"It was extremely tough today," said CIAN. "We sailed more matches today than any other day all week. Bjorn and his team sailed extremely well, and he just got unlucky in the last race. But the credit goes to my team of these great guys who have gotten me to the finals three times in the last few events." For winning here in Vitoria, CIAN and team will claim 25 points to take an early lead on the new 2008 WMRT Ranking List.
On his path to the finals, CIAN had to first get past Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) in the first-to-two point semi-finals, which was far from easy. Even though their pre-starts could be described as benign and flag-free since the two rarely engaged after their first entry, they both remained extremely focused on their timing to get back to the start line with speed and in control of the favoured right side of the course. In the first match, it was WILLIAMS who got the right and maintained control in the light southerly to win, and then CIAN who did the same in the second match. In the critical third match, it was CIAN this time who got and held the right, and sailed into his place in the finals.
But the other semi-final pairing could not have been different, with the battle of the Swedes Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE) of Victory Challenge and HANSEN and his Alandia Sailing Team raging both in pre-starts and throughout the remainder of the course. In their first race, HOLMBERG fought hard and won the right, with HANSEN keeping the pressure on until his rival managed to get to the finish first. In the next match, HANSEN got the right and used his advantage at the top mark, taking HOLMBERG head-to-wind before bearing away to round the mark with a slim lead. HOLMBERG kept the pressure on, never dropping more than a length behind, and attacking all the way to the final run to the finish.
So, with all to play for in their final race, the action tightened even more, and HOLMBERG copped a penalty in the pre-start while trying to bear away behind HANSEN after their initial dial-up, yet still managed to take the lead around the track. It was not enough to take his penalty turn, however, and HANSEN cleverly managed to avoid his rival's repeated trap-setting on the final run to coast across the finish and into the finals.
A slight easing in the southerly breeze meant timing was going to be more important than ever, and in the first match of the finals HANSEN displayed this masterfully to win the start and take complete control throughout the match. The second match, however, became contentious when close to the bottom gate rounding CIAN, with right of way on starboard gybe and getting entangled with HANSEN on port trying to duck, was judged by the umpires after gybing back to the gate to have taken too much room to round, and thus earned a penalty. HANSEN was then able to emerge from the gate rounding and next beat with the lead, and bring the score to 2-0 in his favour.
But CIAN refused to die, won the next match with a huge lead, and had full control in the pre-start of the fourth match to defend the right and take the lead around the top mark, with HANSEN only metres behind. Both boats split through the bottom gate, but in the waning breeze CIAN's slim lead on the right was not safe, and HANSEN gained back to briefly take his turn in front and defend the right, but CIAN managed to find a little left shift (a precursor of what was to come), cross ahead at the mark, and sail ahead on the final run to the finish to even up the score.
With the breeze lightening and becoming frighteningly fluky, Race Officer Ann VIEBIG got the signals up quickly in a valiant effort to get the final match in before conditions glassed off completely. In their allotted 4-minute pre-start HANSEN and CIAN barely managed to get entered, extend to the right, tack once, and each get the side they wanted, with HANSEN right and CIAN left. As the SM 40s crept along and each team searched the horizon for the next puff, it was CIAN and team who chose correctly, with a huge left shift and just enough pressure to tack, cross miles ahead of the hapless Swedes who were stuck with nothing, and sail to victory.
In previous petit-final action, WILLIAMS recovered from losing the first match in part due to a pre-start penalty incident with HOLMBERG, to winning the next and bring the score even in this first-to-three series. In the penultimate match, WILLIAMS took and controlled the right, and in the first cross HOLMBERG's lee bow tack was judged too close, earning him a penalty which he shed on the last beat in a penalty turn but could not catch the Brits who took and held their lead to finish third overall.
1. Paolo CIAN (ITA), Team Shosholoza US$ 36,000
2. Bjorn HANSEN (SWE), Alandia Sailing Team $ 21,000
3. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Pindar $ 18,000
4. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), Victory Challenge $ 15,000
5= Torvar MIRSKY (AUS), Mirsky Racing Team $ 13,500
5= Mattias RAHM (SWE), Stena Bulk Sailing Team $ 13,500
7. Pierre Antoine MORVAN (FRA), Equipe de France espoir de match racing $ 10,500
8. Peter WIBROE (DEN), Wibroe Sailing Team $ 9,000
9. Adam MINOPRIO (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand, BlackMatch Racing $ 7500
10. Henrique HADDAD (BRA), Giant Sailing Team $ 6,000
11. Juan GRIMALDI (ARG), Tag Heuer Sailing Team
12. Daniel GLOMB (BRA), Team Bravissimo
Paolo Cian (ITA) d. Bjorn HANSEN (SWE), 3-2
Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) d. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), 2-1
Paolo CIAN (ITA) d. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), 2-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) d. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), 2-1
1. Peter WIBROE (DEN), Wibroe Sailing Team 5-0
2. Pierre Antoine MORVAN (FRA), Equipe de France espoir de match racing 3-2
3. Adam MINOPRIO (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand, BlackMatch Racing 2-3
4. Henrique HADDAD (BRA), Giant Sailing Team 2-3
5. Juan GRIMALDI (ARG), Tag Heuer Sailing Team 1-2
6. Daniel GLOMB (BRA), Team Bravissimo 1-2
1. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Pindar 5-0
2. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), Victory Challenge 4-1
3. Torvar MIRSKY (AUS), Mirsky Racing Team 3-2
4. Adam MINOPRIO (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand, BlackMatch Racing 2-3
5. Juan GRIMALDI (ARG), Tag Heuer Sailing Team 1-5
6. Daniel GLOMB (BRA), Team Bravissimo 0-5
1. Bjorn HANSEN (SWE), Alandia Sailing Team 4-1
2. Paolo CIAN (ITA), Team Shosholoza 4-1
3. Mattias RAHM (SWE), Stenna Bulk Sailing Team 2-3
4. Henrique HADDAD (BRA), Giant Sailing Team 2-3
5. Pierre Antoine MORVAN (FRA), Equipe de France espoir de match racing 1-4
6. Peter WIBROE (DEN), Wibroe Sailing Team 1-4
Brasil Sailing Cup - www.brasilsailingcup.com
World Match Racing Tour - www.worldmatchracingtour
ISAF Match Racing World Championship microsite - www.sailing.org/matchworlds