Triple Olympic gold medallist Ben AINSLIE of Great Britain and Sweden's Mattias RAHM seized the early initiative on day one of the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Hamilton, Bermuda, presented by Argo Group, the penultimate stage of the 2008 World Match Racing Tour.
In conditions which featured blustery north breezes approaching 25 knots in strength, the action was fast and furious in Hamilton Harbour for the first day of round robin racing at the King Edward VII Gold Cup, presented by Argo Group. With 24 invited teams divided into three group of eight, this event has the largest field of competitors of any on the 2008 World Match Racing Tour, and after three flights of racing in each group the regular Tour team are emerging towards the top of the standings.
Undefeated in his Group 1, Mattias RAHM
(SWE) and his Stena Bulk Sailing Team have not appeared in a Tour event since their win at Stage 4, Match Cup Sweden in Marstrand. RAHM attributed his success today to practice sessions he's had with fellow Swede Johnie BERNTSSON
in the traditional-style International One Designs (IODs) which are used in this event and to which they have access back home.
"These boats are very heavy, and turn slowly, so planning your moves is very important,"
said RAHM. For his part, BERNTSSON, competing in Group 3, nearly had the same 3-0 record as RAHM but for one penalty turn performed on the finish line with just a few metres shy of what was needed to defeat local Bermudian Blythe WALKER
in the last flight of the day.
Current Tour leader Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR) and his Team Pindar also had an undefeated day, but due to damage sustained on rival Andy HORTON
's (USA) boat in Group 2, the pair's match today was postponed until tomorrow. So besides BERNTSSON and WILLIAMS, no less than six other teams who frequent the Tour - Sébastien COL
(FRA) and his French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, Bjorn HANSEN
(SWE) and his Alandia Sailing Team, Adam MINOPRIO
(NZL) and his Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing Team, Torvar MIRSKY
(AUS) and his Mirsky Racing Team, and Damien IEHL
(FRA) and his French Match Racing Team - are all on two points after the day's racing.
Other teams on two points include Pierre-Antoine MORVAN
(FRA) and Keith SWINTON
(USA), while the remaining teams in the field are either on one point or are looking for their first win.
A team which has heretofore performed abysmally in their previous Tour event has shone bright indeed on their first day of racing, joining RAHM on an impressive 3-0 score. British Olympic medallist Ben AINSLIE
and his Team Origin have thus far not only gone undefeated, but had most of his opponents today tied up in penalties as well. This is a far cry from his last-place performance at Match Cup Sweden, held just days before his departure for this past summer's Olympic Games in Qingdao, though he claims he felt they sailed well there but just couldn't get the conversions to win.
"I've got a great team with me here, but I don't think we sailed all that poorly in Marstrand to deserve that finish. We just didn't get any breaks there, and so far things are just coming together better for us here,"
While getting some breaks can make the difference needed for a winning score, avoiding the breaks can as well. In a particularly blustery match in Group 3, COL seemed to have things well in hand in his match against Don WILSON
(USA), having gotten a penalty against WILSON in the pre-start and extending to a five-length lead around the track. But just several lengths shy of his first leeward mark rounding, COL's boom snapped at the vang in a particularly large puff, forcing his team to improvise downwind and upwind trim solutions for the mainsail for the remaining two laps around the course. And while WILSON got by COL to take a several-length lead, COL and his team's extraordinary efforts and clever techniques kept the lead from extending further, and after performing his penalty turn at the finish line, COL was so close to very nearly taking back the match.
Round Robin racing resumes on Wednesday at the King Edward VII Gold Cup, presented by Argo Group, with Group 2 starting in the morning, followed by Group 3 then Group 1.
Current standings, after 3 flights:
(GBR), Team Origin, 3-0
(SWE), Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 3-0
(FRA), French Match Racing Team/Team French Spirit, 2-1
(FRA), French Match Racing Team, 2-1
(JPN), Team Albatross, 1-2
(USA), Van Tol Match Racing Team, 1-2
(USA), King Harbour Yacht Club, 0-3
(USA), Team 7 Racing, 0-3
(GBR), Team Pindar, 2-0*
(SWE), Alandia Sailing Team, 2-1
(NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing Team, 2-1
(USA), Black Swan Racing, 2-1
* match postponed
(FRA), French Match Racing Team/K Challenge, 2-1
(AUS), Mirsky Racing Team, 2-1
(SWE), Berntsson Sailing Team, 2-1
(FRA), ETM Match Racing, 2-1
(SUI), Search.ch, 1-2
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