Estonia's Mati Sepp won the Match Race Thailand Open Championship from 23-25 March at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya,Thailand.
Ideal Match Race conditions greeted the sailors on the first day of the Match Race Thailand Championship - sun and a moderate breeze; not to mention full use of the 4 Platu 25 racing yachts with identical rigging and sails which were laying at anchor 50 m from the beach.
The first round robin got underway and altogether 11 flights (21 matches) were sailed. As usual the pre-start fights were intense, but fewer penalties were given than usual. Most teams had taken the opportunity to attend the excellent umpire clinic given by Piero Occhetto the day before, and it seemed that it helped the competitors avoid putting themselves in situations where they were at risk of getting penalties; seeing things from an umpire's perspective was certainly healthy for many of the more pushy skippers.
Highlights were the win of Skipper Hando Sutter from Estonia over the much more experience local crew of Morten Jakobsen, and Mati Sepp winning all his matches of the first round robin, and thereby demonstrating why his team is World #46. The two Estonian team's results highlighted the benefit of having held a two-week training camp in sunny Thailand before the event.
The action hotted up during the second round robin on Saturday but unfortunately the wind didn't as it was light and shifty. The luckiest person of the day was Mati Sepp, as he got a new chance when a race was abandoned as his opponent Jakobsen used his local knowledge to almost overtake him by a lap. In the re-sail of that match, Mati got a quick penalty due to an early entry to the start area, but managed to take the penalty turn just prior to rounding the top mark before the final run, and rounded the mark right at the stern of Jakobsen. The run that followed could be known as the light win thriller of Manilla, if the event was held further east. There were multiple jibes; sails being dropped in the soup; a bowman falling overboard but being ripped back onboard by the aft guard, and in the end, somehow, Jakobsen gave Mati his only loss of the event by winning by one single meter.
Skipper Jon Eriksson also showed strong form by winning all his matches except the close fought ones against Mati Sepp; his team was benefitting from usual MR skipper Neil Semple assisting on bow, when Eriksson's own bowman was down with an injury.
The final day dawned with ominous cloud gathering. The first flight was completed, and the second started when the storm hit. One boat managed to run down to the leeward mark, gybe round with spinnaker set and run back down to the original windward mark! The wind had suddenly built to 30 knots plus with heavy rain. The race officer hoisted AP over H to postpone further races, while the crews managed to fight their way around to complete the races underway! Highlight of the times was the excellent boat handling shown by the Thai all girls team of Sinsupa Wanasuth who were caught in the middle of the storm.
Unfortunately the wind died after the storm and no further races could be completed. This unfortunately meant that the highly anticipated Father/Son battle between Kevin Whitcraft (former Asian Games silver medalist), and Don Whitcraft (2010 Optimist team world champion) would have to be postponed for a later occasion.
Congratulations to Mati Sepp and his team from Estonia who sailed a very consistent series and became this year's champions, and also to Sinsupa Wanasuth who finished 4th and the top all women's team and even managed to survive the storm!
1 Mati Sepp EST
2 Jon Ericksson FIN
3 Morten Jakobsen THA
4 Sinsupa Wanasuth THA
5 Hando Sutter EST
=6/7 Kevin Whitcraft THA
=6/7 Don Whitcraft THA