France's Seb COL won the inaugural Korea Match Race Cup, defeating reigning ISAF Match Racing World Champion Ian WILLIAMS in the final.
In a fabulous display of match race talent played in front of tens of thousands of spectators at the Korea International Boat Show and live TV beamed to 90 countries, Sébastien COL
(FRA) and his K Challenge/French Match Racing Team of Gilles FAVENNEC, Christophe ANDRE, Erwan ISRAEL
, and Christian SCHERRER won the inaugural Korea Match Race Cup, stage three of the 2008 World Match Racing Tour.
In a first-to-three point final sailed in shifty, puffy conditions, COL defeated Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR) and Team Pindar in four tough matches filled at times with collisions, penalties, and numerous lead changes from pre-start to finish.
For their efforts, COL and his team claimed the top prize of 75,000,000 Korean Won (US$75,000) in a total purse of 300,000,000 Korean Won (US$300,000), the largest awarded to date in any event on the World Match Racing Tour.
"This is a fantastic event,"
said the normally quiet but now beaming COL, "Because it strikes just the right balance of being close to shore where all these people can see match racing, but also have the right winds to have good sailing."
Of their battle in the finals, the reigning World Champion WILLIAMS said, "Seb just seemed to have a little more pace than us today. I don't know if was technique or that he just had more breeze, but he and his guys just seemed to sail around us. They did a great job."
The series had a deceivingly boring start, with COL winning the start, hitting the first shift to extend his initial lead, and then doing a fabulous job of continuing to read the shifts correctly throughout the two-lap course to stay ahead of Williams.
But it was in the next match that the heat got turned up. WILLIAMS won and controlled the favoured right side to lead around the course until the last beat, when COL managed to get close enough for the Brit to have to luff him before rounding getting to round the mark just a length ahead. COL then went on the attack, rolling WILLIAMS downwind, but then not staying clear after gybing back towards the finish line and earning a penalty and a red flag from match umpires Bill EDGERTON and Roger WOOD.
With tempers flaring, voices shouting, spinnakers flapping and jibs half-hoisted just metres upwind of the finish line, COL could not do his penalty tack immediately as required until WILLIAMS himself tacked, as the two were still overlapped with WILLIAMS to windward. But once WILLIAMS tacked around, he was just able to get to the finish line only metres ahead of COL, who having tacked himself was now free to bear off to race to the finish.
The score was now even, and in the match three pre-start WILLIAMS got a little too aggressive and earned a penalty just moments before crossing the start, so Col was now once again off the line with more pace. The French then continued to cover the British closely for the remainder of the match, though WILLIAMS made several valiant attempts at attacking downwind.
Now in a must-win situation, WILLIAMS used his starboard entry advantage in the pre-start of the fourth match aggressively yet with great skill, controlling COL through all but the last 30 seconds and drawing a penalty on him. But those last few seconds were crucial, as COL cleverly got back to the line with enough room to build speed and get off the start with slightly more speed. This helped him take and maintain a slight lead throughout the match, which WILLIAMS challenged several times. With a penalty still outstanding on the final run COL had it all on to extend his lead far enough for him to complete his penalty turn on the finish line. A tidy spinnaker drop and quick turn on the line allowed the French team to slip across the finish and into the winner's circle.
"This event has been really impressive,"
said Tour president Scott MACLEOD, "Setting all new records for prize money and attendance. The amount of enthusiasm and support here in Korea has been overwhelming."
Attendance figures for the event topped 350,000, over twice what organizers expected. Among the many dignitaries on hand for the gala awards ceremony was Moon-Soo KIM, the provincial Governor of Gyeonggi Province, who said, "We are very pleased with the success of this year's Korea Match Cup, and look forward to making it even better for next year."
1. Sébastien COL
(FRA), K Challenge/French Match Racing Team $75,000
2. Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR), Team Pindar $51,000
3. Adam MINOPRIO
(NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing £42,000
4. Jesper RADICH
(DEN), Rudy Project Sailing Team $30,000
5. Mathieu RICHARD
(FRA), French Match Racing Team $24,000
6. Paolo CIAN
(ITA), Team Shosholoza $21,000
7. Bjorn HANSEN
(SWE), Alandia Sailing Team $18,000
8. Torvar MIRSKY
(AUS), Mirsky Racing Team $15,000
9. Peter GILMOUR
(AUS), Team PST $10,500
10. Wataru SAKAMOTO
(JPN), Siesta Team $6,000
11. Magnus HOLMBERG
(SWE), Victory Challenge $4,500
12. Seung Cheol LIM
(KOR), Korea Gyeonman Team $3,000
ISAF Match Racing World Championship microsite - www.sailing.org/matchworlds