Swedes on fire

Sean McNeall reports from the ACI Adris Match Race Cup

Friday May 26th 2006, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: Mediterranean
A pair of Swedish teams stand 1-2 atop the standings of the 20th annual ACI Adris Match Race Cup, Stage 6 of the 2005-’06 World Match Racing Tour.

Johnie Berntsson and Björn Hansen both posted 7-2 records through 10 of the 11 flights scheduled in Round 1 (each has had a bye), but Berntsson beat Hansen to gain the top spot. “We weren’t very well prepared for this event and we have two new guys in the crew,” said Berntsson. “But it worked out well. We had good speed and that was our biggest advantage.”

ACI Cup reigning champion Peter Gilmour of Australia and Italy’s Paolo Cian are tied for third with 6-3 records. They’re scheduled to face off tomorrow morning in the final flight of the round to determine the tiebreaker. “The Scandinavians were very strong, congratulations to them,” said Cian. “We’re happy with six wins, even if I didn’t have good starts. The crew sailed well and we came back a few times.”

The ACI Cup got into full swing today after yesterday’s virtual rain out. Abundant sunshine and northwesterly winds topping out at 12 knots replaced the liquid nightmare. With temperatures in the high 60s, it simply was a gorgeous day for match-racing. “Maybe it was a little cold compared to Swedish weather,” quipped Hansen, a glutton for punishment who raced in 46 degrees and rain last weekend.

The crews were itching for action. Chief umpire John Standley reported 53 requests for penalties and issued 25 penalties. “It’s a high rate of penalties, but there’s a high standard of sailing here,” he said. “The sailors don’t ask for the penalty if they don’t think they’ve been fouled.”

The calls had Principal Race Officer Alen Kustić worried all day. “We were afraid of sinking,” he said. “Two or three of the calls were for hitting the race committee boat.”

The penalties influenced some matches, in particular the one between Berntsson and Hansen in Flight 6. The match was close up the first leg as Hansen, on port tack, approached the starboard-tack Berntsson.

Berntsson tacked to cover and Hansen luffed. Hansen thought Berntsson’s tack was too close, and Berntsson rolled over and opened a two- or three-boatlength lead. Berntsson was penalized, but Hansen felt he gained a significant advantage. “I thought it should’ve been a red flag penalty,” Hansen said, which would’ve required Berntsson to do the penalty immediately.

The match remained close until the finish when Berntsson, leading, performed his 270-degree penalty turn. He came out on port tack while Hansen approached on starboard. Hansen felt he was fouled again, but the umpires didn’t agree and Berntsson won the match.

Berntsson showed great speed in beating Gilmour in Flight 4. Gilmour was able to tag Berntsson with a penalty for being late in the start box, but Berntsson unloaded the penalty at the first mark. Gilmour approached on starboard and Berntsson was clear ahead on port. The clean option for Gilmour would’ve been to duck behind Berntsson and follow him into the mark. “But that’s not in our playbook,” said Gilmour. “So we jammed it in there and hit the mark.”

Berntsson gained the lead, temporarily. Gilmour got it back by the leeward mark, but lost it on the second upwind leg, Berntsson working the left side of the course to his advantage when Gilmour didn’t cover. Berntsson rounded the top mark with a two- to three-boatlength advantage, which he wouldn’t relinquish. “It was very good to win,” said Berntsson. “The guys did a great job in that match, they handled the boat well. It gets the blood pumping and the team in rhythm.”

While the story of the day was the fine performances from the Swedes, the sub plot was “beat up on Gilmour” day. Hansen, too, beat the reigning event champ in another close match.

“That was the highlight of the day,” said Hansen. “That was a tight match, never more than one boatlength. It’s tough to stay in front of the big guys. It was very satisfying.”

Gilmour also lost to local hero Dario Kliba. Kliba’s first regatta was the ACY Mini Cup in 1989 one week after the ACY Cup (as it was called back then), which he sailed in an Optimist as an 8-year-old boy. He received a certificate of participation, which his father reminded him of last week.

Today, the 25-year-old Kliba took down Gilmour for the second time in two years. Last year he split his matches with Gilmour. “We had a good pre-start,” said Kliba, who says his starting needs to improve to take the next step. “We kept our concentration. It was a good way to start the day to beat him.”

“Dario’s been sailing these boats a lot. He beat us going away,” said Gilmour. “You spend enough time match-racing and eventually you work it out. You understand what needs to be done to win.”

Racing is scheduled to resume tomorrow at 11:00 am.

2006 ACI Cup Provisional Standings
(After 10 of 22 scheduled flights, including byes)
1. Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Team Semcon, 7-2
(Crew: Johan Bäckman, Johan Karlsson, Björn Lundgren, Martin Strömberg)
2. Björn Hansen (SWE) Team Hansen, 7-2
(Crew: Mathias Bredin, Mathias Hermansson, Pontus Meijer, Johan Qviberg)
3. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Viano Mercedes Benz, 6-3
(Crew: Ian Ainslie, Nando Colaninno, Pierlugi Fornelli, Salvatore Pavoni)
T. Peter Gilmour (AUS) PST, 6-3
(Crew: Rod Dawson, Thierry Douillard, Kazuhiko Sofuku, Yasuhiro Yaji)
5. Mathieu Richard (FRA) Saba Sailing Team, 5-4
(Crew: Greg Evrard, Olivier Herledant, Jean Philippe Saliou, Yannick Simon)
T. Ian Williams (GBR) Williams Sail Racing, 5-4
(Crew: Jesper Feldt, Wade Morgan, Mal Parker, Mark Williams)
7. Dario Kliba (CRO) Croatia One, 5-5
(Crew: Slaven Celiã, Hrvoje Koðtiã, Nikola Prlenda, Benèiã Murizio)
8. Philippe Presti (FRA) Luna Rossa, 4-5
(Crew: Paolo Bassani, Tom Burnham, Ben Durham, Andy Fethers)
9. Evgeny Neugodnikov (RUS) Lord of the Sail, 3-6
(Crew: Alexander Ekimov, Oleg Krivov, Nikolay Kornev, Maxim Taranov)
10. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, 2-7
(Crew: Nils Bjerkås, Niklas Carlzon, Peter Krull, Emil Wiberg)
11. Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Extreme Team Morbihan, 0-9
(Crew: Vincent Biarnes, Devan Le Bihan, Mathieu Renault, Erwann Taulois)

The World Tour is sanctioned by ISAF, sailing’s world governing body. BMW is a Partner of the World Tour and the Official Car. World Tour sponsors include Sebago (Rockford, Mich.), the Official Footwear Supplier, Travel Places (West Sussex, England), the Official Travel Partner, and Musto (Essex, England), the Official Clothing Supplier.

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