A win for Bjorn Hansen
“For me it was great fun," said a wet but elated Hansen, “but I’m just the guy in the back holding the stick while the four guys in the front do all the work. My team was fantastic!” For their efforts, Hansen, the first Swedish skipper to have won in the history of this event, and his team win the GKSS Match Cup Sweden overall prize and 24,000 Euros in prize money.
Match race sailing always requires teams have the utmost skill in timing, tactics, and precision boathandling. But today’s blustery conditions also required of them offshore skills as well, since the near-gale westerly breeze gusted to nearly 40 knots throughout the day, creating waves that crested to over two metres high in the course area. For the audience assembled on the cliffs, the course area was a spectacular scene of breaking waves, spewing sea foam, and huge gusts of wind, with the DS 37s under reefed mains and jibs launching and crashing off the tops of the waves upwind, and hurdling at planing speeds in wild showers of spray off the wind.
Hansen and his team displayed an outright mastery of these conditions, which were extreme by any standard. In his penultimate match against Holmberg, for example, his upwind speed and pointing allowed him to lead back to the start line in perfect form, keeping Holmberg out at the left end of the line and forcing the rival Swede to have to tack. This opened an immediate three-length lead that Hansen extended to several times that by the end of the first lap around the two-lap course.
"Bjorn and his crew sailed really, really well today," said Holmberg. "In the bigger breeze and waves in the afternoon, we were just off on our timing," he said.
Even Jesper Radich (DEN), who was defeated in four matches by Hansen in the Semi-Finals, paid tribute to his speed today. He said "It was a joy to watch the way his team was working the trim and the boat today."
The level of skill exhibited by the eight remaining teams in the event was far more than just surviving the conditions, as all battles were hard-fought, both in pre-starts and around the track.
For example, in the first match of the Finals, Holmberg rounded the mark just behind Hansen, and threatened to overtake and pass him to windward. But despite over 30 knots of wind and the huge seas at the mouth of the fiord at this end of the course, Hansen luffed Holmberg hard, spinnakers flailing wildly, sending both boats to within only 2 lengths of the breaking surf at the edge of the cliff. Only then did Hansen break off, sails sheeted in, and once the boat was off on a plane, gybe away to starboard.
Another example of these teams pushing hard was in the last match of the Petit Final, where on the final spinnaker run to the finish Mattias Rahm (SWE), putting every last effort into trying to catch Jesper Radich (DEN) just a few lengths ahead, broke his mast just 100 metres from the finish.
"We felt we were closing on him, planing on the waves, then the bow stuffed into the back of a big wave. The boat stopped and the rig just kept going," said Rahm. The bright green Santa Maria spinnaker carried the spar forward over the bow, and crew member Claes Dahlberg was thrown overboard in the process. The whole sequence occurred just metres in front of the hundreds of spectators arrayed on the cliffs to watch the action.
Hansen’s victory has also earned him 25 points on the World Tour, advancing him from 13th to 4th in the Tour standings. Mathieu Richard earned 8 points with his 6th place finish to maintain his position at the top of the leaderboard.
Final places and prizes:
1st place: 24 000 Euro Björn HANSEN – Team Onico (SWE)
2nd place: 15 000 Magnus HOLMBERG – Victory Challenge (SWE)
3rd place: 12 000 Jesper RADICH (DEN)
4th place: 10 000 Mattias RAHM – Victory Challenge (SWE)
5th place: 9 000 Gavin BRADY – BMW Oracle Racing (NZL)
6th place: 8 000 Mathieu RICHARD – Saba Sailing (FRA)
7th place: 7 000 Sebastien COL - Areva Challenge (FRA)
8th place: 6 000 Simon MINOPRIO (NZL)
9th place: 2 000 Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE)
10th place: 2 000 Ian WILLIAMS – Team Pindar (GBR)
11th place: 1 500 Evgeniy NEUGODNIKOV – Lord of the Sail Team (RUS)
12th place: 1 500 Eric MONNIN (SUI)
13th place: 1 000 Torvar MIRSKY (AUS)
14th place: 1 000 Claire LEROY (FRA)
15th place: 0 Jenny AXHEDE (SWE)
16th place: 0 Malin MILLBOURNE (SWE)