Scandinavian semis

Mattias Rahm up against his Victory Challenge skipper at Match Cup Sweden

Saturday July 7th 2007, Author: Dobbs Davis, Location: Scandinavia
After a long wait through a windless morning, the breeze finally filled from 10 to over 16 knots from the west to produce the most exciting match race sailing yet at Match Cup Sweden. All but one Quarter Final pairing went to three matches in the first-to-two point series, with all four winning teams hailing from Scandinavia to advance to the Semi-Final Round. Mattias Rahm (SWE) and Magnus Holmberg (SWE) of Victory Challenge, and Bjorn Hansen (SWE) and Jesper Radich (DEN) also started their Semi-Final battles today, which will be concluded tomorrow to determine which teams will advance to the Finals.

But Radich is on the ropes: despite having the most wins of any team in the double round robin, the ex-Desafio Espanol team member has dropped two to Hansen in their first two matches of the first-to-three point series, making his first match tomorrow a must-win effort to stay alive in the round. Hansen said: "We’re certainly happy about having had a good day, with some very close matches with Mathieu [Richard in the Quarter Final round], decided only by seconds. But we’re still nervous about Jesper, because we watched him being so fast in the round robins."

Nevertheless, Hansen is no stranger to the Semi-Finals in this event, and feels he has the momentum and confidence to carry on. "This time we want to go all the way," he said.

Radich, despite his current predicament, still seemed relaxed and confident. "Bjorn does seem fast in the breeze, and we may have been caught in our set-up being more for light air. But we’ve debriefed about this, and we’ll be ready for tomorrow."

Rahm and Holmberg, tied in the series with one win each, were team mates on the Victory Challenge, but this has not meant their matches have been congenial by any means. The tight, aggressive pre-start manoeuvres characteristic of these teams experienced in sailing the tight-turning DS 37s is in stark contrast to their sparring in Valencia on IACC yachts. The last match was particularly exciting, with the lead changing six times, including during a furious tacking duel on the last weather leg where Rahm was able to just barely maintain his edge to stay in front.

"Yep, its all tied up with the boss," said Rahm. "Its been two years since we sailed these boats as a team, but the guys are doing great."

Holmberg added: "These boats are as far from Cup boats as you can get, so we’re still trying to get the feeling for things. But I’ve really enjoyed the sailing, we’ve had great racing between two great teams."

The quick build in the breeze during the Quarter Finals did, however, have its down side. The DS 37s used in the competition sped around the track faster than the Race Committee expected, creating complex overlap problems between unmatched pairs that disadvantaged some teams in their critical matches. Gavin Brady (NZL) won the favoured left side of the start in his third, must-win match against Magnus Holmberg, only to tack and find himself facing two starboard tack boats with the right of way rounding their leeward mark, forcing him to duck two boat lengths to leeward, thereby conceding the lead.

And later up the same windward leg, Sebastien Col (FRA) was in the lead in his must-win match against Mattias Rahm, when first Holmberg forced him to tack, and then with nowhere to go he inadvertently interfered with Brady and was given a penalty by the umpires. Col maintained his lead but was unable to shed this penalty before Rahm beat him to the finish.

On this, Holmberg said: "The Race Committee should try its very best to try and not have these situations."

Nonetheless, the day was a spectacular counterpoint to the dreary rain and windless conditions which have plagued much of this event. The westerly breeze direction meant the race course was perfectly situated in the Marstrand fiord to allow thousands of weekend spectators on hand to view all the action, entertained and informed by public address commentary provided on site. The numerous sponsor pavilions, the seaside promenade, and the natural rocky amphitheatre on this south coast of the island makes Match Cup Sweden unique among World Tour events to enjoy match race sailing.

Semi-final standings
(First to three point series)
Mattias RAHM – Victory Challenge (SWE) 1
Magnus HOLMBERG – Victory Challenge (SWE) 1

Björn HANSEN – Team Onico (SWE) 2
Jesper RADICH (DEN) - 0

CONSOLATION ROUND STANDINGS:
(First to two, then playoff for 5th – 8th places)
Gavin BRADY – BMW Oracle Racing (NZL) 1
Sebastien COL - Areva Challenge (FRA) 1

Simon MINOPRIO (NZL) 1
Mathieu RICHARD – Saba Sailing (FRA) 1

FINAL PLACINGS:
9th place: Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE)
10th place: Ian WILLIAMS – Team Pindar (GBR)
11th place: Evgeniy NEUGODNIKOV – Lord of the Sail Team (RUS)
12th place: Eric MONNIN (SUI)
13th place: Torvar MIRSKY (AUS)
14th place: Claire LEROY (FRA)
15th place: Jenny AXHEDE (SWE)
16th place: Malin MILLBOURNE (SWE)

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