Sunday, 9 May marked the day of sailing events as part of the Wonderful Wedding Week celebrations leading up to the nuptials of Crown Prince Frederik and Tasmanian Mary DONALDSON on 14 May.
The brilliant weather and excellent spectating venue of Langelinie Quay on the edge of central Copenhagen brought out 10,000 people to watch the events. In addition, the afternoon's sailing was covered live in a 3 hour programme on the Danish television network.
Amongst a range of events, ranging from youth sailors in 29er dinghies to water-ski displays and an air-sea rescue demonstration, match racing was fitted in. Former America's Cup winner, and current world number one Etchells sailor, John BERTRAND (AUS) raced Jesper BANK (DEN), two-time Olympic gold medallist in the Soling fleet-match racing combination and former world match racing champion.
First on the match racing agenda was a match in old 12 metre boats, built in the 1930s, between John Bertrand and Jesper BANK. The crews on the 12 metres were the people who normally sail the boats. In very light winds, which saw the boats ghosting to the finish on the last leg, Bank defeated Bertrand, having extended on every leg of the course.
The official royal match racing took place in the Copenhagen match race centre's DS match racers. Crown Prince Frederik, a world top ranked Dragon sailor, took the helm of the Danish boat, giving Jesper BANK the role of tactician. His Australian fiancée, Mary DONALDSON, left the role of skipper helmsman in the capable hands of John BERTRAND, whilst she crewed on the boat, together with other Danish sailors. The wind strength was around 10 knots, while it was still warm and sunny, giving a perfect sailing conditions. The crowds added energy and vibrancy to the proceedings, with applause whenever one of the boats came near the Quay.
In race one, the Crown Prince, on port entry, got the better of Bertrand at the start and then stayed just ahead around the course. On the run, Bertrand tried a desperate measure of gybing on to starboard and then rapidly luffing the Danes, for which he was given a penalty. This handed the match to the Danes.
Race two saw the Crown Prince's starting technique improve yet further, as he sailed Bertrand out to beyond the pin, ensuring that Bertrand crossed the line in his wake. A split to the left on the second beat, however, saw the Australian team overcome the odds and finish a boatlength ahead.
The decider was almost a repeat of race two, as the Danes won the start, but were overtaken by Bertrand splitting left on the beat. Result: the Australians overtook and could not be caught, giving a winning scoreline of 2-1 to Mary Donaldson over her royal fiancé.
Bank was full of praise for the Crown Prince, saying, "I think it has been amazing to see a good sailor fit straight into a boat and get straight into match racing the way he did. I'm surprised that it's possible still. It's a pity that you need a winner and a number two in all of this, 'cause with the backgrounds so different I don't think we gave him full credit."
Bertrand had not sailed previously with Mary DONALDSON, but said "She integrated beautifully into the team. She was all over the boat. It was a real pleasure to have her involved. She's very, very keen; a very enthusiastic young woman."
A re-match in Australia is being rumoured, but the details of timing, venue, etc are still to be determined.
The whole event was a great on-the-water spectacle and family fun day out. Such events can only serve to bring the sport of sailing into the lives of non-sailors and give them appreciation for the sport.
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