The top of the leaderboard at the Toscana Elba Cup - Trofeo Locman underwent some shuffling yesterday in what proved to be a scrappy day for the ISAF Grade 1 event.
In the longest day of the regatta, a total of 10 flights (30 matches) were completed today in an aggressive effort to finish the 22-flight round-robin, which was achieved at 8:00 p.m. The quarterfinalists have been determined and the event is set to advance to its next stage.
Gavin BRADY (NZL/Oracle BMW Racing) won the round robin with a 10-1 record. Brady's lone loss to Swedish Match Tour rookie Michael DUNSTAN (AUS/OzBoyz Challenge) showed that his veteran crew still has some rough edges to smooth out.
Peter GILMOUR (AUS/Pizza-La Sailing Team) quietly climbed up the rankings to place second in the round robin. Gilmour and his crew won six straight races to close with a 9-2 record.
Karol JABLONSKI (POL/Toscana Challenge) tumbled from the top spot he has held since Day 1 after posting a 1-3 record on the day. He finished the round robin third with an 8-3 mark.
With the round robin now complete, the attention turns to the next rounds of the regatta. The schedule calls for quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds.
Each round was a scheduled best-of-five series at the beginning of the regatta, when time was a luxury. Now, they've been reduced to best-of-three series, beginning this morning at 10:30 a.m. The pairings will be determined at the skippers' morning briefing.
"I'm very happy we got the round robin completed,"
said event organizer Antonio NAPPI. "All the skippers were anxious to get as much racing completed as possible."
The first three days of the event were beset with weather delays, from either too much wind or not enough. The wind also shifted wildly on the racecourse, skewing some races into parades.
That changed mostly for the better yesterday. West/southwesterly winds blowing 18 to 20 knots, with gusts to 25, allowed the race committee to start racing at 10:30 a.m., the earliest start of the week.
The wind still fluctuated throughout the day, decreasing in strength to between 8 and 12 knots by the end of the day, and oscillating between the south and west. With so many variables in play, lead changes were the order of the day.
"It's never over out there,"
said John Kostecki, tactician for Oracle BMW Racing, the Challenger of Record for the 2007 America's Cup. "It's shifty and frustrating, but everyone has to deal with it. I think the good teams came out on top."
Oracle BMW Racing's perfect record was ruined by Dunstan, the 22-year-old skipper of the OzBoyz Challenge for the America's Cup from Perth, Western Australia.
Dunstan got a jump on Brady in the pre-start due to a timing error by the veteran skipper and tactician, and led around the first lap. Although Brady closed approaching the leeward mark, another error by the Oracle BMW Racing crew allowed the OzBoyz team to win the race.
"We made a mistake with our time and distance in the pre-start,"
said Kostecki. "We got close to him at the leeward mark, but then spotted him another two or three boatlengths because of poor boat handling and could never get closer."
For his part, Dunstan showed some gusto on the racecourse. Although the victory over Brady was just his third in nine starts, he gave Gilmour a run for his money in their Flight 18 pre-start.
Dunstan took the fight for the favored end of the starting line to Gilmour, who has made his success on the match-racing circuit by being aggressive. Late in the pre-start sequence Dunstan forced Gilmour to tack away, and won the pin end.
"I really enjoyed that pre-start,"
Dunstan said. "It's always good when you can mix it up and win the favored end against a guy like Gilmour."
Although Jablonski fell from his perch atop the standings, he's not too concerned about it. He noted what he considers an omen if you win the round robin.
"Last year in Croatia, I won the round robin but finished fourth. In Germany, Jimmy Spithill won the round robin and finished fourth,"
Jablonski said. "I don't mind not winning the round robin."
It should also be noted that Gilmour won the round robin at the Congressional Cup in Long Beach, Calif., two weeks ago, and then finished fourth overall.
Following the top four, Bertrand PACÉ (FRA/Team France) and Russell COUTTS (NZL/Alinghi Team) finished with identical 6-5 records. But Pacé won the tiebreaker based on his Flight 3 victory over Coutts on the opening day.
After a horrid start to the regatta, Coutts, the three-time America's Cup champion, and his Alinghi Team stormed into the quarterfinals by winning five straight races today.
Jesper RADICH (DEN/Team Denmark) finished sixth with a 5-6 record, after winning a tiebreaker with Ed BAIRD (USA/Team Musto), who placed seventh.
Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE/SeaLife Rangers), the event's defending champion and second overall on the Swedish Match Tour leaderboard, was the final skipper to qualify for the quarterfinal round. He finished eighth with a 4-7 record.
John CUTLER (NZL/Mascalzone Latino), Dunstan and Paolo Cian (ITA/Italian Challenge) finished 10th, 11th and 12th, respectively, each with a 3-8 mark.
Dunstan, expected to compete at the ACI HTmobile Cup in Croatia at the end of May, sounded a warning for the future. "We like to take the action to these guys and be aggressive in the pre-start,"
he said. "If we don't, they will. I like to think we can mix it up."
Full round robin placings are available on the event website at the address below.