Jablonski leads the charge

Pole ISAF match race no1 unhappy with winning Round Robin group at Swedish Match Cup

Wednesday July 7th 2004, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: Scandinavia
Karol Jablonski, the Polish skipper who believes winning round robins at match-race regattas is a bad omen, won the Group A round robin today at the Swedish Match Cup with a 5-2 record and advanced to the quarterfinals of the final event on the Swedish Match Tour 2003-'04.

While Jablonski advanced to Stage 3, Mattias Rahm (SWE), Chris Law (GBR), Gavin Brady (NZL), Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Jesper Bank (DEN) and Johnie Berntsson (DEN) advanced to Stage 2, scheduled for Friday. Michael Dunstan, winless in seven matches, was eliminated from competition.

The format of the Swedish Match Cup splits the 16 skippers into two groups of eight. Each group sails a single round robin, with the two winners advancing to Stage 3, the quarterfinals, scheduled for Saturday. The last-placed team is eliminated.

The six crews placing 2nd through 7th in each group advance to Stage 2, which is a knock-out series with the first to three points winning. Stage 2 is scheduled for Friday.

Along with all of this, there's a women's regatta being conducted, a pro-am regatta and numerous other sidelights which forces the racing to be spread out over many days and creates large downtimes for some competitors.

"I didn't want to win the round robin," said Jablonski, who has been unsuccessful at past events after winning the round robin. "But it's not something you can manage."

Jablonski won the round robin at the Swedish Match Tour event in Croatia in 2003, but finished fourth. At last year's Swedish Match Cup, Rahm won one of the two round robins and then was promptly eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Part of the problem at the Swedish Match Cup is that there is a two day lay off from winning Group A until the quarterfinals. "Last year we didn't have the same attention in the quarterfinals as we did in the round robin," Rahm said. Jablonski won the round robin in the last flight of Group A, but due to no success of his own. He lost to Holmberg in that flight.

Rahm, however, lost to Berntsson. That created a tie between the two skippers at 5-2, which Jablonski won based on yesterday's victory over Rahm. In a match featuring penalties against both teams, Berntsson beat Rahm by no more than 3 seconds. Rahm was penalised first, when he gybed to starboard at the leeward mark and didn't give Berntsson enough room to keep clear.

Berntsson, however, gave up the penalty advantage on the second beat, when he tacked too close to Rahm. That foul canceled Rahm's penalty, and set up a thrilling run to the finish with the crews bow to bow in the last 100 meters. Berntsson got the last surge, to claim the narrow victory. "I'm convinced this is good for us," said Rahm. "I think we can win the next round robin."

Jablonski also had a thrilling come-from-behind victory, snatching a win
away from Brady. Brady won the pre-start and led around the first lap of the two-lap course. Jablonski worked the left side of the second beat and closed up to round the
second windward mark on Brady's transom.

Jablonski worked the right side of the run, the same side that paid for him upwind, while Brady was to his left. Jablonski said he felt there were better puffs on that side of the course. He gybed to port and back toward the center of the course and then gybed to starboard to windward and just ahead of Brady. Brady clung to a slight overlap, but Jablonski broke it. Both boats gybed to port for the finish line, but the committee boat end was closer and Jablonski gained the win.

"It was a close match. It was very puffy and shifty," said Jablonski. "Now I have two days off to try and relax." Jablonski just hopes it won't be two days en route to ruin.

While Group A completed its initial round robin today, Group B is scheduled to sail its first round robin tomorrow. Group B skippers feature Ed Baird (USA), Russell Coutts (NZL), Peter Gilmour (AUS), Bjorn Hansen (SWE), Peter Holmberg (ISV), Staffan Lindberg (FIN), Lars Nordbjerg (SWE) and Luc Pillot (FRA).

Final Group A Round Robin
1. Karol Jablonski/POL, Toscana Challenge 5-2
Crew: Tom Baranowski, Piotr Przybylski, Markus Wieser, Jacek Wysocki
2. Mattias Rahm/SWE, Team Stena Bulk 5-2
Crew: Johan Barne, Nikas Carlzon, Claes Dahlberg, Pontus Meijer
3. Chris Law/GBR, The Outlaws 4-3
Crew: Oscar Angervall, Daniel Bjorndahl, Anders Dahlsjo, Henrik Valderyd
4. Gavin Brady/NZL, BMW Oracle Racing 4-3
Crew: Dirk de Ridder, Ross Halcrow, John Kostecki, Brad Webb
5. Magnus Holmberg/SWE, SeaLife Rangers 4-3
Crew: Martin Krite, Lars Linger, Oskar Ljung, Stefan Rahm
6. Jesper Bank/DEN 3-4
Crew: Thomas Jacobsen, Time Nielsen, Morten Halkier, Henrik Blakskjaer
7. Johnie Berntsson/SWE 2-5
Crew: Henrik Hansson, Nils Bjerleas, Martin Berntsson, Robert Skarp
8. Michael Dunstan/AUS, OzBoyz Challenge 0-7
Crew: Glen Atrill, Wade Morgan, Ben Morrison, Nick Partridge

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