Keith Swinton cut through the competition at Chicago Match Cup like a knife through butter on Saturday.
First the Australian skipper of Black Swan Racing
bounced back from a poor Qualifying session earlier in the week to come out at the top of a protracted and difficult light-air Repechage. Then in the Quarter-Finals, he dispensed with Adam Minoprio's Team Alpari FX
2-0. He did the same to Ian Williams and GAC Pindar
, taking two wins to move through to the Final.
In his best showing yet on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour this year, Swinton's magic run of form was beautifully encapsulated in the pre-start of his first match against Minoprio when, with two minutes to go in painfully light air and pinned to windward of the start line, he hoisted his spinnaker to wriggle away from the grasp of the Kiwis. Not only did this catch them off-guard to get them back to the start line, but it set them up with enough speed to then roll beautifully into a douse and wind-up into the start, with perfect pace and control, and ready to extend and protect the favoured right side of the course.
With the wind forecast looking bad for Sunday, principal race officer Peter 'Luigi' Reggio and the race organisers at the Chicago Match Race Center decided to hold the first race of the first-to-three point Final and first-to-two point Petit-Final. With the sun dropping low over the spectacular skyscrapers of America's third largest city, Taylor Canfield and USone
failed to get the favoured right side in the first Final match, giving Swinton yet another win to sleep on tonight. Meanwhile Williams also will have the upper hand when he meets Hansen, having already put one point on the Petit Final scoreboard.
Swinton was delighted with his turnaround in form, his return from the dead. "Sometimes it works like that, you lose some races and lose a tiny bit of confidence. We struggled but just managed to get it together before the end of Qualifying. Since that, we've won pretty much every race and then we knew we'd be fine. This is eight straight race wins, pretty incredible. If we continue like we're sailing, we're pretty sure we can win the event
Canfield commented: "Our toughest hurdle was probably sitting out of racing for a day and a half while the other teams were out racing, but also going against Bjorn in the Semi-Finals was really tough. The team pulled together really well to come back after losing our first match to him, so that gave us great momentum to keep going forward. We lost to Keith in that first match of the Final just by not getting to the right, but we're confident in our speed and boathandling, so we're looking forward to meeting him again tomorrow
Ian Williams, last year's champion at the Chicago Match Cup, was ruing missed opportunities. "A real shame, one of those afternoons where things happened to us that haven't happened all week. Sailing against Keith, a spinnaker clutch came undone which let the spinnaker fall to the water for a moment, and cost us a few inches that really made a difference. But we'll keep on pushing for third overall.
Bjorn Hansen will do everything in his power to ensure Williams doesn't get his wish. "It's so tight among all the teams here. The margins are so small, you cannot really make any mistakes, but I feel we have a strong team that keeps on coming back even when we're behind. I saw the face of Ian, he was not calm at the end of this match. Coming into the finish line we were neck and neck, and according to
[race officer] Luigi it was about 10cm between us, maybe almost a tiebreak. So tomorrow we hope to put some pressure on Ian. It's important for the Tour standings overall, and we will fight for every last drop of blood.
Petit Final & Final - Sun 11 August - 12:00 - 15:00 (CDT)
Final (first to 3 points), after one match:
Keith Swinton (AUS) v Taylor Canfield (ISV) 1-0
Petit Final (first to 2 points), after one match:
Ian Williams (GBR) v Bjorn Hansen (SWE) 1-0
Keith Swinton (AUS) beat Ian Williams (GBR) 2-0
Taylor Canfield (ISV) beat Bjorn Hansen (SWE) 2-1
Ian Williams (GBR) beat Pierre Antoine Morvan (FRA) 2-0
Taylor Canfield (ISV) beat Will Tiller (NZL) 2-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) beat Phil Robertson (NZL) 2-1
Keith Swinton (AUS) beat Adam Minoprio (NZL) 2-0
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 5-2
Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket 4-3
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 4-3
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 4-3
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 4-3
Gavin Brady (USA) Team Vesper 3-4
Don Wilson (USA) Chicago Match Race Center 2-5
Jordan Reece (AUS) Estate Master Sailing Team 2-5