Final Eight Decided In Chicago.
Jordan Reece, Phil Robertson, Johnie Berntsson and local skipper Sally Barkow have joined yesterday's top four qualifiers in the Chicago Match Cup Quarter Final after a dramatic day's Repechage round that was punctuated by thunderstorms on Lake Michigan at the fourth stage of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.
Sally Barkow (USA) Team 7 Match Race struggled in the opening days of the event but her team came on strong on day three to progress into tomorrow's Quarter Finals. The 2008 Olympian has raced often in the TOM 28's used by the Chicago Match Race Center, having trained here for her bid to represent the US once again in this year's Games. Sailing with a new team, she anticipated the slow start in this event. As teamwork has improved throughout the event, so have her chances as being one to watch in the knockout rounds. Barkow, said, "In these boats with five people there is a lot of communication to happen and I think we got that down a little bit better today.
"It's a knockout now so it's kind of like a whole new regatta. It just depends on who we sail and if we can play to our strengths we should be alright. We'll hope for the best."
One outstanding match on Barkow's march towards the top of this round was against the fourth-place finisher of the day, Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team. In a match that saw close action throughout, Barkow managed to hold a slim edge on the final run to the finish, but not enough to comfortably gybe towards the line to take the win. So leaving nothing to chance and taking advantage of the Tour's new rules giving no restrictions on proper course, she drove the Swedes well past the finish line before doing her spinnaker takedown and heading back upwind to the finish.
Another one of the wildcards coming into the event, Jordan Reece (AUS) Estate Master Sailing Teamalso made the most of his second chance to qualify for the knockout stages in the day's Repechage, battling the seven other teams facing knockout to finish the day on top. Reece was pleased that his team had managed to secure progression after just missing out on the Qualifying cut yesterday. He said, "We had a really good start today, winning five straight and improving on everything that we wanted to and in our loss against Sally [Barkow] we just lost it by 5 metres but had opportunities to win. It was a great day all round.
"Yesterday with the tie-break not going our way, we weren't really happy with that so our performance today shows that we're one of the top teams.
"We've had an extra day on the water more than some of the guys and although we've probably already over-achieved coming in as a qualifier and beating three of the Tour Card holders but tomorrow's Quarter Final is a new start and hopefully we'll keep getting the wins."
One of Reece's most exciting matches came at the very end of the day as a thunderstorm loomed to the west behind the City skyline. In the blustery winds off Navy Pier, Reece's team kept control of the boat only slightly better than their opponent, Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing Team, who copped a penalty but had the lead throughout most of the match. Unable to shake Reece off his tail, Swinton waited until the very last moment to do his turn on the finish line, yet missed taking the win by less than a metre. The loss was a heartbreaker for Swinton, who impressed on the first day of the competition and only narrowly missed the cut on a tie-break with Berntsson today.
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racingstormed through to the next round, finishing the day 6-1 and has been in fine form on the Tour this year, recording 1st, 3rd and 4th place finishes in his second full season. Johnie Berntsson also did enough to progress to the next round, finishing the day 4-3 and narrowly progressed after a three-way count back, which dumped Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing out of the event, despite the Australian's excellent first day. Berntsson, said, "We lost some important races at the beginning but we got ourselves together and despite a few bad moments where I was yelling at the crew and not appreciating their efforts, they got it together and pushed me to win the last races. Thank god that I race with these guys.
"I think it was a combination of luck and mistakes early on and we just couldn't get into the flow. I last sailed these boats in 2003 so we're still learning and I'm confident we'll get better and better."
The Chicago Match Cup Quarter Final and Semi Final will commence on Saturday 14th July at 10:00 CDT. The Final of the event is scheduled for 14:00 CDT on Sunday 15th July.
Additional information and updates are available at http://www.wmrt.com/live
Tour regular Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt
Live event Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt_liverace
The event is available to watch live online for the final three days of the event and will continue tomorrow, Saturday 14th July from 14:00 - 16:00 CDT at http://new.livestream.com/WorldMRT
Q Jordan Reece (AUS) - Estate Master Sailing Team 6-1
Q Phil Robertson (NZ) WAKA Racing 6-1
Q Sally Barkow (USA) - Team 7 Match Race 4-3
Q Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 4-3
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing Team 4-3
Laurie Jury (NZ) Kiwi Match 3-4
Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team 1-6
Donald Wilson (USA) - Chicago Match Race Center 0-7