World Tour leaders Ian WILLIAMS, Seb COL and Mathieu RICHARD were all defeated in first knockout stage at the King Edward VII Gold Cup as Ben AINSLIE, Mattias RAHM, Johnie BERNTSSON and Adam MINOPRIO advanced to semi-finals.
In a stunning upset to the three leaders of the World Match Racing Tour, Mattias RAHM
(SWE) and his Stena Bulk Sailing Team, Johnie BERNTSSON
(SWE) and his Berntsson Sailing Team and young Adam MINOPRIO
(NZL) and the Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing team have all advanced to the semi-final round of the King Edward VII Gold Cup presented by Argo Group. Ben AINSLIE
(GBR) and his Team Origin have also advanced, defeating Tour newcomer Keith SWINTON
(AUS) in Friday's first-to-three point quarter-final round.
World Tour leader and reigning World Champion Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR) and his Team Pindar fell prey to Match Cup Sweden winner RAHM in five matches, the longest of any in this round. And two teams of the seemingly invincible French Match Racing Team - Mathieu RICHARD
and Sébastien COL
- fell in four matches to BERNTSSON and MINOPRIO, respectively.
Racing on Friday was delayed for an hour awaiting the easterly breeze to fill fully in Hamilton harbour, but once in it developed into a pleasant 8-10 knots, perfect for match race sailing. Shifts and puffs were still determining factors in many matches, however, so like in the three earlier days in this competition the leaders were rarely safe without having substantial margins over their rivals, and the action was often quite close in all four pairs.
"It was a relief to see that RICHARD and COL didn't make the cut for the semis too,"
said WILLIAMS. "The World Championship is out there for the taking, and we are all very driven individuals so it will be a tough event. All we know at this stage is one of us will be crowned World Champion."
On the day's tight matches with RAHM, WILLIAMS said, "Normally you need just a little something extra to win at this level, and Mattias had that today while we did not."
The other quarter-final matches saw AINSLIE of Team Origin continue his winning streak by taking three matches from SWINTON of Black Swan Racing. However SWINTON remains the only competitor so far to have won a race against the triple Olympic gold medallist - a great achievement for the young Australian who has shown great promise at his first Tour event.
COL was not able to carry his momentum from his win last week at the Troia Portugal Match Cup, only able to secure one win against MINOPRIO, a young Kiwi talent now in his second Tour semi-final. "Previous winners of the Gold Cup include fellow countrymen Russell COUTTS, Rod DAVIS and Chris DICKSON, so it would be great if I could join them,"
As an example of the closeness of the competition today, defending Gold Cup Champion RICHARD won the first match against BERNSTSSON and was holding a slim lead on the second beat of the second match. Nearing the windward mark for the second time RICHARD was on starboard and dialled down BERNTSSON on port tack. The young Swede reacted well, dipping RICHARD's transom and luffing hard as RICHARD tacked to port. RICHARD, as the give-way boat, was forced to tack away again. This gave BERNTSSON the edge he needed, and along with a lucky left shift meant he got to the mark just ahead of RICHARD, setting his Argo Group spinnaker and sailing away to level the score. Bolstered by the win, BERNTSSON continued the excellent form he has shown so far in the event and took RICHARD down 3-1 in the series.
After a consolation round of racing for fifth through eighth places - which will still prove crucial in the battle for points towards the World Championship standings, the semi-finals will start on Saturday with AINSLIE facing RAHM and BERNTSSON taking on MINOPRIO.
While the downfall of the top three Tour teams will have them re-focusing forward to the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia, Friday's thrilling quarter-finals still may have an interesting impact on the overall Tour standings. Both COL and RICHARD breathed a sigh of relief when WILLIAMS was eliminated by RAHM. Among the top three in the Tour only COL can get closer to WILLIAMS by two points if he finishes in fifth place, and any worse finish and his points stay the same. For RAHM a win here in Bermuda would see him leap to fourth in the Tour, as would a win by MINOPRIO. As the penultimate event on the World Tour the Gold Cup has delivered some great opportunities for the chasing pack to turn up the heat on the final event.
(GBR) vs Mattias RAHM
(SWE) vs Adam MINOPRIO
(GBR) vs Keith SWINTON
(SWE) vs Ian WILLIAMS
(NZL) vs Sébastien COL
(SWE) vs Mathieu RICHARD
(SWE), Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 5-0
(AUS), Black Swan Racing, 4-1
(SUI), Search.ch, 3-5
(FRA), French Match Racing Team, 1-4
(GBR), Team Origin, 7-0
(FRA), French Match Racing Team/Team French Spirit, 6-1
(FRA), French Match Racing Team, 5-2
(SWE), Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 4-3
(USA), Van Tol Match Racing Team, 1-6
(JPN), Team Albatross, 2-5
(USA), King Harbour Yacht Club, 2-5
(USA), Team 7 Racing, 1-6
(GBR), Team Pindar, 7-0
(NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing Team, 5-2
(AUS), Black Swan Racing, 3-4
(SWE), Alandia Sailing Team, 2-5
(SWE), Berntsson Sailing Team, 6-1
(FRA), French Match Racing Team/K Challenge, 5-2
(SUI), Search.ch, 3-4
(AUS), Mirsky Racing Team, 3-4
(FRA), ETM Match Racing, 2-5
World Match Racing Tour Leaderboard
(Top ten teams after Stage 7 of 9)
1. Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR) Team Pindar, 92 points
2. Sébastien COL
(FRA) French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, 88
3. Mathieu RICHARD
(FRA) French Match Racing Team/ French Team Spirit, 77
4. Torvar MIRSKY
(AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, 53
5. Magnus HOLMBERG
(SWE) Victory Challenge, 51
6. Paolo CIAN
(ITA) Team Shosholoza, 43
7. Bjorn HANSEN
(SWE) Alandia Sailing Team, 40
8. Damien IEHL
(FRA) French Match Racing Team, 37
9. Mattias RAHM
(SWE) Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 34
10. Adam MINOPRIO
(NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand/Black Match Racing, 33
ISAF Match Racing World Championship - www.sailing.org/matchworlds