Yesterday in Split was one of the most exciting day's of the week. A twelve knot west/southwesterly seabreeze filled in by 1400 hours local time and allowed for fantastic racing. The final four flights of the round robin were completed, and the semis started.
The final flights of the round robin produced some of the most exciting action of the regatta outside of day two's 30 knot conditions. With a steady breeze and flat water, the boat-for-boat action was intense. Most of the final 20 matches were decided by less than one boatlength.
PACÉ, who started the day with a 17-0 record, lost three straight matches, although the Frenchman had already comfortably secure number one spot in the round robin and therefore choice of his semi final opponent. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) and Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), numbers four and ten in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, were dark horses to make the semi finals at the start of the day, but bullied their way into contention. BAIRD, GILMOUR and PRESTI all stumbled to one degree or another.
It set up a thrilling final flight. PACÉ and BAIRD had advanced to the next round, but GILMOUR, LINDBERG, PRESTI and RICHARD each had eleven wins, putting them in contention for the remaining semi final spots.
PRESTI got an early lead on RICHARD which he held to the finish to eliminate RICHARD. HANSEN did a similar job on LINDBERG, while GILMOUR did the same to BAIRD. They were not big wins, but in each case the skipper that got to the right won the match.
'The right was strong today,' said PRESTI. 'Looking at the wind you thought there was more on the left, but the right worked. There were funny things with the current there yesterday, it was running about one knot, and I think there was something going on with it today.'
With the semi finalists set, PACÉ, who earned the right to choose his opponent by winning the round robin, selected PRESTI. That forced a match-up between BAIRD and GILMOUR, a match that could prove vital in the next release of the ISAF World Match Race Rankings on 22 June.
PRESTI came out aggressive in the first match, gaining a pre-start penalty on PACÉ. PACÉ led to the finish line, but PRESTI was close enough behind so that when PACÉ did his 270 degree penalty turn at the finish line, PRESTI passed him and sailed on to the win.
In their second match PRESTI received a red flag penalty at the leeward mark. The two were engaged in a fierce jibing duel, with PRESTI attacking from behind. He got a leeward overlap late on the leg, which PACÉ then broke. PRESTI reestablished the overlap but as they were past the port-tack layline to the leeward mark he had to jibe and did not do so immediately.
The red flag meant the umpires felt he gained a significant advantage, and he had to perform the turn as soon as possible once he cleared the two-boatlength zone out of the leeward mark. PACÉ sailed away for a comfortable win, his first of the day in five matches.
'Everything went against us today,' said crewmember Eric DOYLE. 'Today was about winning the right. There weren't a lot of shifts, it was flat water. You had to have the power of starboard tack.'
GILMOUR, who is creeping up on BAIRD's number one Rankings spot after winning the ISAF Grade 1 Match Race Germany and finishing second in the ISAF Grade 1 Toscana Elba Cup, streaked to a 2-0 lead. GILMOUR won the first cross in the first match to lead by about ten seconds at the windward mark, an advantage he maintained throughout the match.
In the second flight BAIRD received a penalty in the pre-start when GILMOUR, to leeward, gave a slight luff. He then received a second penalty at the top of the beat. With two penalties BAIRD was forced to perform one of the 270 degree turns immediately, which gave GILMOUR an advantage he would not relinquish.
The semi finals are scheduled to resume this morning with the first warning signal scheduled for 1150. Then the 2005 ACI H1 Match Race Cup winner will be decided later in the day.
Semi Final Standings
(First to three)
Match 1: Peter GILMOUR (AUS) 2 - Ed BAIRD (USA) 0
Match 2: Bertrand PACÉ (FRA) 1 - Philippe PRESTI (FRA) 1
Standings after two Round Robins
(After 22 of 22 scheduled flights)
1. Bertrand PACÉ (FRA), BMW Oracle Racing (USA), 17-3
2. Ed BAIRD (USA), Team Alinghi (SUI),14-6
3. Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS), 12-8
4. Philippe PRESTI (FRA), le Défi (FRA), 12-8
5. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA),11-9
6. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN),11-9
7. Kelvin HARRAP (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand, 10-10
8. Björn HANSEN (SWE), 8-12
9. Flavio FAVINI (ITA) Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA), 6-14
10. Dario KLIBA (CRO), 5-15
11. Ian AINSLIE (RSA) Team Shosholoza (RSA), 4-16