An all-Danish Final is set for the Bermuda Gold Cup between Jes Gram-Hansen and Jesper Radich.
Both sailors advanced yesterday from the semi-final round after eliminating local favorite Peter Bromby and Poland's Karol Jablonski, respectively. Sailing in shifty, 10-12 knot northeasterly breezes, the premium was on playing the shifts while staying alive tactically in order to move into the final round, worth $20,000 for first place.
Gram-Hansen, who sails for Team Victory Lane, was down one win to Bromby's two wins in the "first to three" semi-final round. In the fourth race, Bromby incurred a penalty in the pre-start, but held off the world No. 2 match racer over the start and led to the weather mark.
Leading down toward the leeward mark, Bromby jibed too close in front of Gram-Hansen and was given a second penalty, which demands an automatic 270-degree turn. Luckily for Bromby he was too close to the two-boatlength circle and could not complete his turn within the zone. After rounding in front of Gram-Hansen, Bromby successfully completed his penalty zone, giving up the lead and the race.
"Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong," </>said Bromby.
In the fifth and deciding match, both skippers were forced into a win-or-go-home race that had hundreds of spectators watching closely. Gram-Hansen charged through the pre-start with an advantage on the Bermudian and held the sizable lead off the line around the twice windward-leeward course and to the finish securing his berth in the final.
"I give big credit to the Danish Match Racing School," said Gram-Hansen. "We 've been sailing for 10 years and we have done a lot of sailing and it's starting to pay off."
Radich, who advanced to the semi-final round by beating Staffan Lindberg/Team Musto of Finland 3-0, also took five matches to win against Jablonski and gain entry to the final of the 54th Bermuda Gold Cup.
With two wins to his credit, it looked like Radich would take the third race, but Jablonski is a tough competitor who recently won the ISAF match racing world championship. Radich controlled the start, but Jablonski was able to come off the start line with a nice lead on the upwind leg. He then gained more distance by picking a good left-side shift, setting him up for an optimum starboard tack advantage to the weather mark layline. Jablonski extended his lead around the course and to the finish, claiming his first of two wins.
In the fifth and final match, Jablonski led off the start, but two minutes into the beat Radich picked up a strong right shift and gained the lead. From there Radich held his lead on the strapping Pole to the finish and the final berth.
"We were on the other side of the course waiting for a big lefty," said Jablonski. "But nothing was coming our way and it was blowing on the other side of the course. What makes me happy about that race is that my team did such a good job."
Radich is looking forward to sailing against Gram-Hansen. "It's always a big bang when we get together," said Radich. "I very much look forward to it."
Bromby will face Jablonski in the petit-final tomorrow to decide third and fourth places.
In the sail-off round for 5th through 8th places, Mikael Lindqvist of Sweden defeated legendary Bermudian Paula Lewin/Team ACE in two straight races. Mattias Rahm/ Team Stena Bulk eliminated Staffan Lindberg/Team Musto in two matches.