It was a nail-biting finish of the first offshore race. Sweden's Thomas BLIXT (Sony Ericsson) fought Britain's Matthew HUMPHRIES (Elanders) every inch of the way round the 200 mile course and it was down to the wire right the way to the finish.
Thunderstorms dominated the race throughout the night, and Humphries' team were able to take advantage of the squalls generated by the black clouds, producing up to 30 knots of wind. Blixt was never further than two miles behind, but once Elanders had cleared the island of Anholt, 40 miles north of Sjaelland, Denmark - the island where Copenhagen is situated - a favourable windshift allowed them to pull out some distance on Sony Ericsson, a situation which Blixt was not able to do anything about until the final stages. Sony Ericsson rounded the Anholt east mark eight minutes behind Elanders, but the backmarkers, AV-Teknik, were an hour and a half adrift of the leaders at that point in the contest.
After rounding Anholt, the fleet had a fast 30 nm downwind spinnaker ride north to the Fladen lighthouse, where visability decreased and Humphries extended his lead further.
But, with a dying breeze and a strong northerly current for the final 95 nm beat, it went down to the wire at the head of the pack. Sony Ericsson, with internationally renowned helmsman Jeff SCOTT at the wheel kept up the attack, reducing the deficit and rounding the last mark of the course just two minutes behind Elanders, driven by fellow Kiwi, Ray DAVIES. "He taught me everything I know"
laughed Davies after the finish, "I knew exactly what his next move would be."
Matching each other tack for tack, Scott pushed Sony Ericsson to within two boat lengths of Elanders. The outcome was not decided until Davies drove Elanders across the finish line 46 seconds ahead of Sony Ericsson to claim the points for first place.
"Nobody was making any mistakes,"
explained Humphries after the finish. "One blunder and the other would take advantage. Adrenaline pushed us the whole way. It's much harder to defend your position than to attack,"
"It was a very exciting race, we were match racing for about six or seven hours,"
Thomas Blixt commented. "We had some trouble with the water ballast just after the start and didn't manage to sort it out until after Trubaduren light house. By then Matthew was ahead, although we were in sight of each other whole way."
Further down the fleet, Avant, (M LUNDH (SWE)/W VERBRAAK (NED)), put in a good performance, after an excellent start by their young helmsman Emil WIBERG (SWE). The boat suffered some electrical problems during the night and the team damaged their J2 headsail. Unable to fly the correct sail for the conditions, JMS Next Generation (K HEIBERG (NOR)/S Eneman (SWE)) took full advantage of the situation and sailed away.
"Without the right headsail, it's very difficult"
reported Mikael LUNDH to the race office this morning. "The crew is pretty tired and we have been working hard all night. It's been a very tactical race for us,"
he added. AV-Teknik struggled to be in contention and sailed her own race.
Full results so far are available on the event website at the address below.