Mattias RAHM provided the spectators in Marstrand with a home winner at Match Cup Sweden, winning stage four of the World Match Racing Tour after an exciting final with Australia's Torvar MIRSKY.
Despite the first cloudy day in a week of otherwise beautiful sunny weather, thousands of spectators still braved the chill to watch local favourite Mattias RAHM
(SWE) win his first Match Cup Sweden finale. He and his Stena Bulk Racing Team of Oscar ANGERVALL
, Johan BARNE
, Daniel BJÖRNDAL, and Fredrik AURELL
put on an exciting display of match race sailing action in both the semi-final and final rounds of today's competition, the fourth stage in the 2008 World Match Racing Tour.
"This is a great feeling, I've been thinking about this moment for 14 years, ever since sitting on the rocks as the spectators have done here today and watched Magnus HOLMBERG compete in 1994,"
said RAHM. "I think this is the best I've ever sailed."
It's perhaps ironic for RAHM that with fellow semi-finalist Mathieu RICHARD
's choice of Torvar MIRSKY
(AUS) to sail against in his semi-final this morning, it would be HOLMBERG that would be his first hurdle to clear on his own path towards the finals, but in this RAHM did not have a good start. His first two matches against his old Victory Challenge team mate went against him, mainly through being too aggressive in both the pre-starts and when the matches got close. An example of this was in the first match when just metres from the downwind finish RAHM threatened to roll over HOLMBERG, but then when luffed by his rival he failed to keep clear, thus earning a penalty from match umpires John DOERR and Mats BJORKLAND. And in the second match just moments after the start, and while in the controlling position on the right, RAHM dialed HOLMBERG down too hard, earning himself yet another penalty.
So, with HOLMBERG up 2-0 in the first-to-three point series, the pressure was on RAHM to perform in the third flight. But instead of stepping up the aggression, he toned it back.
"Being two matches down we felt we shouldn't push the situations like we did in the first two matches, so I left it to my guys to just sail the boat,"
And sail they did, with RAHM controlling and winning the pre-starts, getting the favoured right side of the course in each, and making it all look rather boring and routine. The team's sailing style went from choppy and aggressive to smooth, controlled, and fast.
This composure would serve him well against another cool and composed competitor, Torvar MIRSKY and his Mirsky Racing Team. MIRSKY said yesterday getting into the semi-finals was far beyond their expectations, so he felt totally relaxed despite the dogfight he had last Friday with fellow Australian match race legend Peter GILMOUR
in the quarter finals. This is only his one-year anniversary of being on the Tour, and his first-ever appearance in the semi-finals, a remarkable feat for the 22-year old Perth native.
In choosing MIRSKY to play against, RICHARD and his French Match Racing Team may have thought it better to not have to possibly sail against two Swedish Teams on their own turf, but the plan backfired, as MIRSKY proved to be a handful. Winning the first and second matches, MIRSKY had RICHARD on the ropes in the third, but the French team managed to take and hold a slim lead, even after an aggressive luff by MIRSKY yielded only a penalty for the Australians. The fourth went to RICHARD as well, even after taking a turn at the finish for a penalty earned in their pre-start, so the series was all tied 2-2.
MIRSKY, like RAHM, now throttled back on the aggression, and simply outsailed the French around the track to win the fifth match and a place in the afternoon finals.
For the finals, the breeze backed off a bit to a temperamental 8-12 knots, with a few shifts to cause race mangers to re-shift the course so that the weather mark was now placed just metres away from the cliffs. This made the fight for the right seem even more important, and Rahm took full advantage of this to win convincingly in the first match.
In the second match things got more interesting. While RAHM was still starting well, and made the first cross over to the right to take early control, the Australians found a small shift to get back into the game downwind, and drove RAHM to the opposite side of the course, with an overlap created to leeward and thereby requiring them to gybe when on the layline to the bottom mark. This is a notoriously difficult call for umpires to make, yet after a few green flags they finally ruled against MIRSKY, who eventually gybed and led back to the leeward mark by just two lengths.
Despite this lead, they were not able to extend on it enough to take their penalty turn at the finish and finish ahead of RAHM, who coasted across a mere metre ahead, and take the series lead 2-0.
Having now won five matches in a row, RAHM was on a roll, and proved unbeatable. After having made several of the customary circles just metres way from the Strandverket castle's viewing stand, RAHM's lead back in the pre-start in the penultimate match was perfectly executed, as he started on port tack at full speed at the starboard end of the line with not a second to spare. Having the favoured side, and in the controlling position, RAHM simply tacked MIRSKY back left on the beats and never got threatened on the runs. Amidst thousands of cheering and waving Swedes on shore, the Swedes on the course sailed across the finish and into history, winning the top prize of US$50,000 and valuable points to advance on the Tour leaderboard. MIRSKY's runner-up share of the total $200,000 purse was $34,000.
In petit-final action, HOLMBERG dispensed with RICHARD in two matches in the first-to-two point series, but not without having been judged to have to share the blame for damage in a pre-start collision with RICHARD for which the French received the penalty. No matter, the tap will likely not put much of a dent in their respective $28,000 and $20,000 third and fourth place prizes.
Match Cup Sweden Final Results
1. Mattias RAHM
(SWE), Stena Bulk Racing Team $50,000
2. Torvar MIRSKY
(AUS), Mirsky Racing Team $34,000
3. Magnus HOLMBERG
(SWE), Victory Challenge $28,000
4. Mathieu RICHARD
(FRA), French Match Racing Team $20,000
5. Peter GILMOUR
(AUS) PST $16,000
6. Bjorn HANSEN
(SWE) Alandia Sailing Team $14,000
7. Jes GRAM-HANSEN
(DEN) Trifork Racing Team $12,000
8. Sébastien COL
(FRA) French Match Racing Team/K Challenge $10,000
9. Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR) Team Pindar $7,000
10. Damien IEHL
(FRA) French Match Racing Team $4,000
11. Paolo CIAN
(ITA) Shosholoza Team $3,000
12. Ben AINSLIE
(GBR) Team Origin $2,000
ISAF Match Racing World Championship microsite - www.sailing.org/matchworlds