The Swedish Match Tour's Match Race Germany crowned a new champion yesterday, a first time winner on the world's premier professional sailing series.
Denmark's Jesper Radich a full-time student, has had an up-an-down year, first losing his sponsor but then rattling off victories in three straight regattas, Match Race Germany being his most recent and most special.
We followed up the European Championships with a win at the MRC Challenge in Copenhagen last week but this is by far the toughest field we've faced," said Radich. "Its very special to win our first Swedish Match Tour event against top competition."
It was a hard fought win for the Danish crew. After early success in the first round robin Radich ran the table, winning all seven of his matches in the quarterfinals to clearly establish himself as the favorite. Due to light winds, the race committee decided to eliminate the semifinals in favor of a first-to-three-wins final and first-to-two-wins "petit finals" for the third and fourth place finishers in the quarterfinals.
Radich carried his momentum into his finals match up with Ed Baird and Team Musto, winning the first two matches against the American and his local German crew. Shifty conditions resulted in several course changes and the delay in racing appeared to cool off the red-shot Radich.
Baird battled back to take matches three and four, setting up a winner-take-all fifth and deciding match.
Unfortunately for Baird, former skipper of the Young America Challenge for the 2000 America's Cup, some confusion ensued with the location of the start line which he crossed over early resulting in an advantage for Radich which the Dane would never yield.
"On the start of the last race we made the most basic error possible, we forgot which of the two buoys was the starting buoy and we went to the wrong one," said Baird. "It's like walking down the stairs and forgetting to take the first step, from there on out it's a doozy."
Denmark's Jes Gram-Hansen and his Team Marienlyst rallied after losing their first match to defeat Russia Andrew Arbuzow 2-1, in the "petit finals." The third place finish moved the Danes past Prada Challenge's Gavin Brady, who did not contest the regatta, into third place overall in the Swedish Match Tour Championship Rankings. With Brady not scheduled to compete in next week's ACI HT Cronet Cup in Split, Croati, a good result there can create some space between Gram-Hansen and the Italian skipper.
"Racing on a lake is difficult and even harder mentally because conditions change so quickly. We're very pleased to come in third because at one point it looked like we would finish much worse," said Gram-Hansen. "We're now looking ahead to the ACI Cup and Swedish Match Cup to build on our third place Swedish Match Tour ranking."
For Arbuzow the result against Gram-Hansen was disappointing but the Russian had a good experience at his first Swedish Match Tour event.
"We enjoyed our time here very much this week," said Arbuzow. "We learned quite a bit each day. Sailing against these quality sailors makes us better and this is definitely the highest-level sailing in the world."
The Swedish Match Tour's next event is the ACI HT Cronet Cup in Split, Croatia, May 28-June 1.
1. Jesper Radich, Denmark
2. Ed Baird, USA/Team Musto
3. Jes Gram-Hansen, DEN/Team Marienlyst
4. Andrew Arbuzow, Russia
5. Karol Jablonski, POL/Team MK Café
6. Cameron Appleton, Team New Zealand
7. Markus Wieser, Germany
8. Ian Walker, GBR Challenge
9. Henrik Jensen, Denmark
10. Mikael Lindqvist, Sweden
11. Morten Henriksen, Germany
12. Stefan Meister, Germany
13. Chris Law, Great Britain
14. Alexander Hagen, Germany