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22 May 2007, 03:19 pm
AINSLIE Beaten By MONNIN In Dramatic Finale
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Open Match Race Cup 2007
Hard, Austria

Eric MONNIN (SUI) defeated Ian AINSLIE (RSA) to take the title at the ISAF Grade 2 Open Match Race Cup in Hard, Austria. The Swiss and South African skippers dominated the regatta from the start, but it was MONNIN was finally got the better of a very closely fought final.
The 'Binnenbecken' is a small enclosure of Lake of Constance in Hard, Austria that provides a perfect arena for match racing. Just big enough to set a course, so the spectators can watch from all around the bay. However, the training day on Thursday proved a tough one, as the pouring rain and temperatures brought back memories of January and prevented all but one of the competitors from testing out one of the six Streamline yachts.

All that changed on Friday with sunshine and light westerly winds made a perfect setting for the first 12 flights of the round robin. AINSLIE, who had come directly from Valencia, and MONNIN were the leading teams at the end of the day, both with six out of seven races won. Four points out of five races made Tino ELLEGAST (GER) third in the intermediate ranking. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), European Champion and the Italian team of Matteo SIMONCELLI were both beaten in three races. The two Austrian teams, Heinz DOPPELMAYR and Verena WAGNER (AUT) had to realize that the competition was too strong. Neither could get a single point.

Perfect Conditions Continue

The remaining ten flights of Round Robin brought some changes: MONNIN took the lead from AINSLIE with 10 points against 9. Mads EBLER (DEN) and Max GURGEL (GER) were the other two winners of the day. ELLEGAST could not repeat his performance of the opening day and ranked sixth, after SIMONCELLI but ahead of LINDBERG. And the Austrians? Their final positions of 11th and 12th showed that match racing in Austria is a long way from the top.

On a sunny Sunday, with the breeze greeting competitors for an early start, MONNIN beat GURGEL twice to take his place in the final. Meanwhile it took AINSLIE three heats to show EBLER that he had more experience than the 23 year old, although the Dane went on to win overall ahead of GURGEL.

In the final MONNIN won the first race. After the boat change AINSLIE beat him twice. Then boats were changed again and the fourth race went to MONNIN, so that the final fifth heat decided everything. AINSLIE clearly won the start. He reacted to MONNIN's tacking attacks and they provided a fascinating duel for the spectators at the beach. In a slight wind change MONNIN got in front and succeeded in defending his lead over the following three legs.

At the prizegiving ceremony MONNIN addressed the audience, 'We have been dreaming of winning a Grade 2 event for the last four years. Now we have succeeded.' And a great victory it was, seeing all the famous names behind him.

Wolfgang M. Beck (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Eric MONNIN and Ian AINSLIE face off in the final:© Rich Roberts
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