Early lead for Gilmour

After opening day of racing at the Monsoon Cup match racing

Thursday November 30th 2006, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: Australasia
After a trying day beset by light winds and intermittent downpours, Peter Gilmour took the early lead in defense of his title at the Monsoon Cup, Stage 6 of the 2006-’07 World Match Racing Tour.

Gilmour, skipper of PST, finished the day with a 3-0 record to claim the top spot. Behind him is a group of four skippers - including Jesper Bank, Paolo Cian, Sébastien Col and Ian Williams - at 3-1.

“It was a very hard day. The wind was shifting everywhere,” said Cian, a helmsman for Team Shosholoza. “The starts were important and boatspeed is always important. The difference between crossing and not was a half meter.”

While the names at the top of the leaderboard are familiar, it was a 22-year-old Malaysian woman who stole the show. Tiffany Koo, Malaysia’s rising female match-racer, made a splash in her World Tour debut when she won her first match against Asian rival Wearn Haw Tan from Singapore. “I can’t really describe how I feel,” Koo said. “We’re very happy. We won our first race in the Monsoon Cup.”

Koo gained entry to the Monsoon Cup by winning the Malaysian nationals in September. A dinghy sailor by training, she won the 2001 Byte World Championship and a Gold medal in the Laser Radial class at the 2001 Southeast Asian Games, Koo has recently abandoned the small boats to take up match racing and do more big boat sailing. She trims headsails on the 75-footer Jelik.

Koo, however, looked like an experienced hand in her first race. She came off the start line in a split-tack start against Tan, taking port onto the racecourse near the committee boat end. Tan, meanwhile, took starboard up the left side of the race course. About two-thirds of the way up the leg Koo, on starboard, easily crossed Tan with about two boatlengths to spare. She rounded the first windward mark more than 30 seconds in the lead, and never looked back.

The second time around the windward mark she was more than a minute and a half in the lead, and easily on her way to victory. “I was nervous and excited,” Koo said of her emotions heading into the pre-start. “It was a good learning experience. After a few races I pushed to work harder.” Koo finished the day with a 1-3 record.

The wind conditions made the day difficult for all involved. The Race Committee was on the water for more than nine hours, taking a break only for lunch during a monsoon squall.

The wind this time of year is typically from a northerly quadrant, but today it blew from a southerly quadrant and was light, topping out around 6 knots in puffs. There were other factors that compounded the mental strain on the sailors, such as the ripping current and short racecourses.

The Pulau Duyong Basin sits at the confluence of two rivers. The tide rips through before flowing to the South China Sea. On a racecourse barely 300 meters long, the racing was tight and placed a huge emphasis on starting. Then, the winning move seemed to be heading to the right side of the first beat, where there was current relief. “It was a right-hand day, which was also the right-of-way tack,” said Gilmour. “It was a nice place to be.”

Gilmour scored wins over Bjorn Hansen, Peter Holmberg and Col for his 3-0 mark.

The vagaries of the conditions caught several experienced hands out on a few occasions. James Spithill, of Luna Rossa Challenge, lost to Tan after leading comfortably around the second windward mark. Spithill Gybed to starboard after the rounding, which should’ve put him in better current. Tan held port towards the shoreline. When they converged again two-thirds down the run Tan crossed ahead of Spithill and hung on for his only win of the day in five starts.

Spithill, however, came back against Williams in Flight 6. He led around the first lap, let Williams back in the race at the bottom of the second upwind leg, only to overtake the Briton again at the second windward mark.

Williams also scored a come-from-behind win, versus Bank. “It was a difficult course to call today,” said Williams. “The left looked better for pressure but the right was better for tide.”

“The wind was all over the compass,” said Bank, who has excelled in light and shifty winds at the Danish Open. “I can’t compare this at all to Copenhagen.”

Racing is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning around 9:45 a.m., weather permitting.

Monsoon Cup Round Robin Provisional Standings
(After 6 of 17 scheduled flights)
1. Peter Gilmour (AUS) PST, 3-0
(Crew: Rick Brent, Christian Scherrer, Graeme Spence, Yasuhiro Yaji)
2. Jesper Bank (DEN) United Internet Team Germany, 3-1
(Crew: Henrik Blaksjaer, Thomas Jacobsen, Mike Mottl, Jan Schoepe)
T. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Shosholoza, 3-1
(Crew: Ian Ainslie, Fernando Colaninno, Pierluigi Fornelli, David Rae)
T. Mathieu Richard (FRA) Saba Sailing Team, 3-1
(Crew: Thierry Briend, Greg Evrard, Olivier Herledant, Yannick Simon)
T. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 3-1
(Crew: Bill Hardesty, Mark Nicholls, Simon Shaw, Mark Williams)
6. Sébastien Col (FRA) Areva Challenge, 2-2
(Crew: Christophe Andre, Benoit Briand, Gilles Favennec, Thierry Peponnet)
T. James Spithill (AUS) Luna Rossa Challenge, 2-2
(Crew: Magnus Augustson, Torben Grael, Michele Ivaldi, Joe Newton)
8. Peter Holmberg (ISV) Alinghi, 1-2
(Crew: Rodney Ardern, Lorenzo Mazza, Dean Phipps, Piet van Nieuwenhuyzen)
9. Tiffany Koo (MAL) Team Selango Gapurna, 1-3
(Crew: Rolf Heemskerk, Jeremy Koo, Ong Khong Sing, Looi Sing Yew)
T. Björn Hansen (SWE) Team Apport.net, 1-3
(Crew: Martin Berntsson, Kalle Kjerstadius, Staffan Lindberg, Magnus Woxen)
11. Wearn Haw Tan (SIN) China Team, 1-4
(Crew: Thierry Barot, Xavier Husson, Yurii Siegel, Zhang Wenpei)
12. Adam Minoprio (NZL) Black Match Racing, 0-3
(Crew: Nick Blackman, Tom Powrie, Josh Puckey, Dave Swete)

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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