Light, fluky breezes played havoc with the form guide yesterday at the ISAF Grade 1 Match Race Germany on Lake Constance.
the prvious day's more steady winds saw, Dane Jes GRAM-HANSEN of Team Victory Lane at the top of his game, whilst his compatriot and close rival for the overall lead of the Swedish Match Tour, Jesper RADICH, had a shocking day. yesterday in the quarterfinals, Gram-Hansen crashed out of overall contention with 0 wins in 6 races, while Radich used some searing downwind pace to come from behind in three heats, and finish the day at the top of the leaderboard with 5 wins and just 1 loss.
Radich complained that he was too caught up in the complexities of the 20-foot Diamond 2000 yacht to be able to consider the tactics properly, but yesterday he felt comfortable, even in the light airs that proved the undoing of such strong performers as Gram-Hansen and the German Markus WIESER, a former winner of this event."We kept on claiming the right hand side of the course, and even though it was the unfavoured side, we had enough speed to come back into the race. We were able to pass people downwind with very good boat handling.
"We are feeling very confident right now. It is nice to feel eager to sail and eager to race. We have respect for everyone here, but no one scares us,"
he said. Radich also slayed the myth that 'Boat No.3' was slow. Matthias RAHM of Sweden had exited the first stage of the competition saying that the boat was slow, and his view seemed vindicated when he went on to win the sail-off for 9th to 12th places in a different boat yesterday. Gram-Hansen was the next to be allocated the 'slow boat', and Radich admitted he was a little concerned when he drew No.3 this morning. "I wasn't too happy to get the boat after Jes had lost his races, but we had no problems with speed today."
Gram-Hansen was at a loss to explain his dramatic fall from grace. Certainly, the margins by which he lost were tiny, but then that is the nature of match racing. His match against Radich was a classic, with the lead changing on each of the four legs, before Radich grabbed a last-gasp victory of less than a boat length across the line. "We don't know what we did wrong today,"
shrugged Gram-Hansen afterwards. "That was certainly a bad day but we don't have anything we can point to as the problem."
The other casualty of the day, with no hope left of progressing to the semifinals, was Markus Wieser, who like Gram-Hansen was bewildered by his loss of form. But he admitted that his team were perhaps a little heavy for the conditions.
"I swapped my bowman and middleman around from the previous day because I think we had too much weight in the bow the other round," he said. When the margin for error is so small in such high-quality, close racing, it is tough to make such a fundamental change without it affecting performance. But Wieser, who has semi-retired from match racing and does just three events a year for fun, was able to be philosophical about his bad day.
Luc PILLOT would have had a perfect day but for an unfortunate oversight in his final evening match against American Ed Baird. With the Frenchman leading down the second run by a very comfortable margin, he failed to note the race committee's change from two laps to three, and while he sailed prematurely for the finish line, Baird rounded the leeward mark for the final lap and left the Frenchman in his wake.
This leaves Pillot and Baird on 3 wins 1 loss, the same score as German Jochen SCHUMANN who is doing enough to keep his semi-final hopes alive with some solid sailing. It must be a relief to get on the water for the America's Cup winner who, from the moment he steps ashore is hounded for interviews and autographs from journalists and fans alike. He takes it all in good grace and seems to be enjoying the opportunity to race in small boats on home waters after such a long absence in Auckland.