Denmark's Nicolai Sehested and Australia's David Gilmour skippered their countries into the semi-final yesterday at the Nations Cup in Middelfart, Denmark.
Australia were unbeaten in all five matches to jump to the top of six-nation Group B. They finished the round-robin stage level on eight points out of ten with Brazil's Henrique Haddad, who won four races for the second consecutive day. But Gilmour qualified by virtue of having beaten Haddad on Thursday.
That victory in the second flight of the day was particularly satisfying for Gilmour as his new team began to gel and they were able to turn Haddad's aggression against him, laying a second, vital, penalty as the Brazilian came back. As he himself predicted Japan's Wataru Sakamoto, who won four of five on Wednesday in the Match28 boats, struggled in the larger DS37s and won only two of five on Thursday. But he will still qualify for the repechage with Ashlen Rooklyn (AUS). Peter Wickwire (CAN) and Dustin Durant (USA) did not make the cut.
"We are pretty proud with how we went today," Gilmour, 22, from Perth said. "We knew that to take the top spot and make the semi-finals we had the chance to make it completely on our own, but we had to win every single race. If we didn't we'd need the other teams to lose. We took it on. We were actually behind in quite a few races and managed to get in front. Our teamwork is really starting to come together and on the bigger boats (the DS37s) we maybe feel a little bit more comfortable.
Against the Brazilians we were behind and they had just completed a penalty at the last top mark and we were able to duck them and then luff and give them another red flag penalty, which got us in front. If that second penalty hadn't been given to them we would have lost that race and consequently would have been third maybe in the round robin."
Gilmour could not afford to slip-up all day and saved the sweetest victory until the fifth and final flight of the day, beating the other Australian team, skippered by Ashlen Rooklyn, in another hard fought race. Rooklyn had a disastrous start to the day when he rammed into Henrique Haddad's stern and damaged the bow of his boat. He lost the race and was also docked a point. "That's an expensive day," Rooklyn said coming off the water and he meant it in all senses as the teams put up €1,000 bonds against damage to the boats.
In the seven-nation Group A in the Match28s, local boy, Sehested, 23, is definitely through to the semi-finals with ten wins from eleven races over the two days. They were not quite as dominant in the Match28s, especially as the wind dropped and morning's rain gave way to beautiful sun on the Fænøsund out of Middelfart Marina. It was a measure of his standards that while others talk of gelling and improving he was only unhappy to have lost his clean sheet.
"We lost one race today, that was annoying, we had them (Singapore) around the last top mark and the breeze just dropped," Sehested said. "We would have like to have gone through with a clean table. But we shouldn't complain, we're through, that's the important thing. I guess you always want the perfect score."
That win for Maximilian Soh, Singapore's skipper, reveling in the light winds which dropped to few knots as the sea began to resemble a lake before sailing was stopped in the early evening, helped book him a place in the next stage. He won five out of six on Wednesday in the Match 28s and his last race on Friday is against Norway, who have yet to win a race in the regatta.
But the other two qualifiers from Group A are less clear. Sweden should take one but Denmark's other team, skippered by Rasmus Viltoft and France's Arthur Herreman, have a showdown for the final spot on Friday morning.
The four women's teams continued their round robin series on Thursday and with two now completed, Juliana Senfft (BRA) and Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen (DEN) are showing their talent. Undefeated in the first round robin, home favourite, Meldgaard Pedersen dropped a match to Senfft in round robin two but made a solid start to the third, taking the win against Sandy Hayes (USA) and Anne Marit Hansen (NOR). Senfft also has a two match winnning streak and the two will meet for a showdown on Friday.
Weather forecast: Westerly 8-10 knots
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