It's been a drama filled day of match racing at the Monsoon Cup, the final event of the World Match Racing Tour, being sailed on the Pulau Duyong basin in Kuala Terengganu in Malaysia.
Earlier today 24 year old Adam Minoprio (NZL) and his ETNZ BlackMatch crew of Tom Powrie, David Swete, Nick Blackman and Dan McLean won the ISAF Match Racing World Championship.
With the quarter finals concluded, this afternoon in eight to twelve knots of breeze, the semi finals of the Monsoon Cup were sailed.
In one semi final Peter Gilmour
(AUS), four-time Match Racing World Champion and defending Monsoon Cup champion, was up against Minoprio.
The 'wiliest of wiley' old foxes, 49 year old Gilmour figured that after the elation and excitement of winning the World Championship, the new champions might drop the ball. Gilmour only ever needs a sniff of a chance and he is often most dangerous when he just scrapes into the quarter finals.
But Minoprio and his BlackMatch Team went into their battle against Gilmour with the adrenalin pumping. A vigorous pre-start battle ensued, but the veteran champion received a red penalty and had to take it immediately after the start.
Perhaps the new World Champion was not distracted after all. Minoprio led by over a minute after the first of three laps and then sailed away with the match.
The young Kiwis had their eyes on two very prestigious trophies coming into this final World Match Racing Tour event and they already had their hands on one.
In the next match, Minoprio was given a penalty in the pre-start and then made a hash of the final approach to the finish line, with the two boats colliding. Another penalty.
Chalk this match up to Gilmour and his YANMAR Racing crew.
Now 1-1, in the third match the two crews stalled in light air on the start line. Gilmour edged out away but Minoprio, with no speed drifted into the Race Committee boat, catching on the committee boat chain. He was rewarded with a penalty, certainly not the way he wanted to start such a crucial match.
Gilmour sailed away and was well ahead at the top mark, it seemed all was lost but Minoprio ran down his rival and in the light conditions sailed around the veteran Australian.
Jaws dropped as Gilmour hit Minoprio and was penalised. An amazing "get out of jail' result for the BlackMatch crew, which might turn out to be the most significant turn around in the whole event.
Minoprio, with perhaps the understatement of the regatta, said "We are pretty happy to take that win."
In contrast Peter Gilmour took it on the chin. "I made a complete mess of the last 50 metres. A complete brain fade."
Minoprio was now 2-1 up.
In the last and deciding race the two boats stayed very close with Minoprio pushing Gilmour to the left. Somehow Gilmour escaped and headed right. Minoprio went left and to his opponent's amazement led the master by six boat lengths at the top mark.
Minoprio went on to win the match, signalling the exit for defending Monsoon Cup Champion Gilmour and his YANMAR Racing crew; Yasuhiro Yaji, Thierry Doulliard, Cameron Dunn
and Kazuhiko Sofuku.
Peter Gilmour said, "We made blunders this afternoon. We were confused about which was the correct mark, we thought Adam had gone around the wrong one so we went round both just in case he was wrong and that would deliver us a win. But the Kiwis were right. Then Adam punched our lights out in the final race."
"An awesome semi final. Good one to get a win against Peter on his home turf. Now the Monsoon Cup is in our sights," exclaimed an elated Minoprio. "A long day, we just had to keep pushing; we were really down in the last race, but we just keep chipping away."
Minoprio and the ETNZ BlackMatch crew are through to the final of the Monsoon Cup and are now very close to their dream of winning the 'prestigious double'.
In the other semi final Ben Ainslie
(GBR), 'The Prince' as PJ Montgomery calls the British triple Olympic gold and one-time silver medallist and three-times ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year
, sailed against Frenchman Sébastien Col
and his All4One team.
In the first race Ainslie and his TeamOrigin crew of Iain Percy
, Matt Cornwell
, Christian Kamp
and Mike Mottl
won the start, they sailed into the river on the right of the course and rounded first two lengths ahead of Col and extended. But at the windward mark for the last time, Col striving for speed cut the corner and hit the mark. Match over for Col.
Ainslie won the second match handsomely and was now close to victory.
Looking up the course at Minoprio sailing brilliantly on the left Ainslie headed the same way. But Col rounded just ahead, extended his lead and went onto win.
The two teams were now locked at 2-2.
It was a 'winner take all' final match to decide who would meet Minoprio in the final of the Monsoon Cup, but in a workman like way Ainslie won the start and sailed away to victory and to a place in the final.
"It's been a tough day, really hard to pick the current. We were reasonably consistent in finding the correct side and the boys sailed the boat fast," said Ainslie.
Col smiled ruefully, "Starboard entry served them [TeamOrigin] well. We made some mistakes. Now we have the petit finals and we hope we have learnt from our mistakes today."
Now Ainslie has the chance to sail away with the prestigious Monsoon Cup.
Ben Ainslie (GBR) d Sébastien Col (FRA), 3-2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) d Peter Gilmour (AUS), 3-1
Ben Ainslie (GBR) d Damien Iehl (FRA), 3-0
Sébastien Col (FRA) d Phil Robertson (NZL), 3-2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) d Mathieu Richard (FRA), 3-0
Peter Gilmour (AUS) d Torvar Mirsky (AUS), 3-1
1. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin, 8-3
2. Sébastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team and ALL4ONE, 7-4
3. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 7-4
4. Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing Team, 7-4
5. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, 7-4
6. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing, 6-5
7. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 6-5
8. Adam Minoprio (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand and BlackMatch Racing, 5-6
9. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 5-6
10. Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Azzura, 4-7
11. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 4-7
12. Hazwan Hazim Dermawan (MAS) Taring Pelangi Team, 0-11
ISAF Match Racing World Championship Leaderboard
(Top eight teams after Stage 8 of 9)
1. Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ and BlackMatch Racing, 100 Points
2. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, 88 Points
3. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 75 Points
4. Mathieu Richard (FRA), French Match Racing Team Racing, 74 Points
5. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR, 71 Points
6. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin, 65 Points
7. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 48 Points
8. Sébastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 41 Points
The winner of the annual World Match Racing Tour is crowned as ISAF Match Racing World Champion. Find out more at www.sailing.org/matchworlds.