"It's not normally like this" - a phrase regularly heard in sailing circles in reference to 'unusual weather', but for once this has worked in the favour of competitors at Match Race Germany, the opening event of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour
After a brief lull in the middle of the day the wind filled in this afternoon and the sun came out allowing the race committee to complete Qualifying and start the Quarter Finals.
It was a dramatic afternoon for Ian Williams and his GAC Pindar crew, who today faced tough matches against Phil Robertson and Taylor Canfield. In the first, Robertson and his WAKA Racing team made the best of the pre-start to lead off the line. The Kiwi skipper looked set to take the point that would see him through to the Quarter Finals, but this did not come to pass.
"We were a little bit lucky,"
admitted Williams. "We just got the pressure and we rolled him. It is real tricky conditions when it is like that."
The heavyweight bout to decide the overall winner of Qualifying was in the final flight when Williams' crew lined up against Taylor Canfield and USone. In this the GAC Pindar team managed to push the US Virgin Islander's team out to the left hand layline where there was less pressure.
"It was a nice job by the boys - 9-2 is a great performance in Qualifying,"
said Williams. As winner of Qualifying, GAC Pindar now fast tracks through to the Semi Finals.
A surprise Quarter Finalist was former America's Cup helm Karol Jablonski. The Pole was tied on five points with Phil Robertson and Pierre Antoine Morvan at the conclusion of the Qualifying, but on countback was the only one of the trio to make it through. So sure was Jablonski's team of not qualifying that they had spent the afternoon commiserating with the local brew. No doubt suitably relaxed, Jablonski promptly went out and dispatched Mathieu Richard in the first of the Quarter Final matches.
The bottom five of the opening 12 are heading home. In addition to Morvan and Robertson, winner here last year, this includes Keith Swinton, plus the two German teams of Philipp Buhl and National Match Racing Champion Sven Erik Horsch.
Philipp Buhl was pleased today to claim a point off Jablonski, after they had got the better of the Pole in the prestart. Following this, his first ever match racing event, Buhl said, "We learned a lot, but we are still aren't able to perform as well as the others."
Olympic 49er sailor crew Erik Heil in his crew added, "I think on average my heart rate was over 130! And that was in light winds. In the 49er, it's never over 100..."
France's Pierre Antoine Morvan, skipper of the Vannes Agglo Sailing Team, felt hard done by. He's heading home but his cause was not helped by an umpiring error in his match against Bjorn Hansen's Mekonomen Sailing Team.
"Today we sailed well and we won two matches, but unfortunately Bjorn touched the upwind mark and the umpires didn't see that, which is why we lost that match,"
The French skipper was understandably disgruntled by the umpiring error which could have kept his team in the competition. "Last year we were the only crew that always made it to the Quarter Finals - we were good in the Qualifying,"
After looking shaky first thing this morning, Team Alpari FX, skippered by former Alpari World Match Racing Tour Champion Adam Minoprio, got back into contention winning matches against Johnnie Berntsson and Mathieu Richard. In the former, Minoprio managed to get a hook on his Swedish opponent and led off the line. In the latter he managed to plant a pre-start penalty on Richard, who in turn hooked the Team Alpari FX boat, but Minoprio still managed to lead off the line.
"We were just making stupid mistakes and today we managed to eliminate them,"
said Minoprio. "As a team we are getting better and better at sailing these boats."
The fate of Johnnie Berntsson's Stena Sailing Team was also in the balance this morning. This year his team has a new sponsor in Swedish company Stena, best known for shipping (the third company in this line to back a team in on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, along with GAC and Mathieu Richard's sponsor, GEFCO).
However a 1-1 score, losing to Minoprio, but winning to Sven Erik Horsch saw them qualify on 6 points.
"We were not as strong as we were in the starts before, but we managed to come back in one of the races,"
With the wind holding, the first two matches of the Quarter Finals were held.
QUARTER FINAL RESULTS AFTER TWO MATCHES
Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team vs Karol Jablonski (GER) Jablonski Sailing Team 1-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team vs Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone Sailing Team 2-0
Björn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team vs Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 1-1
FINAL QUALIFYING ROUND STANDINGS
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar 9-2
Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team 8-3
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone Sailing Team 8-3
Björn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 7.5-3
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 6-5
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 6-5
Karol Jablonski (POL) Jablonski Sailing Team 5-6
Pierre Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 5-6
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 5-6
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 4-7
Philip Buhl (GER) Deutsches Youth America's Cup Team 2-9
Sven-Erick Horsch (GER) NRV Match Race Team 0-11
The qualifying series continues tomorrow with the start time scheduled for 0900.