New match race underway

Grimaldi and Swinton early leaders at the Chicago Match Cup

Saturday August 22nd 2009, Author: Dobbs Davis, Location: United Kingdom
Juan Grimaldi (ARG) and his Tag Heuer Sailing Team and Keith Swinton (AUS) and his Black Swan Racing team have taken an early lead in the first day of racing at the Chicago Match Cup, amassing 6-0 and 6-2 records respectively among the 11 international teams gathered for this ISAF Grade 2 event. Their next nearest rival on the leaderboard is Phil Robertson (NZL) and his Waka Racing Team, who lay just one win back on a 5-1 record in this first Round Robin stage of the competition.

The offshore westerly breeze today varied not only in strength from 8 to 20 knots, but also shifted wildly in direction, making each match a challenge for all teams to properly read the shifts but also for Principal Race Officer Bill Canfield and his race management team from the Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC) to strive to keep the courses and starting lines square. Nonetheless, an impressive ten flights were completed today, with short courses set just yards off the shoreline north of the entrance to Belmont Harbor and shoreside spectators kept entertained all day by the action of four matched pairs locked in battle in the CMRC’s fleet of distinctive and equally-matched TOM 28 class yachts.

The flat water conditions in the course area also allowed on-site use of the CMRC’s 70ft two-story houseboat, dubbed “the Bread Box,” as a floating spectator platform, command center, and sometime pick for dueling pairs in their pre-start battles.

“Match race sailing has two parts to it – match racing and sailing – and Juan and his team did a fabulous job of the latter part,” said commentator and America’s Cup alumnist Dee Smith, who narrated all the action from an aerial position on the Bread Box’s upper deck. “They did not do very well at their starts, but they soon got right into the groove of the shifts, and sailed really smoothly as a team.”

This should be no surprise: even though this may be Grimaldi’s first regatta in the TOM 28’s, he was runner-up in 2001 at the J/24 World Championship, and even though he says he’s been match racing only three years, he has met with early success as the winner of the regional qualifier to last year’s Brasil Sailing Cup on the World Match Racing Tour. Grimaldi has surrounded himself with a team that has sailed together for over 5 years, with bowman Herman Marino having been with him for an astounding 20 years.

In contrast, at 26th Swinton is the highest-ranked match race skipper in this field and has been honing his skills at this game for the past six years on and off the World Match Racing Tour and numerous other Grade 1 and 2 match racing events in Europe and the Antipodes. He and his team are now on the start of his US tour of three Grade 2 events, and reckons these are important to his team’s achievement goals of being consistent in their performance.

“These events are key to our success as a team this year,” said Swinton. “We know that we can do really well but it is just putting everything into practice on the water when it counts.”

Of the shiftiness of the day’s breeze, Swinton’s bowman Nick Bastow said “With a 6-2 score line in these really tricky conditions I think we can be fairly happy with the day.”

Round Robin match race action resumes tomorrow at 9 AM CDT, after which the top eight teams in the standings will advance to the next Quarter Final stage of the competition.

Results after Day One (based on percentage wins):

1. Juan Grimaldi (ARG), Tag Heuer Sailing 6-0
2. Phil Robertson (NZL), Waka Racing 5-2
3. Keith Swinton (AUS), Black Swan Racing 6-2
4. Lars Nordbjaerg (DEN) 4-3
5. Dave Perry (USA), Team Perry 3-3
6. Rueben Corbett (AUS), Black Sheep Racing 4-5
7. Taylor Canfield (ISV), Team ISV 3-4
8. Takumi Nakamura (JPN), Albatross Sailing team 3-5
9. Laurie Jury (NZL), Kiwi Match 2.5-5
10. Don Wilson (USA), Convexity 2-6
11. Chris Van Tol (USA), Van Tol Match Racing 1-6

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