Ben Ainslie (TEAMORIGIN), Jesper Radich (Gaastra Racing Team), Bjorn Hansen (Hansen Global Team) and Torvar Mirsky (Mirsky Racing Team) all progressed through to the semi finals, but not before spectators were treated to some world class matches.
It was an action packed afternoon at the Monsoon Cup, the final round of the 2010 World Match Racing Tour being sailed in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia to decide the 2010 ISAF Match Racing World Champion.
The afternoon quarter finals started in a south westerly breeze of six to twelve knots, with tricky conditions and strong current running down the river after heavy monsoon rains, which continued during the racing.
The second quarter final pitted Ben Ainslie
(TEAMORIGIN) against Mathieu Richard
(French Match Racing Team). The big question was 'Could the 2010 World Match Racing Tour leader Mathieu Richard defeat the British triple Olympic Gold medallist and take the World Championship?'
Ben Ainslie dominated the pre-start. Richard tried to get into the gap between Ainslie and the Committee boat but he had no rights and a collision occurred. Richard was over early, earning a red flag penalty.
Ainslie quickly settled. Richard was six lengths behind as conditions softened away but he caught up quickly. Then in an ensuing tacking duel, Richard on port dialled down. Ainslie bore away hard and then held his course, aiming at Richard. Richard took no evasive action and Ainslie on starboard hit him amidships with a thundering bang that was heard across the river. Penalty against Richard.
Downwind Richard went out into the current, gained speed and rolled the British champion, but Ainslie kept the race tight and Richard attempted to do his penalty turns on the finish line. Ainslie sailed through to win.
Much lighter conditions in the second match where Richard lost the start but had better speed and out sailed Ainslie, making better use of the current and puffs in the fluky conditions. Score 1-1.
Ainslie, frustrated with his loss in the soft conditions that Richard appears to thrive on, commented predictably, 'It's just a lottery. The conditions were pretty terrible for sailing.'
It was however the best of five or first to three matches, so the game was not yet over.
In the third match, Ainslie shut out Richard at the Committee boat, they engaged in a tacking duel with Ainslie protecting the right. Ainslie had a three lengths lead at the top mark. At the bottom mark Richard went to the disadvantaged right hand mark and the British TeamOrigin crew were five lengths ahead down the last run. Ainslie was 2-1. Richard explained ruefully 'A bad pre-start … my mistake, so I have to be better for us to stay in this championship.'
In Match 4, Richard squeezed between Ainslie and the Committee boat with less than a metre to spare. Ainslie was forced to the left and there was a lot of separation. Richard was initially ahead on the right but a long range cross saw Ainslie clearly ahead, he went on to victory and won the quarter final 3-1.
Dockside Ainslie said 'Often when teams are sailing within themselves they are very good, so we went out deliberately to mix it up, to push them in the starts and in that port/starboard. We rattled their cage.'
Richard said simply 'It was a huge blow for us and for our World Championship and Monsoon Cup chances. Ben won the starts but we were sailing well on the course, twice we started behind and caught him, but it was not enough. It's disappointing but c'est la vie.'
However Mathieu Richard had not given up hope of claiming the World title. 'There is still a little chance for us to win the World title. We have to make it to fifth place and Ben must not finish first or second.'
Out on the Terengganu River, the battle of the Western Australians was taking place in another of the quarter finals.
It was a must win match for Peter Gilmour
(YANMAR Racing) as he faced his younger rival Torvar Mirsky
(Mirsky Racing Team). Mirsky was 2-0 having had the better of his former mentor in the previous two matches.
Mirsky started at the favoured pin end and tacked back to the left with more current. Gilmour was slightly ahead but Mirsky ducked and was bounced back twice. Then there was a small shift in favour of Mirsky and the lead changed and Mirsky went on to take the match, finishing 3-0.
'We did not sail well. Torvar left us with crumbs. This is the first time we are not in semi finals. But I am proud of Torvar and his team'
said Gilmour. He smiled. 'I am starting to rue the day I decided to teach a few young kids a little about match racing. Back to the drawing boards for us for 2011.'
Mirsky was sporting a wide smile. 'We are really happy. We had the edge on speed, we could choose well and it's great to take down the old Master. The reality is we'd not be here if was not for Peter who has been a big part of our careers.'
Mirsky and his MRT crew went into the semi finals, along with Ben Ainslie and TEAMORIGIN, who finished the quarters at 3-1.
In other Quarter Final matches in this action packed session, the Monsoon Cup's top qualifying skipper Ian Williams
(Team GAC Pindar) chose to race Bjorn Hansen
(Hansen Global Team) but succumbed to the tenacious Swede, going down 3-1.
Williams was shattered. 'Bjorn had the magic. We won three first crosses but Bjorn had more speed. We have won four round robins out of seven this year and we have not won a series. We have some serious thinking to do.'
Bjorn Hansen was beaming. 'We enjoy being in Malaysia, this will be our third semi finals in four times here. We hope we can do as well tomorrow.'
Francesco Bruni (Team Azzurra) and Jesper Radich
(Gaastra Racing Team) battled in another hard fought quarter final, the only one going to a best of five matches. In the end it was Radich who won the right to go through to the semi finals, defeating Bruni 3-2. Francesco smiled. 'We saw the movie losing 3-2 against Jesper in Sweden.'
Jesper Radich recounted 'We have reorganised our onboard responsibilities and we are all focusing better on our individual tasks and its yielding good results.'
Monsoon Cup 2010 Quarter Finals Results:
(Hansen Global Team) defeated Ian Williams
(Team GAC Pindar) 3-1
(Gaastra Racing Team) defeated Francesco Bruni
(Team Azzurra) 3-2
(TEAMORIGIN) defeated Mathieu Richard
(French Match Racing Team) 3-1
(Mirsky Racing Team) defeated Peter Gilmour
(YANMAR Racing) 3-0
Round Robin Results:
Ian Williams (GBR) - 8 wins 1 losses
Ben Ainslie (GBR) 8 wins 2 loss
Jesper Radich (DEN) - 8 wins 2 losses
Francesco Bruni (ITA) - 6 win 3 losses
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) - 6 wins 4 losses
Torvar Mirsky (AUS - 6 win 5 losses
Peter Gilmour (AUS) - 4 win 5 losses
Mathieu Richard (FRA) - 5 wins 6 losses
Adam Minoprio (NZL) - 4 wins 7 loss
Keith Swinton (AUS) - 2 win 7 losses
Philip Robertson (NZL) - 2 win 7 losses
Jeremy Koo (MAS) - 0 wins 10 losses
ISAF Match Racing World Championship microsite
World Match Race Tour - www.wmrt.com