A disappointing exit for Bjorn Hansen at the Qualifying stage of Match Race France has reignited the race for the 2012 Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT) title.
Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team currently leads the overall standings but was unable to maintain his good form in Marseille, failing to reach the knockout stages after finishing Qualifying Session Two on 4-7. Hansen can now do little but hope that his nearest rivals in the Tour standings don't overthrow him, saying, "We needed to make it to the Finals here to increase our own points tally for the season, which we knew would be tough. The important thing was stopping Ian [Williams] and the other guys close behind us from taking points by finishing ahead of us, which we now can't do. That's how it is.
"We just hope that the wildcards here and the guys not still in for the overall Tour title like Will Tiller, Damien [Iehl] and Simone Ferrarese do well and fill all those Semi Final spots here [at Match Race France]. Whatever happens between now and December, it's going to be wide open at the Monsoon Cup."
Hansen blamed himself for the final defeat of the day, a loss to wildcard entry William Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing. He said, "It was a silly mistake from me which finished it off for us today. I messed up the last race and we got two penalties in pre-start which meant that race was pretty much over. Huge mistake from my side and I'll have to apologise to the guys on that one."
Of those most likely to profit from Hansen's absence are reigning Tour Champion Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar, Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing, who enjoyed a second strong showing and Laurie Jury, who finished top of Qualifying with a 9-2 record.
Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar made it through Qualifying after a must-win last match against William Tiller (AUS) Full Metal Jacket Racing, who himself crept through to the knockout rounds on count back. After losing to his closest Tour rival Hansen earlier in the day, Williams was unsure where he stood going into his race against Tiller. He said, "We didn't really know the standings going into the last match against Will Tiller. We knew we'd lost a few and thought we had to win it but even 5 wins doesn't guarantee it normally. We'd been sailing okay before that but just didn't seem to be able to get over the line first. I think we deserved to go through.
"There was a change of tempo for us at the end, I just tried to relax and it came good."
Referring to his overall prospects for the season as he chases his fourth Tour title, a record he would share with Gilmour, Williams continued, "At the end of the season we might look back and see this as an important moment but Bjorn [Hansen] already has a good set of four results to count ahead of the Monsoon Cup. We'll just have to go as far as we can now. Both here and in Bermuda, Bjorn's [Hansen] goal will be to stop us doing well so at least at this event it's out of his hands and back into ours now."
Other casualties for the day include Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team, recent women's Elliott 6m Olympic Champion , Tamara Echegoyen (ESP) Echegoyen Team and 2009 Tour Champion Adam Minoprio (NZL) Argo Group BlackMatch. Minoprio reflected on his return to AWMRT action, saying, "The Tour is still just as tough as when I left and the quality of racing is top notch. It was fun racing out there too and even though we were losing we found some good points and enjoyed it.
"I think the first couple we won, we were a bit lucky at times. We were all fresh in the boat for this event and this regatta was just a case of finding our rhythm. We missed the practice day so it was a harsh introduction for us, straight into competition after 22 months out. It was our training week and whilst we're disappointed, we're looking forward togetting to Bermuda for the Argo Group Gold Cup. You can't show up to these events and expect to finish well without doing the training."
The teams will be back on the water from 10:00 local time tomorrow for the Quarter Final at Match Race France (24 - 29 September) in Marseille, the sixth stage of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. The Quarter Final picks will be made immediately before racing.
Follow Match Race France live online at http://www.wmrt.com/live.html
Tour regular Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt
Live event Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt_liverace
Match Race France - Quarter Final draw:
Match Race France - Standings after Qualifying Session 2:
Q Laurie Jury (NZL) Kiwi Match 9-2
Q Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 8-3
Q Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 8-3
Q Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team 7-4
Q Damien Iehl (FRA) Wind 2 Win 7-4
Q Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 6-5
Q Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 5-6
Q William Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing 4-7
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 4-7
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 3-8
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Argo Group BlackMatch 3-8
Tamara Echegoyen (ESP) Echegoyen Team 2-9