretty much win all of them to win a spot in the semi-finals. We have a massive job ahead of us.”

Phil Robertson and his crew might be at the bottom of the leaderborad but they are young, promising and this is only their second World Tour regatta. Aarhus, 11 September 2009. Photo copyright Per Heegaard

Having managed to fire off three flights just as it was getting dark today, so the organisers are only three flights behind schedule. Morten Lorenzen, CEO of the Royal Danish Yacht Club says it is essential to complete the round robins, ideally tomorrow. “Then we have a winner and a loser. We will look at how we do the semis and maybe set the semis to go down to first to three [rather than first to five]. So we still have room to manoeuvre.”

The forecast for tomorrow is for a more solid 15 knots once again from the northwest. “Half of that would be okay, so it is looking promising,” says Lorenzen.

Jes Gram Hansen (DEN) Trifork Racing 5.5 – 1.5
Mattias Rahm (SWE) Stenna Bulk Sailing Team 5 - 2
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 4 - 3
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team 4 - 1
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 3 - 2
Peter Wibroe (DEN) Wibroe Sailing Team 3 – 2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing 3 - 4
Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team 2 – 3
Jonas Warrer (DEN) 2 - 4
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 2 - 5
Ian Williams (FRA) Team Pindar 1 - 4
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 1 - 4

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