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19 August 2005, 09:23 am
WILLIAMS Looking Strong
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St. Moritz Match Race 2005
St. Moritz, Engadin, Switzerland

Day two of the ISAF Grade 1 St. Moritz Match Race in Engadin, Switzerland ended with two of the five flights of round robin C complete and Britain's Ben AINSLIE and Ian WILLIAMS sitting top of the pile. With the top four from the six strong round robin advancing to the semi finals, an upset currently looks on the cards with both Peter GILMOUR (AUS) and Ed BAIRD (USA) languishing in the bottom positions on 0-2 records.
AINSLIE of Emirates Team New Zealand, and WILLIAMS lead the round with 2-0 records. Mark MENDELBLATT (USA), the event's two time reigning champion, and Staffan LINDBERG (FIN) are both 1-1.

The two most experienced skippers in the group, numbers one and two in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings GILMOUR of PST, and BAIRD of Alinghi (SUI), stand 0-2 after the round was suspended late this afternoon due to shifty winds. It is an unfamiliar position for the pair who between them, hold six Match Racing World titles and four ISAF Grade 1 event wins this year.

'It's so random out there,' said AINSLIE. 'It's a fine line between winning and losing.'

'It's hard to see the shifts coming down the course,' said WILLIAMS.

WILLIAMS might be having trouble seeing the shifts, but he is still putting forth his best effort, spurred on by his recent victory at the ISAF Grade 1 Internationaux de France de Match Racing. He won the group A round robin yesterday with a 4-1 record, and followed it up with wins over GILMOUR and LINDBERG (a come-from-behind performance) to open round C.

WILLIAMS, 28, has taken a sabbatical from his job as a lawyer to campaign actively on the match racing circuit. He wants to find out if there is a future for him in professional sailing, be it the America's Cup or another arena. After a consistent but unspectacular start to the year, the Brit scored his first ISAF Grade 1 win in France and in St. Moritz he feels a bit more comfortable in the dinghy-like Streamline 7.15 used for the event.

'I feel in the heavier boats it's harder for me, particularly with the experience the other guys have,' said WILLIAMS. 'I think these boats negate that advantage for them. I did an Olympic campaign in the Soling in 2000, and these boats seem to have the same turning characteristics. The game is similar in the pre-start, but totally different on the racecourse.'

WILLIAMS, who did not qualify for the 2000 Olympics, won the group A round when he defeated Peter HOLMBERG (ISV), of Alinghi, in the last match of the last flight. HOLMBERG had gotten a pre-start penalty on WILLIAMS for tacking too close, and hung within two to three boatlengths around the two lap racecourse.

'We just couldn't get enough separation on him to feel comfortable doing our turn,' said WILLIAMS. 'We lost a bit on the last beat setting ourselves up for the turn, and then bailed out of that plan.'

WILLIAMS, sailing with crew Steve MITCHELL and Mark NICHOLS, did their turn after rounding the windward mark the last time. They rounded on port tack, bore away and then tacked to starboard, per the rules. Then they pulled off the move of the regatta.

HOLMBERG came around on port about two lengths behind and set his spinnaker. WILLIAMS quickly jibed to port to put himself to leeward of HOLMBERG, and then luffed hard.

HOLMBERG kept his spinnaker up and went head to wind to avoid WILLIAMS. But with the spinnaker flogging a puff pushed HOLMBERG down on top of WILLIAMS to the point of contact. The umpires penalized HOLMBERG.

'A guy luffs you, you go head-to-wind, and he keeps coming at you, then there's contact,' HOLMBERG said. 'I think he's got to give me room to keep clear and he didn't. Once I'm head-to-wind what can I do?'

'He had an opportunity to take his spinnaker down, but didn't,' said match umpire Wayne BOBERG. 'If he takes his spinnaker down and it hits the leeward boat the leeward boat gets penalized. When he went head to wind with the spinnaker up it was a serious risk.'

'That's a move we've used in the past, but not this year,' said WILLIAMS. 'It doesn't really work in the heavier boats, but it did in these boats. The risk is that he sails over the top of us and into the lead, but it was a strong move.'

Today's schedule calls for round robin D to begin around 1300 hours local time. That is for the six crews that were eliminated in rounds A and B including HOLMBERG, Sebastien COL (FRA) of K-Challenge (FRA), BMW Oracle Racing's (USA) Mark BRADFORD (AUS), Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), Marcel WALSER (SUI) and Eric MONNIN (SUI). Time permitting round C will be completed afterwards.

St. Moritz Match Race Standings

Group C Round Robin
(After 2 of 5 scheduled flights)

1. Ben AINSLIE (GBR), Emirates Team New Zealand, 2-0
1. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Musto, 2-0
3. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), Alandia Sailing Team, 1-1
4. Mark MENDELBLATT (USA), 1-1
5. Ed BAIRD (USA), Alinghi (SUI), 0-2
5. Peter GILMOUR (AUS), PST, 0-2

Group A Round Robin
(After 5 of 5 scheduled flights)

1. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Musto, 4-1
2. Peter GILMOUR (AUS), PST, 3-2
3. Ben AINSLIE (GBR), Emirates Team New Zealand, 3-2
4. Sebastien COL (FRA), K-Challenge (FRA), 3-2
5. Peter HOLMBERG (ISV), Alinghi (SUI), 2-3
6. Mark BRADFORD (AUS) BMW Oracle Racing (USA), 0-6

Sean McNeill (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Ian WILLIAMS had a great day in St. Moritz yesterday and leads the chase for the semi final places:© Guido Cantini
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