'It feels sweet. It really feels good because I think it was a hard battle. I think we all got tested and I think we stepped up our game during the whole regatta. It's one of those great results you cherish,' said the 45 year old HOLMBERG.
HOLMBERG and crew Rodney ARDERN, Murray JONES, Lorenzo MAZZA and Matt MITCHELL have steadily improved through the season, starting with an eleventh in the ISAF Grade 1 Toscana Elba Cup in Italy, then finishing fourth in the recent ISAF Grade 1 Swedish Match Cup before taking victory in Cascais.
'I'd especially like to thank my team, Rodney doing my main, Matt on the bow, Murray JONES on the tactics and Lorenzo trimming,' HOLMBERG said. 'This place here requires a team. There's no way you can win it without a great team, so I really owe these guys all the credit.'
AINSLIE sailed with Stu BETTANY (main), Ray DAVIES (tactics), Rob SALTHOUSE (headsails) and Chris WARD (bow). 'We had a fantastic opportunity to win, but they sailed better,' said to time Olympic gold medallist AINSLIE of his most impressive match racing performance to date. 'Credit to Peter and his guys.'
The 3-1 final score does not reflect the closeness of the match. AINSLIE won the first race by about six to eight boatlengths. Riding port tack he won the first cross and led by about 27 seconds at the first windward mark. HOLMBERG closed up on the first run but AINSLIE extended away over the second lap.
HOLMBERG won the second race when he won the first cross. AINSLIE made it close at the first windward mark, approaching on starboard in a lift, but HOLMBERG rounded the mark with about a six second advantage. HOLMBERG played the hard right on the second windward leg while AINSLIE went hard left, and HOLMBERG held a sizeable lead at the windward mark.
With the score tied 1-1, AINSLIE and crew made a fatal error. They entered the pre-start on port tack at the pin end. They won the right side of the start line and worked the right side of the beat to lead by more than 20 seconds at the windward mark. They led all around the track but when they got to the finish the race committee did not raise the blue flag signaling victory.
AINSLIE and crew had sailed the wrong course. When they entered the pre-start box the race committee signaled a course change to the second windward mark, the one with a black band. Two marks were set because the wind was shifting through about 20 degrees, and the race committee was choosing the mark at the four minute gun based on the wind direction.
Entering the start box from the far end AINSLIE and crew failed to recognize the course change.
'The third race was a pretty big error on our part,' AINSLIE admitted. 'We were in the lead and did the wrong course. I'm slightly bemused how all five of us missed the change of course flag, but somehow we did. That was a pretty frustrating way to lose that race, and it kind of turned the tables.'
'We all talked about it after the start and we all agreed it was the left-hand mark.' said tactician DAVIES. 'We came in on port entry, wound up about trying to cross Peter.'
'The umpires say we never went to starboard,' said HOLMBERG, who entered the pre-start on port tack. 'We changed our attitude after that and got aggressive.'
'We were just inches away from closing him out,' said JONES, HOLMBERG's tactician. 'We couldn't quite slow the boat enough. We were too far forward.'
Carrying a penalty HOLMBERG rode AINSLIE to the right side of the racecourse. HOLMBERG led by about 23 seconds at the first windward mark. AINSLIE gained time at the leeward and second windward marks to trail by about 16 seconds beginning the final leg. It was not enough time for HOLMBERG to complete his penalty turn and win the match.
On the final leg, however, JONES called for a jibe to starboard.
'We saw some pressure and thought that'll do us,' JONES said.
Indeed it did. They extended to enough of an advantage to complete their penalty turn at the finish and win the championship by half a length.
HOLMBERG and AINSLIE advanced to the final by beating Peter GILMOUR (AUS) of Pizza-La Sailing Team, and Jes GRAM-HANSEN (DEN) of Gram-Hansen Racing. Both scores were 3-1. In the Petit Final, GILMOUR beat GRAM-HANSEN 2-0 to take third place, his worst result of an incredibly successful year so far.
PTPortugal Match Cup Final Standings
1. Peter HOLMBERG (ISV), Alinghi (SUI), 12-3
2. Ben AINSLIE (GBR), Emirates Team New Zealand, 9-7
3. Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Pizza-La Sailing Team, 8-5
4. Jes GRAM-HANSEN (DEN), Gram-Hansen Racing, 7-6
5. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), Team Finland, 6-4
6. Chris LAW (GBR), The Outlaws, 8-6
7. Bertrand PACE (FRA), BMW Oracle Racing (USA), 5-4
8. Michael DUNSTAN (AUS), 5-9
9. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Musto, 6-4
10. Hamish PEPPER (NZL), Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA), 3-7
11. Afonso DOMINGOS (POR), 3-7
12. Manuel MARQUES (POR), 0-10