Bjorn Hansen won the battle of the Swedish skippers in the Quarter Final of STENA Match Cup Sweden as national battles also took place between the remaining Australian and New Zealand sailors.
Stockholm's Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team has moved a step closer to the final of his Alpari World Match Racing Tour home event in Marstrand, Sweden as he came out the 3-0 victor against Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team from Gothenburg in their Quart Final match. Hansen, said, "It was great to know that we'd have a Swede in the Semi Finals before my match with Johnie [Berntsson] but we would have liked it to have been a Final. I don't think we would have chosen to sail each other if we could have helped it."
In a rematch of the 2011 event Final, Hansen was handed a Semi Final contest with Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar, which started in a predictably action-packed fashion, as the pair traded penalties and controlling positions throughout their first match. Bjorn Hansen ultimately managed to see out the victory before suffering disappointment in the second match, losing after a penalty decision which he felt could have easily gone his way.
After momentarily losing one of their crew into the water during the pre-start, Hansen's Mekonomen Sailing Team headed left after a split tack start. Williams took the right hand side off of the start line with Hansen tacking on Williams lee bow a number of times before Williams got ahead. An error from Hansen as he attempted to luff Williams after a cover tack by the Brit lost him a boatlength as he realised that he didn't have the boat speed to force Williams to tack away.
Williams had maintained his lead as he turned into the final downwind leg just in front of Hansen, the Swede following closely and managing to take enough of his opponents air to launch an attack, rolling over his bow but earning a penalty when the umpires decided that he hadn't been clear ahead before there was contact between Hansen's backstay and Williams' spinnaker. Hansen felt that the penalty which was awarded in the process, and ultimately cost him a commanding lead, was undeserved, saying, "We were rolling Ian [Williams] and we got ahead of him, he was pretty much right on our stern, the bow was half way in on our boat. We thought he was coming from behind when he touched us with his spinnaker which we're a bit disappointed to get a penalty for.
"Still it feels like we're sailing quicker than him, especially on the downwind and I think they're worried about our gybes as we keep managing to roll him on the gybes when it gets close.
"We feel good going into the final day but we have to keep working because it's going to be tough, there aren't going to be any easy matches for any of us from here on."
Williams, said, "It was disappointing to lose the first one. We were struggling a bit with the boat's rudder which was frustrating but we know we had to deal with it. I think considering those issues, today was a great result.
"I think that we can win it. We've come from behind before and won and we can do it again."
Like Hansen, Ian Williams carried his good form from the qualifying stages through into his Quarter Final match with Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team, winning in three straightforward matches.
Morvan felt that despite the loss and subsequent exit from the event, his team are in a good position going into their favoured upcoming Tour events, saying, "Ian won the first one and then we won the start in the second but with the Genoas on these type of boats, it gave him a chance to come back into it and he managed to close that one out too. When we changed the Genoa to the smaller jib in the third, we won the start and it was close all the way through.
"It is still a positive experience. We've learnt a lot on these bigger boats because we've sailing against really good opposition and before the event we knew it was going to be hard.
"Now there are three events with lighter boats which we're really looking forward to. We competed at the Chicago Match Cup last year, just losing out to Swinton [Keith] in the final so that's a good opportunity for us. Then we have Marseille, where we know the boats well and St. Moritz which I'm also expecting us to do well at."
The day's all-Australian Quarter Final match-up pitted Tour legend and record four-time World Champion, Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing against Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing, who enjoyed some great early form in qualifying but who was unable to overcome his fellow Perth native, who went on to race Phil Robertson (NZ) WAKA Racing Team in the day's opening Semi Final matches.
Robertson had earlier progressed from his Quarter Final in three straight matches against compatriot Reuben Corbett (NZ) AON Racing Team, the scoreline not reflective of the close competition during the knockout encounter. Robertson, said: "It definitely wasn't straightforward, we didn't win a start and it was a real battle. We had to fight hard to get ourselves back into every match and there was some really close sailing.
"It was the right thing to do for us to pick him but we'd have liked both Kiwis to go as far as possible. Having said that, there was a bit of pride at stake and we definitely wanted to be the top countryman so a bit of pressure on the boys there too."
Robertson ended the day with an important victory against Peter Gilmour, having lost the first encounter in their Semi Final to finish 1-1 in the first to three point series going into the last day of STENA Match Cup Sweden. In one of the defining moments of the tie so far, the second match saw Gilmour trailing narrowly into the finish trying a last ditch aggressive move right on the line. He said, "We got a bad start so just tried to chip away to get back into it at the end. We just threw everything we could at him and tried to make it stick. Tomorrow we're back to square one."
Robertson, said, "I think the umpire made the right call there and I would have been very disappointed if it had gone any other way. It was a big last attempt to win the race and he knew he wasn't going to cross the line first. He hit me and forced the umpires to make a decision on the line just to see what would happen and but i think he could have avoided it.
"The team are going well and we're pretty confident. Tomorrow is set up for a cracker I think, it'll be an awesome day's sailing."
STENA Match Cup Sweden Semi Finals will continue on Saturday 7th July from 0900 CET. Full schedule and additional information and updates are available at www.wmrt.com.