Bertrand PACÉ and Team France will meet Peter GILMOUR and the Pizza-La Sailing Team today in the finals of the ISAF Grade 1 ACI HTmobile Cup in Split, Croatia.
Pacé defeated Team Denmark's Jes GRAM-HANSEN 3-0 in one semifinal match, while Gilmour beat Sweden's Magnus HOLMBERG and the SeaLife Rangers crew, 3-1, in the other semifinal contest.
"Tomorrow is sure to be exciting,"
said Pacé yesterday in preview of the final. "Gilmour is very tough. I think there'll be a lot of Y flags flying."
"Bertrand hasn't been doing a lot of match-racing this year,"
Gilmour said. "He's the up and coming new boy while we're the old sages."
Yesterday's events at the ACI Cup were slow to start. A third consecutive windless morning meant the race committee issued another shoreside postponement.
Tthe lack of wind meant the cancellation of the final seven flights of the round robin, and the scores for Flights 1-4 and 12-15 had to be recalculated. But that had little consequence on the four teams that advanced to the semifinals.
"I think it was a good move on the part of the race committee to cancel the remaining flights rather than try to get them in,"
said Gilmour. "I worked it out where we would've needed to sail four flights to potentially change the top four."
Team France vs. Team Denmark
When racing started, a 6-knot west/southwesterly had filled, which was enough to power the Jeanneau One-Design 35s around the racecourse at a pace slightly faster than drifting speed.
Pacé and Gram-Hansen were first in the start box. After four minutes of spirited circling, Pacé started on starboard near the pin end while Gram-Hansen started on starboard near the committee boat.
Three times Pacé and crew forced Gram-Hansen's Team Denmark to the right side of the racecourse. They would lead by approximately 28 seconds at the windward mark.
Pacé extended slightly on the first run and then opened up his lead on the second beat when he found more pressure to the right of Gram-Hansen on the second beat.
"It was hard to pick the side of the course today,"
Pacé said. "There was more pressure to the left, but it was right-hand pressure, which didn't help to cross on port tack."
Leading 1-0, Gram-Hansen had the starboard tack advantage in the second pre-start. He used it to dial-up Pacé head-to-wind several times in an attempt to fluster the Frenchman. But again, Pacé started at the pin and Gram-Hansen farther up the line near the committee boat.
Up the beat, the two were very evenly matched. Halfway up the leg, Gram-Hansen, on starboard, hunted-down Pacé. But the Frenchman was able to get clear and gained the starboard advantage.
A moment later it was Pacé's turn to use starboard to hunt Gram-Hansen. The Dane ducked behind Pacé, who then tacked on his windward quarter.
Both crews were shy of the port layline, however, and Pacé shut Gram-Hansen out at the windward mark. Gram-Hansen tried luffing, but he was too far away from the windward mark.
He wound up getting a penalty for contact with Pacé after passing through head-to-wind, and it was a red-flag penalty, which meant he had to perform his 270-degree turn after rounding the windward mark.
"I wasn't obliged to give him room in that situation,"
Pacé said. "He was outside of me."
"We were about 3 or 4 meters shy of the windward mark,"
In the third match, Pacé again started at the pin and Gram-Hansen near the boat end. "My plan was to start close to leeward of him each time, but it didn't work out that way,"
But Pacé did lead around the first windward mark for the third consecutive time. Gram-Hansen, however, was able to close on the run to overlapped, so much so that Pacé was forced to sail him past the port layline to the leeward mark in an effort to gain separation.
Team France rounded the leeward mark just ahead of Team Denmark. The Danes tacked to port first and then back to starboard when Team France covered. That was the fatal move.
Sailing to the right of Gram-Hansen, Pacé extended his lead on the second beat to be comfortably ahead at the windward mark.
Gram-Hansen's crew had one last battle left in them and closed to within two boatlengths near the finish, but he had run out of race track.
"I'm a little disappointed,"
said Gram-Hansen, "but we lost to a better team today. I still feel we sailed well all week. We were getting the starts we wanted today, but they just didn't work out on the racecourse."
Pizza-La Sailing Team vs. SeaLife Rangers
Gilmour and Holmberg also had a close battle. Gilmour won the first match when he took port tack off the start line at the boat end while Holmberg was tacking to port at the pin end.
At the first meeting on the racecourse, Gilmour, on starboard, crossed Holmberg by about one boatlength. Holmberg got to the right of Gilmour before tacking back to starboard.
The Pizza-La skipper then went up and tacked on SeaLife Rangers, forcing them right and past the layline to the windward mark. Still, the pair was evenly matched and Gilmour led by about 10 seconds at the first windward mark.
Gilmour would maintain a similar lead around the racecourse to take a 1-0 lead.
Holmberg fought back in the second flight. He started at the committee boat end and protected the right side of the windward leg to take an 8-second lead around the windward mark.
Gilmour closed up on the first run to overlapped, and rounded the leeward mark outside of Holmberg. On the second beat, Holmberg split hard right while Gilmour went hard left. It was move that paid big dividends for Holmberg, who led by about 15 seconds at the second windward mark. He would go on to win the flight.
"We saw more pressure on the right side,"
The momentum swung in Gilmour's favour in Flight three. In particular, at the bottom of the second beat.
Holmberg had gott a penalty on Gilmour in the pre-start when Gilmour's boat touched Holmberg's while the two were drifting backwards after luffing head-to-wind.
Gilmour, however, was able to gain the lead on the beat and led Holmberg by less than two boatlengths at the first windward mark. Holmberg closed on the first run and rounded the leeward mark on Gilmour's transom.
Holmberg was first to tack to port, and Gilmour covered tightly. Then Holmberg tried luffing Gilmour, who was still carrying a penalty.
According to on-water umpire Gerard BOSSE, Holmberg luffed Gilmour head-to-wind hoping to get him to tack away.
When he didn't Holmberg luffed a little harder but went past head-to-wind and there was contact. The umpires penalized Holmberg, which cancelled out Gilmour's penalty.
It was an odd move on Holmberg's part, since he had a penalty against Gilmour and seemingly just had to stay close and hope he could pass when Gilmour did his 270-degree turn.
Holmberg explained it differently.
"I thought he might ride me out past the starboard layline, tack and then extend away to the windward mark,"
Holmberg said. "I thought I had an opportunity to force him to tack away. Then I could continue on port and gain the starboard advantage.
"I disagree with the penalty,"
he continued. "I thought he should tack away."
The final match was all Gilmour. Holmberg admitted Gilmour fooled him into a bad position in the pre-start. Gilmour, on Holmberg's transom, took his leeward side with less than a minute to go then forced Holmberg to tack to port.
Rather than sailing for the pin, Gilmour tacked to port, too. When Holmberg tacked back to starboard, Gilmour tacked on his leebow and forced Holmberg into a downspeed tack to port.
"I didn't think he'd tack to port with me,"
Gilmour was clear across in their first meeting, and on his way to the final.