Ainslie and Radich Set to Clash in Final of Argo Group Gold Cup
[Source: World Match Racing Tour] The stage is all set for a fitting finale to the eighth stage of the 2010 World Match Racing Tour, with Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN and Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team set to go head-to-head in a repeat of the final of the Stena Match Cup Sweden earlier in the 2010 World Match Racing Tour.
Both skippers stormed to victory in their first two semi-final matches, leaving Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Racing Team and Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team with an immediate battle to survive the first to three points knock-out round. Monnin and Berntsson fought back in style, however, with Monnin taking the advantage at the start of his next match, set-up nicely to windward of Radich, to take a two-length lead. However, on the first run Radich closed the gap and completed a double gybe manoeuvre to establish luffing rights, pin a penalty on the Swiss skipper and sail him well past the layline to the leeward mark.
Highlights from the Quarterfinals and Semifinals of the Argo Group Gold Cup. Hamilton, 9 October 2010. Video copyright World Match Racing Tour
On the next beat Radich failed to keep clear of a boat in the other semi-final match, collecting a penalty himself and handing Monnin a second chance. However, Radich maintained his lead to finish five to six lengths ahead and complete his semi-final round with a clean 3-0 score. “This is my third final this season out of three events. It will be a re-match of the Stena Match Cup Sweden, a final which I’m not proud of so we’ve got a second chance. I’m sure we can give Ben a really good fight this time.”
Ainslie, the 2009 Argo Group Gold Cup champion had an even bumpier ride to the final – his clash with Berntsson, the winner in 2008, was only just heating up. The two skippers started their third match with a huge scrap for the buoy end of the line, a position won by the Swedish team. By the time they reached the windward mark it was clear why both skippers had been so keen to control the left-hand side of the course. Having benefited from stronger winds and favourable shifts, Berntsson now enjoyed a substantial lead that Ainslie was never able to threaten.
Spectators couldn’t fail to hear the hefty collision as Berntsson tried but failed to cross behind Ainslie 60 seconds before the start of their fourth match. The boats came together again within 30 seconds as the Swede tried to pin a penalty on Ainslie. A tense few seconds followed while the on-water umpires debated their call. When they finally reached for a flag it was a second penalty for Berntsson. However, that wasn’t the end of the Berntsson’s woes – at the start gun he was over the line and by the time he had returned and completed the first of his penalties Ainslie was more than six lengths ahead.
With the race course peppered with gusts and light patches of wind, the British skipper sailed a tactically conservative race, keeping a loose cover on Berntsson. On the final run Ainslie sailed into a hole, enabling Berntsson to power forward to close his deficit to just two lengths. However it wasn’t enough and Ainslie took the winner’s flag for a third time.
Ainslie is now assured of moving up into third place on the World Match Race Tour standings, placing him firmly back in contention for the overall ISAF Match Racing World Championship title at the Monsoon Cup. Radich will no doubt be a force to contend with in Malaysia – having secured at least a top 2 result in Bermuda he moves up to 6th place in the Tour standings , earning an automatic invite for the last event of the World Match Racing Tour.