A three-horse race has been reduced to two, and it's going down to the wire.
Peter GILMOUR (AUS/Pizza-La Sailing Team) and Jes GRAM-HANSEN (DEN/Team Denmark) remain on track to win the Mercedes Benz SLK 200 at Match Race Germany, an event of the Swedish Match Tour.
The two skippers have maintained perfect records through eight flights as the event rolls into its middle stages. The first skipper to win 10 straight races will win the silver Benz roadster.
"I haven't really got my head around it yet,"
said Gilmour. "Jes is sailing bloody well. It should be exciting with his group and ours going down to the wire."
The two aren't scheduled to meet each other in the next flight, Flight 5, but event organizer Eberhard Magg said if they both win in that round then the schedule might be adjusted to set up a one race battle in Flight 6.
Gavin BRADY (NZL/BMW Oracle Racing Team) was in the hunt at the beginning of Round Robin C (in place of the quarterfinals), but fell out of contention after losing to Frenchman Bertrand PACÉ.
The light wind conditions of the first three days have forced a rescheduling of racing at Match Race Germany. Instead of conducting a quarterfinal round as originally scheduled, the race committee put the top four from Groups A and B into Round Robin C.
Each team will sail seven races, and the top two teams will advance to the finals, while third and fourth will race the petit final.
"Every race is critical now if you want to get to the final,"
Gilmour had a couple of close calls. In his first round robin match against Monin, there was a plastic bag wrapped around the propeller shaft. "We couldn't shake him loose,"
said Gilmour. "We won by two or three lengths, but he kept nipping at our transom."
In his second match against Pace, a rematch of the Swedish Match Tour final in Croatia, where Pacé defeated Gilmour 3-0, Gilmour made a patented mess out of the start.
He pushed Pacé over the start line early but also put himself over the line early. Gilmour had an easier escape route though, and bore away on port to clear the line while he jibed to starboard.
That put him to leeward of Pacé, and he prevented Pacé from dipping back below the line. The two were locked together fending off before Pacé finally tacked to port and bore away to clear the line. Gilmour sailed away to a 1-minute-plus win.
Gilmour also had a close one with Frenchman Luc PILLOT, winning by half a length. The two crews traded the lead three times, but the Pizza-La Sailing Team was able to roll Pillot in the last quarter of the run to keep their perfect record in tact.
On the contrary, Gram-Hansen continued his subtle dominance of the racecourse and his opponents. His starting technique has been flawless, always coming off the line with speed and control. From there, Team Denmark covers and covers until they're across the finish.
Gram-Hansen and crew defeated Ellegast, Monin and Mathieu Richard (FRA) to run their record to 8-0.
The winds continued to fluctuate today, although they averaged more than the 5 knots that dominated the first two days of racing. Winds this morning were out of the north and started at 12 to 14 knots, but faded to zero by the time Karol JABLONSKI'S crew drifted across the finish, the last finisher in the last flight.
A lengthy postponement ensued until the wind filled in from the south between 6 and 10 knots. That helped finish the Group A round robin, which saw Gilmour, Brady, Pacé and Tino Ellegast advance to the next round.
Ellegast, the local hero who gained entry to Match Race Germany by finishing second at last weekend's feeder regatta, advanced after winning a three-way tiebreaker with Karol JABLONSKI (POL) and Lars NORDBJERG (DEN).
Each scored one win in their five round robin matches, but Ellegast advanced on a complicated system that eliminated the first match among the three qualifiers. That system threw out the Flight 1 match between Ellegast and Nordbjerg, which was won by the Dane.
Ellegast then advanced due to his win over Jablonski, the world No. 1-ranked match-racer, in Flight 2. As one umpire said, it's not a great system, but it's a system.
The four eliminated skippers from the Group A and B round robins - Jablonski, Michael DUNSTAN (AUS), Nordbjerg and Ray DAVIES (NZL) - placed 9th through 12th, respectively.
Round Robin C Standings
(After 5 flights)
1. Peter Gilmour/AUS, Pizza-La Sailing Team, 3-0
Crew Yasuhiro Yaji, Mike Mottl, Kazuhiko Sofuku, Carsten Kemmling
= Jes Gram-Hansen/DEN, Team Denmark, 3-0
Crew Rasmus Kostner, Christian Kamp, Michael Arnhild, Henning Sohm
3. Bertrand Pacé/FRA, 3-1
Crew Benoit Briand, Thierry Fouchier, Fabrice Levet, Claas de Jong
4. Gavin Brady/NZL, BMW Oracle Racing, 2-1
Crew Dirk de Ridder, Sean Clarkson, Brad Webb, Andreas John
5. Luc Pillot/FRA, 2-1
Crew Tanguy Cariou, Christian Scherrer, Teva Plichart, Florian Weser
= Mathieu Richard (FRA), 1-2
Crew Yannick Simon, Olivier Herledand, Pierre-Alexis Ponset, Christoph Fuchs
5. Tino Ellegast/GER, 0-3
Crew Arne Gülzow, Rudi Monteu, Philipp Hofstetter, Holger Lehning
6. Eric Monin/SUI, 0-4
Crew Jean-Claude Monin, Marc Monin, Alain Marchand, Caspar Büttner
Final Round Robin Standings
Group A (After 5 of 5 flights)
1. Peter Gilmour/AUS, Pizza-La Sailing Team, 5-0
2. Gavin Brady/NZL, BMW Oracle Racing, 4-1 (3.25 points, due to penalty from International Jury)
3. Bertrand Pacé/FRA, Team France, 3-2
4. Tino Ellegast/GER, 1-4
5. Karol Jablonski/POL, Toscana Challenge, 1-4
Crew Markus Wieser, Tom Baranowski, Piotr Przybylski, Wolfgang Käfer
6. Lars Nordbjaerg/DEN, 1-4
Crew Thomas Hartvig, Niels Gramkov, Henning Lambertsen, Martin Metzing
Group B (After 5 of 5 flights)
1. Jes Gram-Hansen/DEN, Team Denmark, 5-0
2. Eric Monin/SUI, 3-2
3. Luc Pillot/FRA, 3-2
4. Mathieu Richard (FRA), 3-2
5. Michael Dunstan/AUS, OzBoyz Challenge, 2-3
Crew Nick Partridge, Ben Morrison-Sack, Seve Jarvin, Tobi Aulich
6. Ray Davies/NZL, Team New Zealand, 0-5
Crew Kelvin Harrap, Carl Williams, Matti Paschen, Jan Reblin