Williams wins King Edward VII Gold Cup

British match racer takes his first victory on the World Match Tour

Monday October 16th 2006, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United States
British match racer Ian Williams today won the 58th annual King Edward VII Gold Cup with a 3-1 defeat of Frenchman Mathieu Richard.

Williams won the first two races, dropped the third and then closed out the series in the fourth race with a one boatlength victory. He and crew Bill Hardesty (bow and tactics), Gerry Mitchell (headsails) and Mark Nicholls (mainsail) finished with a 13-6 record and won $25,000 of the $50,000 prize purse.

“There’ve been moments this week where I’ve lost it and didn’t know what was going on,” said Williams, 29. “My crew kept me going at all times. It’s just fantastic to have finally won one.”

The win moves Williams into first place in the Match Racing World Championship standings with 35 points, leading Richard by five points. The events of the World Tour determine the ISAF Match Racing World Champion, who will be crowned in December 2007. A total of 15 events comprise the 2006-’07 World Tour schedule.

Richard, sailing with longtime crewmembers Greg Evrard (mainsail and tactics), Olivier Herledant (headsails) and Yannick Simon (bow) finished with a 13-4 record and won $10,000. They entered the final as the hottest team in the competition with just one loss in 13 starts, but Williams was too tough today.

“I’m frustrated because I feel that we could’ve sailed better, especially in the starts,” said Richard, 30, Nantes, France. “I’ve sailed against Ian for a long time and it’s hard to come back against him when he gets the lead.”

In the Petite Final, Bermudian Blythe Walker gave the hometown crowd a reason for celebration when he defeated Eric Monnin of Switzerland, 3-2, to finish third overall. Walker and crew Carola Cooper (bow), Somers Kempe (headsails) and Adam Barboza (mainsail and tactics) finished with a 10-10 record and won $5,000.

Monnin and crew Simon Brugger, Fabien Froesch, Alain Marchand, Marc Monnin finished fourth with a 9-11 record and won $3,500.

Walker blitzed to a 2-0 lead in the Petite Final before Monnin tied the series with two emphatic wins of his own. Walker then pulled a Houdini act in the final race that would’ve made the magician proud. Saddled with a pre-start penalty, Walker led onto the racecourse and held a slim lead around the first two laps of the three-lap race.

On the final upwind leg he more than doubled his lead and led by nearly 1 minute beginning the run to the finish. With a comfortable margin in hand Walker was able to complete his 270-degree penalty turn at the finish line and win third place. “What more could we have given the spectators,” said Walker, 38. “It was a tough way to do it, but we came out on top.”

Dockside murmurs this week said that the Gold Cup line-up was less than stellar because it lacked the star America’s Cup sailors. Instead, this field represents the next wave of match-racers, the 30-something crowd that’s growing with the sport. “Absolutely,” agreed Henry Mennin, the Chief Umpire and Chairman of the ISAF Match Racing Committee. “I think Ian and Mathieu would’ve sailed with anyone this week. They sail smooth and smart and understand the game well.”

The conditions for the final were different from all week. The wind was from the northwest between 4 and 10 knots. It was a shifty and spotty wind. At times it seemed as if both competitors were lifted at the same time despite being on opposite tacks.

Williams pointed to his starting as the difference in being able to win his first championship of a World Tour event. “We seemed to have the timing better than Mathieu today,” he said. “In the end I think Mathieu sailed a little faster than us around the course, but we won four out of four starts. And from there, with those shifts out there, you do that and you can pick your own shifts. One race we got it wrong, but the other three we got it right.”

Williams now goes on race in the Allianz Cup in San Francisco in two weeks time in J/105s. Next week he will be training on board a J/105 with his team in San Diego.

King Edward VII Gold Cup Final Results
Prize Purse: $50,000
Skipper (Country) Team, Record, Prize Money
1. Ian Williams (GBR) Williams Sail Racing, 13-6, $25,000
(Crew: Bill Hardesty, Gerry Mitchell, Mark Nicholls)
2. Mathieu Richard (FRA) Saba Sailing Team, 13-4, $10,000
(Crew: Greg Evrard, Olivier Herledant, Yannick Simon)
3. Blythe Walker (BER), 10-10, $5,000
(Crew: Adam Barboza, Carola Cooper, Somers Kempe)
4. Eric Monnin (SUI) Team Monnin, 9-11, $3,500
(Crew: Simon Brugger, Fabien Froesch, Alain Marchand, Marc Monnin)
5. James Spithill (AUS) Luna Rossa Challenge, 10-4, $2,750
(Crew: Magnus Augustson, Torben Grael, Christian Kamp)
6. Björn Hansen (SWE) Team Apport.net, 8-6, $2,000
(Crew: Martin Angsell, Pontus Meijer, Johan Tempelman)
7. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, 8-6, $1,250
(Crew: Nils Bjerkas, Robert Skarp, Carl-Johan Uckelstam)
8. Chris Law (GBR) The Outlaws, 5-7, $500
(Crew: Karl Anderson, Mark Ivey, Scott Norris)

Final Round
Ian Williams (GBR) Williams Sail Racing, 3
Mathieu Richard (FRA) Saba Sailing Team, 1

Petite Final
Blythe Walker (BER), 3
Eric Monnin (SUI) Team Monnin, 1

Match Racing World Championship Standings
(After Stage 4 of 15)
1. Ian Williams (GBR) Williams Sail Racing, 35 points
2. Mathieu Richard (FRA) Saba Sailing Team, 30 points
3. Sébastian Col (FRA) Areva Challenge, 29 points
4. Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) Mascalzone Latino – Capitalia, 27 points
5. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Viano Mercedes Benz, 25 points
T. Chris Dickson (NZL) BMW ORACLE Racing, 25 points
7. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, 22 points
8. Ed Baird (USA) Alinghi, 20 points
T. Jesper Bank (DEN) United Internet Team Germany, 20 points
T. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 20 points

The Bermuda Department of Tourism is an Official Host Sponsor of the Gold Cup. Event sponsors include Renaissance Re, Max Re, Bermuda Telephone, Bermuda Premium Spirits and Oleander Cycle.

The World Tour is sanctioned by ISAF, sailing’s world governing body. The World Tour Partner and Official Car is BMW (Munich, Germany). World Tour sponsors include Sebago (Rockford, Mich.), the Official Footwear Supplier, Travel Places (West Sussex, England), the Official Travel Partner, and Wedgwood (Stoke-on-Trent, England), the Official Trophy Sponsor.

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