Williams Wins First Tour Event Since 2008 With Victory At 2011 Portimão Portugal Match Cup
Ian Williams won his first World Match Racing Tour event in three years today sailing to victory at the Portimão Portugal Match Cup. The last time Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar tasted victory was at the Danish Open back in 2008, the same year that he was crowned World Champion for the second consecutive year.
Williams' victory over Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing in Portugal means there has been a different winner in each of the four completed stages of the 2011 Tour which is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested seasons in recent years.
Williams took down current Tour leader Bruni with two back-to-back wins in a wet and wild Final. The win shoots Team GAC Pindar up the World Match Racing Tour standings from tenth to third place, which at the halfway stage of the Tour is a huge boost for the 2007 and 2008 World Champion.
With the wind rising to more than 20 knots by early afternoon, race officials opted to move the racecourse inside Portimão's harbour walls for the Final, creating a fantastic arena for the spectators watching the action from the beach. The short course, combined with the tricky weather conditions pushed the skippers' boat handling skills to the extreme, adding an extra element for the teams to contend with.
In a bizarre twist the first match of the Final was abandoned when a luffing duel resulted in both boats running aground on the mud. Once racing finally got underway it was Williams who got the early advantage after Bruni mistimed his approach to the startline and was over as the gun fired. With Bruni heading back to the line it left Williams clear to stretch his lead, a distance Bruni couldn't make up.
With the Final decided by whichever skipper reached two points first, the pressure to respond was piled onto Bruni. Both teams went into the second match fired up and there was a big split up the first leg. In a fine display of his match racing skills Williams pulled off a textbook lee bow manoeuvre, forcing Bruni head to wind right at the first mark. The move paid off for Williams turning his slight advantage into a major gain. Williams defended his lead to the finish line sealing victory for Team GAC Pindar.
"To win here is a fantastic feeling,"
Williams said. "We struggled a bit with some matches and we had some really close calls so to walk away with a win is amazing. Although we have come close to winning events in recent years it has been a few years since we won an event so it's great to have another one under our belt. It's a great result for us - now we need a few more."
Despite losing out to Williams, Bruni still had reason to celebrate, going 23 points ahead of second placed Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing in the World Match Racing Tour standings in what was his third Final in three events.
Bruni said, "We're very happy with our second place here in Portugal. It's our third final so far on the Tour and we're really pleased with how we sailed. We did our best but Ian did a fantastic job out there. Second is still a very good result for us. More importantly we now have a big lead on the Tour and that was our goal."
Mathieu Richard scored the best result of his 2011 World Match Racing Tour season so far with a third-place finish. Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team defeated fellow Tour Card Holder Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team in two straight wins in the Petit Final. The result was much needed for Richard who, after a slow start to the season, moves up the Tour leaderboard from eighth to sixth. Along with Williams, Richard and Berntsson have improved their results at each of the four Tour events so far this season.
Richard said, "I'm very happy with the final result. We sailed a good regatta and we're improving at each event. Francesco's team are clear at the top of the leaderboard but behind that the rest of the teams are pretty even. It's still all to play for."
The World Match Racing Tour heads to Scandinavia in just over a week for the Stena Match Cup Sweden, the fifth stage of the Tour. Racing will take place between July 4-10 and will see 14 teams - including the nine Tour Card Holders - do battle on the waters of Marstrand Fjord.