Peter GILMOUR of Australia and the Pizza-La Sailing Team of mixed nationalities streaked to the early overall lead yesterday at the ISAF Grade 1, ACI HTmobile Cup.
Gilmour and crew Rod DAWSON (NZL), Mike MOTTL (AUS), Kazuhiko SOFUKU (JPN) and Yasuhiro YAJI (JPN) won all of their races enroute to a 7-0 record after the first eight flights of the 18th annual event off Split Harbor.
Frenchman Bertrand PACÉ and Team France trailed close behind at 6-1, and there was a tie for third between Sweden's Magnus HOLMBERG and the SeaLife Rangers crew and Team Denmark's Jes GRAM-HANSEN, both at 5-2.
"It was beautiful sailing conditions today,"
said Gram-Hansen, who has placed fifth at this event twice before, of yesterday's conditions. "Our team was working well and we had some luck, which you need."
New Zealand's Gavin BRADY and the Oracle BMW Racing team stand fifth at 5-3, and are followed by Mathieu RICHARD (FRA, 4-3), Mattias RAHM (SWE, 3-4), Kelvin HARRAP (NZL, 2-5), Frano BRATE (CRO, 2-6), Mate ARAPOV (CRO, 1-7) and Sweden's Daniel WALLBERG, who filled in for an injured Staffan LINDBERG of Finland, but was 0-7 on the day.
After a 68-minute postponement in the morning due to light winds, the race committee took an aggressive approach to conducting racing.
The south-westerly breeze started at 6 knots for Flight 1, but by Flight 2 it had increased to 10 knots. The wind would gust up to 16 knots throughout the afternoon, and the race committee ran eight flights, 40 matches overall in a bit more than seven hours, over the standard windward/leeward, twice-around course.
"I think it was very clever of them to get that much racing in,"
said Gilmour. "I've been at these events where they knock off at 5:00 and then there's nothing later in the week."
"For us it's like this 65 to 75 days a year,"
said Event Director Emil TOMAŠEVIĆ, who yesterday morning predicted a classic sea breeze, one that builds in strength and veers right after a windless morning. He was spot on.
With the match-racing specialists able to establish a rhythm due to the rapid racing (flights were taking approximately 35 to 45 minutes, with no more than 10 or 15 minutes in between), by Flight 6 the fireworks were on display.
Brady was on the unlucky side of Gram-Hansen's luck in the final flight of the day. Brady led Gram-Hansen around the first lap and, with a penalty against Gram-Hansen for tacking too close in the pre-start, seemed on his way to a sixth victory.
On the second beat, however, Gram-Hansen was able to get past and held a slim half-length lead heading into the second windward mark.
Both boats were shy on the port-tack layline and had to perform two extra tacks to round the mark. Gram-Hansen got around cleanly, but Brady got mixed up with the windward mark.
Brady's hitting the windward mark canceled out Gram-Hansen's penalty, and the Dane sailed away to win by about two boatlengths.
"There was a bit of tide running and it must have pushed him onto the mark,"
"It wasn't a very good day for us,"
said Brady, clearly frustrated at the end of the day.
Two matches in Flight 6 - Gilmour vs. Pacé and Brady vs. Richard - were particularly entertaining. Gilmour and Pace were the only undefeated skippers at the time, and the winner would take sole possession of first place early in the event.
In the Gilmour- Pacé match, the Frenchman got the better of the Aussie in the pre-start, forcing him to port tack with less than 10 seconds to the start and no more than three boat lengths from the committee boat.
Gilmour had to tack back to starboard at the gun and had little speed off the start line, while Pace started on starboard mid-line.
At the first meeting Gilmour tacked to port on Pacé's leebow, which gave the Frenchman a slight advantage that he would carry around the first lap. The two were never more than two boatlengths apart.
At the second windward mark, Gilmour was still on Pacé's transom. Both crews had equal sets with their spinnakers billowing at the same time in the 15-knot winds.
Gilmour, though, got his bow to leeward of Pacé and, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Gilmour had gained a leeward overlap.
Although he couldn't luff Pacé in that situation because he had gained the overlap from clear astern, Gilmour could prevent Pace from jibing to starboard to get back toward the centre of the racecourse.
Gilmour would take a small dig to the centre of the course, and then jibe back to port to keep Pace on the left side of the run. He won the race by no more than 5 seconds.
"I was surprised he didn't defend earlier on the run,"
Gilmour said. "Rod (Dawson) was calling the puffs to leeward of him. So we did a couple of jibes, caught a few puffs and waves and surged to even with him."
Another entertaining match pitted Brady, the helmsman for Oracle BMW Racing, against Richard, ranked 5 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings.
Richard led Brady around the first windward mark and down the first run. As they passed the halfway point of the run, that's when it got exciting.
With both boats on port tack, Brady was to leeward of Richard and separated by about a boat length. Richard deemed it enough room to jibe to starboard and did so.
On Brady's boat, they deemed it not enough room and raised their voices along with their Y flag, asking for a foul from the on-water umpires, but they green-flagged the incident.
"They gave him the benefit of the doubt there,"
Brady said. "He was leading. We just tried to stay clear. You don't want to put it in the hands of the umpires."
With both crews on starboard and Richard to leeward, he took Brady well past the port layline to the leeward mark
The crews raised the jibs and the spinnakers were lowered. Brady swung his boat onto port in a furious manoeuvre, and sailed toward the leeward mark with jib flying while Richard tried to reach up from leeward as his bowman gathered their spinnaker out of the water.
Brady nearly rolled over Richard but the Frenchman still had a tenuous inside position, which forced Brady to a wide turn. But Richard was slow coming out of his turn and Brady was able to power away and to his fourth win.
After meeting Gilmour, Pacé had to face Sweden's Holmberg, who seemed to be sailing with more confidence after a rough regatta at the Toscana Elba Cup - Trofeo Locman two weeks ago. Holmberg, placed eighth at that event and was down about his performance.
Holmberg went into the match against Pacé at 5-1, including four wins in a row, but came out at 5-2. Pacé started to windward of Holmberg, but the two were close aboard. A long drag race ensued to the port layline, when both tacked.
Holmberg felt like he was getting to Pacé, pinching up from leeward, but simply ran out of racecourse before having to tack. Then, on port tack, his outhaul broke, which helped give Pacé the victory.
"I felt good about our performance today,"
said Holmberg, "We have more room to improve."
ACI HTmobile Cup Standings
(After eight of 22 scheduled flights)
1. Peter Gilmour/AUS, Pizza-La Sailing Team 7-0
2. Bertrand Pacé/FRA, Team France 6-1
3. Magnus Holmberg/SWE, SeaLife Rangers 5-2
= Jes Gram-Hansen/DEN, Team Denmark 5-2
5. Gavin Brady/NZL, Oracle BMW Racing 5-3
6. Mathieu Richard/FRA 4-3
7. Mattias Rahm/SWE, Team Stena Bulk 3-4
8. Kelvin Harrap/NZL, Team New Zealand 2-5
9. Frano Brate/CRO 2-6
10. Mate Arapov/CRO 1-7
11. Staffan Lindberg/SWE 0-7