Showing great mastery of the light air conditions of the day, Italian skipper Paolo CIAN and his Team Shosholoza have exploded out of the blocks, winning all of their seven matches on the first day of racing at the Marseille International Match Race.
Nine flights remain in round robin action of stage one for the 12 teams assembled for this first event on the 2009 World Match Racing Tour.
"We had a very good day, one of those days in which everything comes together well,"
said a modest Paolo CIAN
(ITA). "We were confident in our boat handling, so I was able to get off the starts my tactician wanted, and our speed was fine."
CIAN won the first event of last year's Tour, the Brasil Sailing Cup, but makes no predictions for this first event of this year.
"This was only the first day. Our goal for this stage was to just get to the quarter finals, so with seven wins I think we've achieved that now."
In contrast, his rival in the finals of the Brasil Sailing Cup, Bjorn HANSEN
(SWE) and his Team Onboard, had a very tough 1-5 day. HANSEN said, "I haven't sailed since November, so we felt pretty rusty today. But we're taking lessons from today and will look at tomorrow with a clean start and still have a chance to make the quarter finals."
(USA) and his Alinghi team, making his return to the Tour after a several year hiatus, said was he was, "Fortunate for having come away with 3-0 score. Today was so light that anything could happen, and no lead seemed very safe. Sebastian [Sébastien COL (FRA)] nearly ran us down at the finish of our first match, and we were behind ourselves in the other two."
COL and his French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, a local favourite being native to Marseille and #1 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings
, had a decidedly mediocre day on a 2-2 score, while the other French Tour Card holder, Mathieu RICHARD
and his French Match Racing Team/French Spirit, faired better on a 4-2 record. RICHARD currently leads the pack of five French teams in the field here, and was not shy at admitting to wanting to see an all-French final.
"It would be great for the event and really generate a lot of publicity for match racing here in France,"
he said. That said, Philippe PRESTI
(FRA) pointed out that it was not he nor any other French skipper that was being begged for autographs by a large group of French school children touring the host YC Pointe Rouge facilities onshore and out on the race course today cheering on the teams.
"The one they all wanted was Torvar [Torvar MIRSKY (AUS)],"
laughed PRESTI. At only 22, MIRSKY, is the youngest skipper on the Tour, and though ranked #5 in the ISAF Ranking list and having thereby earned his Tour Card for the year, his day ended with a mediocre 2-3 record as well.
The other young antipodean Tour Card holder, 23-year old Adam MINOPRIO
(NZL) and his ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing Team, has the same score as MIRSKY, but this may have been different if he had won his match against CIAN. In a close-fought battle in which MINOPRIO held a slight lead going into the leeward mark, he appeared to be the first victim on the Tour of a slightly new twist in the new edition of The Racing Rules of Sailing which went into effect for this year through until 2012.
When approaching the leeward mark, MINOPRIO was ahead of CIAN, who was just overlapped to the outside. MINOPRIO's favoured inside position entitled him to "mark-room" when "approaching the mark" as specified in the wording of the rules governing right-of-way while rounding marks. However, in the spinnaker takedown manoeuvre while rounding, MINOPRIO's team made minor contact with CIAN's boat, prompting the Kiwi team to protest.
However, instead of flying a yellow flag to penalize CIAN for not giving MINOPRIO sufficient mark-room to the outside, the match umpires deemed the two to three metre gap between the Kiwis and the mark on the inside as being too much in the light conditions, and flew a blue flag instead to penalize MINOPRIO.
Round robin racing in stage one resumes on Friday morning in Marseilles, with slightly more gradient pressure in the forecast.
Results - click here
And for more information on the 2009 World Match Racing Tour, visit the Tour website at www.worldmatchracingtour.com.
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.