ISAF Match Racing World Championship contenders Jesper Radich, Bjorn Hansen and Francesco Bruni all won their first matches of the 2011 Argo Group Gold Cup on what proved to be a frustrating opening day of racing in Bermuda.
Despite the promise of wind in Hamilton Harbour, the breeze failed to arrive and settle. If there was already increased pressure to qualify for the knock-out stages here in Bermuda, the light winds could yet add to it. With a tight schedule involving 24 teams, every postponement brings the increased chance of a shortened schedule when tie-break situations become more probable - suddenly every race has an even greater significance.
Jordan Reece (AUS) True Blue Racing, who lost his opening match against Bjorn Hansen (DEN) Mekonomen Sailing Team, said, "It gets a bit frustrating not being able to race and it's especially hard for the teams in group one as we don't have the chance to watch the others and see how they're performing. With such little racing happening today, it puts a lot more emphasis on doing well in each of your early races."
The prospect of a shortened schedule is a long way off and with winds expected to build over the course of the week to over 30 knots by Friday, the fleet of IODs will soon be in action.
Current Tour leader Ian Williams (GBR) knows only too well that there is the very real prospect of a Championship challenger being eliminated altogether before the knock-out stages. In 2010, Williams himself was eliminated after a three way tie-break with Adam Minoprio and eventual winner Ben Ainslie. This year though, he feels the pressure is off his shoulders as his consistently strong performances this season means he will have five high points scores to calculate his overall Championship total going into the Monsoon Cup regardless of his performance in Bermuda.
"We are looking forward to seeing the results from here as it's an easy event to get sent home from after the first stage,"
said Williams. "We are in the enviable position that if we bomb out we are still in good shape on the Tour but our closest rivals need good results so the pressure is really on them."
Whoever does qualify, there will be no easy pick, the first of which will be awarded to the winner of Group 3 which includes top seed Williams, as well as the French Match Racing Team duo of Mathieu Richard and Damien Iehl. The top seed in Group 2 which includes the four Tour Card Holders of Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing, Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat, Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team and Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing will have second pick.
The second qualifying session gets underway at 09:00 local time (-4hrs GMT) on Wednesday 5 October with the second flight of the first group. Catch the preview on The WMRT Morning Show with Hannah White and a review of each day on The WMRT Today Show after racing finishes at www.wmrt.com.
Results after Qualifying Session One:
(DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners 1-0
(FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 1-0
(SWE) Mekononmen Sailing Team 1-0
(ITA) Bruni Racing 1-0
(BER) Team RenRe 0-1
(AUS) Black Swan Racing 0-1
(AUS) True Blue Racing 0-1
(POL) Henri Lloyd Racing 0-1