It was an action-packed day in Calpe on the final day of the IX Open España Match Race. Conditions were rough with a very big swell and strong breezes, between 15 and 20 knots but the end result was spectacular with Keith Swinton (AUS) clinching the overall victory.
finished the round robin sitting at the top with an 8-1 score and then went into the quarterfinals on Friday where he beat Italy's Simone Ferrarese
His first, and tough, opponent on the final day was Josh Junior
(NZL) from Wellington's Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club. Despite his young age, Junior clearly showed he has the potential to become one of the world's top match racers. He never gave up and even when he was clearly at a disadvantage he fought hard to gain from every mistake Swinton would make. That's what happened in their fourth semifinal race when in the last run Swinton was in the lead but failed to cover, giving Junior the opportunity to get better breeze on the left side of the course and score a victory. Swinton finally prevailed but had to win the fifth match in order to move to the finals with a 3-2 score.
In the other semifinal, France's Pierre-Antoine Morvan
beat Bjorn Hansen
from Sweden 3-2 but two umpire calls, one at the first weather mark of the third match and another one at the prestart of the fourth match, could be considered controversial and could have very easily gone the other way and change the outcome of the races. Both port-starboard incidents were given green flags by the umpires but infuriated Hansen who was yelling for a penalty against his French opponent.
With the breeze and swell unabated one was certain to get very close and exciting matches. After the first two matches, the two sailors were tied with one victory each. In the first beat of the third match Morvan was in the lead, only slightly, and when the two boats crossed Swinton's bow hit Morvan's stern. Morvan got a penalty in a clear port-starboard incident. However, the umpires imposed a 0.75-point penalty on Swinton for not trying to avoid the collision. After the races, Swinton state that he didn't really try to avoid the collision because he wanted to make sure Morvan got a penalty. Had he dipped, in his view, the French might have got out unscathed from the incident.
Swinton went on to win the next match as well, bringing the score to 2.25 to 1. Hadn't he received the penalty the Open would have ended in that point but all was open from that point. In fact, Morvan claimed the fifth race, making it necessary to hold a sixth and decisive match.
As expected, the two match racers engaged in an aggressive battle. In the first downwind Morvan got a penalty for luffing too hard but was then able to build a comfortable advantage in the beat, offload the penalty and round the last weather mark ahead of Swinton. The two yachts were even but Morvan let Swinton separate, get better breeze on the left-hand side of the course and cross the finish line ahead. Swinton clinched a well-deserved victory and invitation to St. Moritz Match Race.
Josh Junior beat Hansen 2-0 in the petit-final.
Results at www.rcns.esThe