Light five knot winds could easily have made the last day of the ISAF Grade 1 Danish Open about as interesting as watching paint dry.
Nonetheless, the 1,000 spectators packed onto the mole off Skovshoved Havn were treated to a day of lively and highly tactical match racing between some of the top names in the business, with the ultimate result being a decisive win for Sweden's Magnus HOLMBERG of Team Stora Enso over this former Victory Challenge teammate, Jesper BANK of Denmark.
This is Holmberg's third straight Danish Open win (he didn't complete last year due to commitments to the Victory Challenge) and the second consecutive time he has ended up in the finals facing Jesper BANK.
The morning saw the final rounds of the semi finals competed. Peter GILMOUR took the first race off Jesper BANK, but Bank won the next race to go 3-1 up and gain the spot in the final. In the other semi final series Magnus HolmBerg saw off Jesper RADICH in both races to take his semi-final series 3-1 too. There was some controversy in the final race of this series as the sea breeze was attempting to overcome the gradient breeze causing four massive wind shifts.
Four minutes into the first windward leg Jesper RADICH said they'd experienced a 'self tacker' where the wind had dropped away to nothing and then kicked in 90 degrees to the course. Then on the next downwind leg when Radich's team was holding a lead of around 30 seconds they came to a complete stop while Holmberg on the other side of the course maintained the pressure and turned his loss into a 30 second lead.
"The third time was when we put the spinnaker up on the second upwind leg because we were reaching so much and the fourth time was when Magnus was leading at the second upwind mark by five minutes and we came back and nearly passed him,"
recounted Radich. Event director Morten LORENZEN said he felt they were justified continuing with the race. "The dice were thrown in each direction, both boats led and at the end of the day Radich ended on the wrong side, but only by one boat length. But it was a difficult situation."
With the onshore sea breeze established for the afternoon's finals and petit-finals the start line was moved to a position within 100m of the spectators, who were able to see the full cut and thrust of the pre-starts. These were particularly hard fought between Radich and Gilmour, sailing for the bronze medal.
With a 1-1 scoreline, Radich lined up against Peter GILMOUR in the final race of the petit-finals for the deciding match. "We put him into the red zone and there was no room to tack but he tacked and he hit us full speed,"
complained Radich of how his controlling move in the pre-start had turned against him. "It was completely a red flag penalty."
Both boats then dived for the favoured pin end which Gilmour won. The Australian then proceeded to lead Radich around the course with sufficient margin to carry out his penalty turn to gain bronze position in the series. "He won the race, even though we had him in the red zone 30 seconds before the start,"
said an amazing and disgruntled Radich. "I think we sailed really well, but things happen sometimes. We have good days, but today was really a bad day."
"Peter likes to sail a tight race and knows how minimise the chances of his opponent gaining,"
explained Gilmour's trimmer Mike MOTTL, who like all of Team Pizza La were part of Gilmour's OneWorld America's Cup challenge in Auckland. "As a result he will tend to tack back shorter and minimise the amount of leverage that an opponent will have. That makes it more exciting for us sailing with him...as well as for the spectators."
After a similar incident yesterday when Gilmour's boat collided with Jesper BANK'S during a pre-start manoeuvre there are some who believe that Gilmour has been sailing too aggressively. However Gilmour's high octane tactics made for excellent spectator viewing and during tight moments in the pre-starts or mark roundings or crosses the gathered crowds were making the same 'oohing' and 'ahhing' noises one normally associates with the crowd at a fireworks display.
The final between Magnus HOLMBERG and Jesper BANK was a more clinical affair. "I think the key moments were the two first races where we managed to get off to the right side of the course, even if we weren't the first boat over the line,"
described Holmberg. "We could see that was favoured and we gained heaps on that side."</>I
For the third race the right hand side of the course was not so favoured and Holmberg felt he won it on the first run.
"Jesper gybed away and we continued in what we felt was good pressure and angle and then we managed to extend again." In the best-of-five final Holmberg dispatched the Danish double Olympic gold medallist and his fellow Victory Challenge teammate in three straight matches.
"Earlier in the week it was very shifty back and forth, but today it was a case of just hitting the right and you take off,"
Jesper Bank said that they had carried out their 'plan' to perfection, it was just that it had been the wrong plan. "We did what we had planned but at the end of the day their game plans were the right ones and they got what they wanted,"
he said of his competitor's performance.
Event director Morten LORENZEN said he was pleased by the way the Danish Open had gone. "I would like to have had another winner, but that is my nationality coming in there! This event has had everything - high wind, high seas and high waves and a fair amount of drama and I think we had a great event."
The spectators turn out - a mixture of general public and corporate guests was equally impressive. "I think we have proved that match racing and sailing can be a spectator sport. We have been working with these events for the last 10 years. When we started it was just my mum here!"
Danish Open Round Final Standings
1.Magnus Holmberg, SWE/Team Stora Enso
2.Jesper Bank, Denmark
3.Peter Gilmour, AUS/Team Pizza La
4.Jesper Radich, DEN/Team Radich
5.Kelvin Harrap, New Zealand
6.Luc Pillot, FRA/Team Pillot
7.Andy Beadsworth, GBR/Team Henri Lloyd
8.Karol Jablonski, POL/Jablonski Sailing Team
9.Roy Heiner, Netherlands
10.Jes Gram-Hansen, DEN/Team Victory Lane
11.Lars Nordbjaerg, Denmark
12.Paolo Cian, ITA/Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team