After the previous day's 30 knot battering, summer holiday conditions returned today to Skovshoved Havn, the northern suburb of Copenhagen, where the Danish Open 2003, the first event of Swedish Match Tour 2003/2004 is in full swing.
With the lightning of the conditions to 16-18 knots, the racing also improved with crews spending less time trying to prevent their boats from wiping out and more time on tactics. "It was more manageable and interesting because yesterday the margins for the skippers were quite high which meant there was no real contact,"
observed Danish Open organiser Morten Lorenzen. "Today we have had quite a few contacts, so when the breeze decreases, the skippers can get more aggressive. Yesterday was more of a survival game. Today they were really fighting hard."
In a long day out on the water, the remaining matches of the round robins series were completed by lunchtime. Topping the scoreboard on nine points apiece were Australian America's Cup veteran Peter GILMOUR, now sailing for Team Pizza La, and former Victory Challenge afterguard Magnus HOLMBERG of Sweden, here with his Team Stora Enso match racing crew. Due to his beating Gilmour in the round robins it was Holmberg who landed the top spot going into the semi-finals.
Local hero and double Olympic medallist Jesper BANK also squeezed through into the top four after winning one of the most aggressive matches of the day from Frenchman Luc PILLOT. The race saw both parties awarded pre-start penalties. "We had a penalty in the pre-start and we are not very happy about it,"
said Pillot later. "It was a port-starboard call, but it was moving and of course at the end we were close, but he could always change his course so we were quite upset about that."
Morten LORENZEN was impressed by Bank's determination, saying that it is typical of the Dane's tactic in regattas to start slowly and crank up as the regatta progressed.
The main complaint of the day for all the skippers was over the extreme wind shifts, that became increasingly dramatic as the wind lightened over the course of the day.
"We had big shifts and also big changes of pressure and sometime you entered into a zone of no pressure,"
described Luc PILLOT of Mother Nature's complexities out on the water today. "You can see them but it is not easy to know what is going to happen after. The pressure was coming suddenly from the shore, coming down to the sea and we had to take what we had - to tack or to continue."
Britain's Andy BEADSWORTH of Team Henri Lloyd said that the shifts tended to be very short. "You could come round the leeward mark sometimes and think you're going to lay. At other times you could lay on the other tack."
The British team including other former GBR Challenge crewmen Matt CORNWELL, Ian BUDGEN and Richard SYDENHAM had a disappointing day dropping all three races sailed. Beadsworth admitted that in the pre-start in the first race with Magnus Holmberg he had underestimated how the DS37 yacht would turn under genoa as opposed to jib (fitted on all the boats today because of the lighter winds), while he lost on a penalty to Italy's Paolo CIAN of the Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team and had lost the match against Bank when the Dane had benefitted from a wind shift.
Jesper RADICH who is based here in Copenhagen and knows the local conditions explained what was happening. "It is very extreme when you have such a hot surface of the land and the cold wind coming down. So the puffs get extreme," he said, adding that when the wind is westerly here and blowing off the land it obviously gets shifty, but not usually to the degree seen today where shifts of up to 50degrees were commonplace.
In a competitive regatta such as this there must be losers as well as winners and among the surprises were former Mascalzone Latino helm Paolo Cian who ended the round robins last and Poland's Karol JABLONSKI who finished eighth.
"We spent more time trying to get this boat going fast and we didn't spend enough time looking for the right shifts, which is why we lost a couple of matches pretty closely. Still we are racing here against some of the best guys in the world and we just weren't good enough to beat them," said Jablonski.
"I think in our preparation for this season, we have made a couple of mistakes,"
said Gram Hansen. "We haven't spent enough time sailing as we've been working so hard to find sponsorship for the sailing and to make the team stronger in terms of sponsorship and that is pretty tough when you are not succeeding in that task, then you get frustrated, and you go into a downward spiral. We know we are capable of sailing well. In this we have led a lot of the races, but we are not quite sharp enough."
With the round robins out of the way, the first half of the semi-finals and the petit-semis to determine positions five to eight, were held in the afternoon by which time the wind had dropped to a very shiftly 4-10 knots still out of the west.
Remarkably with two of the five semi-final races now complete the underdogs are in a strong position.
With conditions expected to be similarly light and very fluky on the final day of the regatta tomorrow, the outcome of the Danish Open is still anybody's guess.
Magnus Holmberg v Jesper Radich: 1-1
Peter Gilmour v Jesper Bank: 0-2
Karol Jablonski v Andy Beadsworth: 2-0
Kelvin Harrap v Luc Pillot: races to be sailed tomorrow
Danish Open Round Robin Standings
Skipper Wins Losses
1.Magnus Holmberg, SWE/Team Stora Enso 9-2
2.Peter Gilmour, AUS/Team Pizza La 9-2
3.Jesper Radich, DEN/Team Radich 8-3
4.Jesper Bank, Denmark 7-4
5.Luc Pillot, FRA/Team Pillot 7-4
6.Kelvin Harrap, New Zealand 6-5
7.Andy Beadsworth, GBR/Team Henri Lloyd 4-7
8.Karol Jablonski, POL/Jablonski Sailing Team 4-7
9.Roy Heiner, Netherlands 4-7
10.Jes Gram-Hansen, DEN/Team Victory Lane 3-8
11.Lars Nordbjaerg, Denmark 3-8
12.Paolo Cian, ITA/Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team 2-9