The first flights were launched at 10:00 on Thursday morning in Marseille with the ever-present wind holding at around 30 knots for most of the day. It all added up to tough conditions for the 12 competing teams, who all hoped it would become lighter during the afternoon. Towards 12:00, the race committee even considered postponing racing as the sailing conditions were getting really tough, but the teams gritted their teeth and the flights went ahead.
Then from 16:30 pm onwards the wind dropped, the spinnakers came out, and the storm jib and reefs were replaced. At last the real match racing show could begin with tightly fought duels.
In spite of the challenging conditions, RICHARD started were he left off on Wednesday, winning all six of his matches on the day to finish the round robin in the top spot on a 10-0 record.
"We are really pleased and surprised with our performance," said the French world #1 skipper. "We are just starting our season with the MIMR after a long winter break, and we've won all our matches, it's brilliant.
"We've been able to adapt to the extreme sailing conditions over the two days. We've been able to sail all our matches with the spinnaker which is an advantage," RICHARD said, adding that he was surprised to see IEHL and PACÉ eliminated so early in the competition.
RICHARD's compatriot Sébastien COL (FRA) also had a good day, winning all but one of his matches (the loss came against to Russia's Eugeniy NEUGODNIKOV, whilst their wasn't quite enough time to fit in his remaining match against RICHARD) to finish the round robin in second place. World #3 Paolo CIAN (ITA), recorded losses to RICHARD, COL and Australia's Torvar MIRSKY, but won his remaining matches to take third place in the round robin.
Together with PACÉ and IEHL, Jure OREL (SLO) and Sebastien DESTREMAU (FRA) were the other two skippers to fail to reach the next round of the competition. The elimantion of IEHL in particular was a big surprise, as the Frenchman recently won the highly regarded ISAF Grade 2 RYA Winter Challenge Final in Great Britain.
"We've had a really long and hard day's sailing - we're not used to these conditions with lots of wind and waves, having to sail without a spinnaker, all a bit strange. We started the day with two successive losses which were hard for the team's moral. We found it hard getting back into the race," explained IEHL.
He added, "At the end of the day, when we were already pretty tired, we had to race against the leaders ... We are obviously disappointed, but we'll be back!"
Today, the first matches are scheduled to get underway at 10:00, with the wind predicted to drop off slightly and stay under 20 knots for the duration of the day.
Results - click here
Marseille International Match Race - www.mimr.fr.