Clinched in the final seconds

Ian Williams and Team Pindar beat Mendleblatt in gripping final of the St Moritz Match Race

Monday August 20th 2007, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: France
There was a new ‘King of the Mountain’ crowned after Ian Williams and his Team Pindar nipped past Mark Mendelblatt’s Team Kaenon in the fifth and deciding match of the finals at the St Moritz Match Race. Williams made his passing move just metres from the finishing line to win the Swiss stop on the World Match Racing Tour.

The ‘first to three’ Final went down to the last race and indeed, down to the final seconds. The top two teams in St. Moritz put on a stunning display of match racing, showcasing incredible boat-handling skills and tactical nous in difficult conditions on Lake St. Moritz; the wind on Sunday was extremely shifty and gusty.

Despite occasional rain showers, the grandstand was full again today and the crowd lined the shore of the lake to cheer some of the best sailors in the world. They weren’t disappointed, as the Final couldn’t have been scripted to be more exciting.

In the final race, two-time St. Moritz champion Mark Mendelblatt carried a narrow lead onto the last run to the finishing line, but a great spinnaker hoist by Williams and his crew brought Team Pindar into an overlapped position. Under the racing rules of sailing, Williams was obliged to sail a ‘proper course’ to the finish.

As he moved to make a quick double gybe, which would give him more rights, Williams fooled Mendelblatt into gybing himself. Now holding the starboard tack advantage, Williams watched as the Umpires penalised Mendelblatt just metres from the finishing line. Team Pindar crossed the line to win the match and the series.

“Mark sailed very well all through the Final and really showed us how to handle the boats,” Williams said after the win. “But I think we maybe understand the way the Umpires are thinking a bit more with our experience on the World Tour. He picked up three penalties over the course of the Final and that last one coming into the finish is what decided it.”

Wililams and Mendelblatt split the first four contests with many of the decisive moments coming in the pre-starts. In the first match, Williams forced Team Kaenon over the starting line early and held on for the win; in the second race, Mendelblatt put a penalty on Team Pindar in the pre-start and was never threatened.

The third race was much closer all the way around. So close, in fact, that Mendelblatt picked up a penalty when the front of his boat just touched the back of Williams’ during an intense tacking duel. Williams won to go up 2-1.

“We were gaining in the tacking duel and it was getting close as to whether or not we could swing in behind them,” Mendelblatt explained. “I made a judgement that we could, but I was wrong and we hit them.” In the fourth race Mendelblatt extended an early lead into a convincing win, squaring the series at two wins apiece and setting up the exciting fifth race where the championship would be decided in Williams’ favour.

With the St. Moritz Match Race title, Ian Williams extends the lead of Team Pindar atop the World Match Racing Tour rankings and picks up a generous 35,000 Swiss Francs in prize money, in addition to the coveted ‘King of the Mountain’ title. Mendelblatt and his team of America’s Cup veterans can console themselves with a 22,000 Swiss Franc prize for second place.

In the Petite Final, local Swiss sailor Eric Monnin and his band of brothers swept past defending champion and America’s Cup helmsman Paolo Cian 2-0 to claim third place. The Italian, a popular defending champion, was in tough against Monnin who claimed the hearts of the predominantly Swiss crowd and demonstrated some good local knowledge of the wind shifts on the lake.

“Today we have seen that having connections isn’t only an Italian habit,” Cian joked. “Because the Monnin brothers seem to have a very tight connection with the wind here. They proved themselves on the lake so full credit to them. I’d also like to congratulate the top two teams who put on an incredible display of match racing…well done to both of them.”

This was the fifth edition of the St. Moritz Match Race and at the prize-giving ceremony, the organisers announced their intention to run a sixth edition of the event in 2008, where Ian Williams will have to come to defend his ‘King of the Mountain’ title.

Overall results

1. Ian Williams (GBR) - 35 000 Sfr
2. Mark Mendelblatt (USA) - 22 000 Sfr
3. Eric Monnin (SUI) - 18 000 Sfr
4. Paolo Cian (ITA) - 15 000 Sfr
5. Mathieu Richard (FRA) - 13 000 Sfr
6. Jochen Schuemann (GER) - (Peter Evans - NZL) - 11 000 Sfr
7. Sébastien Col (FRA) - 9 500 Sfr
8. Matthias Renker (SUI) - 8 500 Sfr
9. Michael Hestbaek (GER) - 6 000 Sfr
10. Matteo Simoncelli (ITA) - 5 000 Sfr
11. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) - 4 000 Sfr
12. Evgeny Neugodnikov (RUS) - 3 000 Sfr

Finals results
(First to three points wins the St. Moritz Match Race Final)

Match 1 - Ian Williams beat Mark Mendelblatt
Match 2 - Mark Mendelblatt beat Ian Williams
Match 3 - Ian Williams beat Mark Mendelblatt
Match 4 - Mark Mendelblatt beat Ian Williams
Match 5 - Ian Williams beat Mark Mendelblatt

Petite finals results
(First to two points wins the petite final)

Match 1 - Eric Monnin beat Paolo Cian
Match 2 - Eric Monnin beat Paolo Cian

Semi final results
(First to two points advances to Final)

Match 1 - Ian Williams beat Eric Monnin
Match 2 - Ian Williams beat Eric Monnin

Match 1 – Mark Mendelblatt beat Paolo Cian
Match 2 – Mark Mendelblatt beat Paolo Cian

Sail-off for 5th to 8th

Mathieu Richard beats Sébastien Col
Jochen Schuemann (Peter Evans) beat Matthias Renker

Mathieu Richard (5th) beats Jochen Schuemann (Peter Evans) (6th)
Sébastien Col (7th) beats Matthias Renker (8th)

More photos on the following page...

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