Friday, March 05, 2010

Ben Ainslie unstoppable at the Omega Auckland regatta

[Source: Emirates Team NZ] British triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie and his Team Origin crew continued to dominate the Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta today and by the end of racing were the only team to have secured a semi-final berth.

Despite his fairly untroubled progress through to the semi-finals, Ainslie said there were no easy wins. “This is probably the toughest group of match racers I have ever sailed against in a single regatta,” he said.

Racing was called off early as the wind deserted the course and became too unstable for fair racing – in contrast to yesterday’s predicament when the yachts were sent off the course because of too much wind.

By the end of racing today, six out of the nine scheduled flights in the second round robin had been completed. Ainslie had amassed a combined score over both round robins of 13 wins and 2 losses.

Dean Barker will have to race flawlessly in order to advance into the semis. Auckland, 5 March 2010. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team NZ

Behind him in second place were Karol Jablonski of Poland on 9-6 and Adam Minoprio (NZL) on 9-7. Bertrand Pace (FRA), Torvar Mirsky (AUS) and Dean Barker (NZL) were all 1pt back on 8-7 – but Minoprio, had sailed one more match than the other front-runners, so the results are slightly deceptive.

With three flights remaining to complete the second round robin, Ainslie had done enough to secure a semi-final slot, but the logjam beneath him left the other three semi-final places up for grabs.

The match of the day once again proved to be a local derby between Barker and his Emirates Team New Zealand crew and reigning world match race champion Minoprio and his young BlackMatch crew.

This was a real cliff-hanger, with Minoprio recovering from a port-starboard penalty to come from behind and win the match by 1 second.

“It was very difficult conditions today,” said Ainslie, referring to the combination of a powerful ebb tide and very light, shifty winds. “So far we have managed to be on the right side of things, so we are looking forward to racing in the final four.

It hasn't been smooth sailing so far for the Louis Vuitton Cup holders. Auckland, 5 March 2010. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team NZ

“Some of the top match racing teams might struggle here, because the conditions are quite unconventional,” said Ainslie, who has plenty of experience of sailing in Auckland from his time with Emirates Team New Zealand in the lead up to the 2007 America’s Cup. He is also familiar with big tides and shifty winds from his home waters on the south coast of England.

Racing is scheduled to resume on the Waitemata Harbour on Saturday with the remainder of Round Robin Two still to complete, plus the semi-final and final.

Round Robin One Results after 15 Flights
Ben Ainslie (GBR) 13-2
Karol Jablonski (POL) 9-6
Adam Minoprio (NZL) 9-7 (having raced one more match)
Dean Barker (NZL) 8-7
Bertrand Pace (FRA) 8-7
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) 8-7
Magnus Holmberg (SWE) 6-9
Francesco Bruni (ITA) 6-9
Sebastien Col (FRA) 5-11(having raced one more match)
Chris Dickson (NZL) 4-11

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