Despite persistent rain squalls and enormous 2 metre seas in the course area, progress continued today at the Victoria Brasil Sailing Cup, with three more teams moving ahead into tomorrow's Semi-Final Stage 5 of the competition.
Meeting Magnus HOLMBERG
(SWE) of Victory Challenge
, who qualified in yesterday's Stage 4 Quarter Final match race action, will be Philippe PRESTI
(FRA) of Luna Rossa
, whose opponent Bjorn HANSEN
(SWE) of Team Apport.net
took him this morning to four matches before losing the decisive fifth match in the first-to-three point series.
And after some mid-day delays due to a fluky breeze full of shifts and holes, Paolo CIAN
(ITA) of Team Shosholosa
managed to handily control young Torvar MIRSKY
(AUS) of the Mirsky Racing Team
, defeating the 21-year old Australian in three straight matches.
But the real sensation of the day's action was in the series between current World Match Racing Tour leader Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR) of Team Pindar
and the runner-up in the standings, Mathieu RICHARD
(FRA) of the Saba Sailing Team
. After losing the first match to WILLIAMS in light air, RICHARD battled back in the breezy conditions to win the next two, making for a must-win situation for WILLIAMS in match 4. Taking control of the right end of the line at the start with RICHARD trapped to windward, WILLIAMS and his team shut out his French opponents, and went on to lead from start to finish and tie up the score.
While the winner of the starts in the preceding matches won the point with no changes in the lead, the penultimate match stood in contrast as the closest in the series. After an even start, WILLIAMS managed to take and maintain a slim lead around the first top mark, with RICHARD just a few lengths behind. It was then that the big wave conditions, which kept the boats comparatively far apart in the pre-starts, became a significant factor in the match.
"We were about three to four lengths behind,"
explained RICHARD, "When we caught a few huge waves to close the gap. Ian gybed for the mark a bit early, we extended a little further behind him before gybing ourselves, and came into the leeward mark behind him, but with a lot of speed."
It was this extra speed that allowed RICHARD to gain a slight overlap to windward of WILLIAMS, hold there for several lengths on starboard tack before having to tack away. Then when the pair met on opposite tacks, WILLIAMS could not cross on port, giving control of the right to the French. When WILLIAMS finally ducked RICHARD to try and get his turn at controlling from the right, it was too late, as RICHARD had already found the layline into the final windward mark, allowing him an unrelinquished three-length lead.
"We always have had very close matches with Ian,"
said a jubilant RICHARD, "and he generally beats us, so we're relieved that we're through to the Semi-Finals." RICHARD will meet CIAN tomorrow in the first-to-three point Stage 5 Semi-Finals, but feels confident.
"After winning such a close match, we feel really good about tomorrow,"
he said. Besides climbing towards the US $50,000 top prize at this event, the result has important implications for overall Tour standings as well, since CIAN lies only 17 points behind RICHARD and both skippers will be heading to Malaysia in two weeks to the Monsoon Cup, the final stage in the 2006-07 World Tour.
In a one-match Consolation Round series, WILLIAMS recovered from his loss to RICHARD to defeat HANSEN for fifth place overall, while MIRSKY defeated Alvaro MARINHO
(POR) for seventh place.
ISAF Match Racing World Championship Leaderboard (Top 8)
(After Stage 13 of 15)
1. Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR) Team Pindar, 130 points
2. Mathieu RICHARD
(FRA) Saba Sailing Team, 123 points
3. Paolo CIAN
(ITA) Team Shosholoza, 106 points
4. Sebastien COL
(FRA) Areva Challenge, 93 points
5. Bjorn HANSEN
(SWE) Team Apport.net, 79 points
6. Peter GILMOUR
(AUS) PST, 66 points
7. Ed BAIRD
(USA) Alinghi, 55 points
8. Jesper BANK
(DEN) United Internet Team Germany, 53 points
World Match Racing Tour - www.worldmatchracingtour.com
Brasil Sailing Cup - www.brasilsailingcup.com