To the wire in every pairing
The other quarter final match saw reigning Match Race Germany champion Damien Iehl (FRA) French Team defeat Francesco Bruni (ITA) 3-1.
The semi finals pitted a fascinating mix of talents against each other, with four time world match racing champion Peter Gilmour (AUS) Yanmar Racing facing three time Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin. Where as in the other semi final pairing it was a case of ‘deja vous’ Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Team found himself in familiar territory as it was to be a repeat of last year's all French affair when he chose fellow country man Damien Iehl (FRA) French Team as his opponent.
Ben Ainslie took the first two races in his semi-final match, even after clearly losing the start in the first race against Peter Gilmour, only for Gilmour to comeback and tie the score going in to the final fifth match. The racing was tight and Gilmour and his Yanmar Racing crew never gave up - they just kept coming back. “The stakes are high and we wanted to win,” Gilmour stated after the racing finished.
The final race was a good reflection of the pair’s whole semi-final with multiple lead changes and whenever either team was behind, they seemed to have the tenacious ability to get right back into the race. The two teams were overlapped at both the first windward mark and then overlapped again as they rounded at the final bottom mark, leaving the match wide open until the final windward leg, where Gilmour split to the right side of the course with Ainslie headed to the left. The wind gradually shifted to the right and when they converged Ainslie had a tidy lead which he was able to hang to until the finish.
When asked to reflect on today’s racing Peter Gilmour said: “Ben and his crew sailed really well. I think the end result comes down to us messing up a couple of starts. In their first couple of races they sailed really confidently however we were able to pull a couple back and it came down the last race. In the final race they were able to get ahead and stay ahead as simple as that.
Ben Ainslie reflected: “It’s been a long 10 hours out on the water today. We had some intense racing with Ian Williams this morning and some further full on racing with Peter Gilmour this afternoon.” As to why his semi final win came down to the last match Ainslie put it down to two things: “We sailed really well in our first two races, however this momentum was disrupted when there was a short break for a corporate fleet race. This gave Peter the opportunity to regroup and take the next couple of races. The second issue was exhaustion. In the final match we won the start and Iain Percy did a fantastic job at calling tactics and we just held the lead the whole way round.”
The second semi final, the tasty all-French match up of Richard versus Iehl, was also a five match nail biter with neither team willing to lie down and concede defeat. When asked about how he felt about choosing Damien Iehl, Matthieu Richard said: “To be the one to choose is not an advantage. I would not like to race Peter Gilmour, but I do not see much of a difference between Damien and Ben.” After four tight encounters the score was two wins apiece with the two teams swapping wins and the semi final looking to go into a fifth match decider. However the umpires handed a ½ point deduction to Richard’s team as he was adjudged to have fouled Iehl in a collision which resulted in damage to the boats. This meant Richard would have to win two more races to reach the final, as it was first to three points wins, which undoubtedly put a little more pressure onto his team. Although the fifth match was a tense affair, Iehl was able to put Richard away and secure his place in tomorrows final against Ainslie.
The stage is set for an all European final which is scheduled to start at 10.00am tomorrow morning.