Col comes out on top

French skipper goes 2-0 up against Magnus Holmberg in Troia Portugal Match Cup final

Sunday September 28th 2008, Author: Dobbs Davis, Location: United Kingdom
After a long day that started with having to defeat one of his own team mates from the French Match Racing Team, Sebastian Col (FRA) and his crew of Gilles Favennec, Christophe Andre, Philippe Mourniac, and Olivier Douliard have won the Troia Portugal Match Cup. Getting past Magnus Holmberg (SWE) and his Victory Challenge team 2-0 in an exciting Final series, Col and crew have taken the top prize of US$30,000 of the $125,000 purse and earned 25 points on the 2008 World Tour leaderboard.

“This is great!!!" enthused Col. "We just finished our final against Holmberg, 2-0. The two matches were tight. With almost 3 knots of current on the starting line, it was sometimes just impossible to start on the starboard side. We won the first match because we made a good use of the wind. In the second match, we started with a penalty, and after two legs, we were leading at the downwind mark. The rain increased and we protected the left. We gained enough of a lead to be able to complete the penalty on the finish line.

"The semi-final has been more difficult, against Damien Iehl. It was special as we were both able to anticipate all of our opponent’s actions - we have been training together for almost 10 years… We won 3-1, but we didn’t particularly sail well, especially me with the starts. Fortunately, Christophe, Gilles, Olivier and Philippe did a great job to keep close, and sometimes taking over the lead from our opponents.

"We really did progress all the week, but I have to recognise that yesterday I was not very confident about us. But by keeping our approach of each match simple, and by playing with the important parameters of the day (current, laylines approach, use of the rain), we managed to sail really well in the final.

"A big thank you to Olivier Douillard and Philippe Mourniac, it was our first world tour event together. Of course I do not forget Christophe André and Gilles Favennec! And of course our coach, Marc Bouet.”

As Col says, he and his French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge crew had to get better as the conditions became increasingly challenging throughout the day for the remaining teams in the competition. Besides the fresh 15-22 knot easterly blowing straight down the Rio Sada in front of the Troia Resort Marina, the other huge factor today was the strong tidal current, which reached a staggering 4 knots at its peak. This made pre-start and mark rounding tactics interesting and at times unconventional: for example, against the strong ebb current which lie nearly parallel to the wind, it was almost always better to tack than gybe in the pre-starts, and the mark roundings became tricky maneuvers at best. Windward legs were long, drawn out affairs, while runs were over in a flash.

But the day didn’t start with this strong ebb - in fact, it started with a weak flood and a cloud of uncertainty, as three teams in the morning’s final flight of the Round Robin had a shot for the last remaining spot in the Semi-Finals. With Paolo Cian (ITA) from Team Shosholoza defeating Torvar Mirsky (AUS) and the Mirsky Racing Team in the second match, all eyes were on the final run of the third match, where Bjorn Hansen (SWE) and his Alandia Sailing Team were fully entangled in a furious, spinnaker-flogging luffing match with Damien Iehl (FRA) and his quartet of crew from the French Match Racing Team on the final run to the finish. Just metres short of the line, Iehl’s one last luff managed to get his SM40 across by what PRO Miguel Allen said was “20 centimetres,” thus earning him the win and the tie-break to the Semis.

Since yet another member of the French Match Racing Team, Mathieu Richard, was on top from the Round Robin, he was free to choose Holmberg to play, the only non-French team in the stage. It didn’t start well for the mostly-Swedish team (which includes US-based trimmer Charlie McKee): down 2-0 in the first-to-three point series, and with an all-French final looking imminent, Holmberg rallied in the third match to lead Richard around the track and even draw a penalty on his French rival at their bottom mark turn. In a close fourth match, Richard got managed to get past Holmberg on the run towards the bottom mark, but the building ebb tide and an aggressive and clever defense of the inside position took the pair past the mark and had them both sailing back upwind to it in the face of wind and tide. A disastrous kite drop by the French allowed Holmberg to waltz through into a convincing win to bring the series even.

In the last match, Holmberg chose the right side of the beat, Richard the left, and while right was initially favored, it soon caved in, so when Holmberg tacked to cover the closing French, he did so a little too close, earning him a penalty. He still kept the lead by tacking back left, getting to the top and bottom marks first, and extending enough on the beat to do his penalty turn before Richard closed to within only 2 lengths at the finish downwind.

And while Col and Iehl tangled horns in all their matches, Col emerged from the series with his required three points in only four matches, with a collision to Iehl’s stern in a misjudged cross and resultant penalty being the only blemish to his record.

With a major wind shift requiring course realignment and a new boat to rig, the decision was made to shorten the Finals and Petit-Finals to first-to-two points. So, under increasing clouds, breeze, tide, and approaching rain, the stage seemed to have more fireworks among the two French teams in the Petit-Final, with Iehl and Richard taking one each under the watchful eyes of match umpires Manuel Santos Silva (POR) and Pedro Rodrigues (POR) before Richard finally prevailed in a relatively benign third match.

And in the Finals, Holmberg and Col initially split off to different sides of the first beat, with a shoal area on the left side providing a little more relief from the gushing tide than the beach side on the right. Since Col got there and controlled that side better, he led throughout the first match and even managed to extend enough to wipe off a pre-start penalty levied by match umpires Bill Edgerton (GBR) and Alfredo Ricci (ITA) in the second to take the overall win.

The Troia Portugal Match Cup was the seventh of nine stages on the World Match Racing Tour. “This was a great regatta for us,” said event Director Justino Machado, “and we look forward to having the construction completed here at Troia Resort for an even better event next year.”

Overall results

1. Sebastian Col (FRA), French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge $30,000
2. Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Victory Challenge $20,000
3. Mathieu Richard (FRA), French Match Racing Team/Team French Spirit $18,750
4. Damien Iehl (FRA), French Match Racing Team $13,750
5. Paolo Cian (ITA), Team Shosholoza $10,000
6. Torvar Mirsky (AUS), Mirsky Racing Team $8,750
7. Ian Williams (GBR), Team Pindar $7,500
8. Alvaro Marinho (POR), Seth Sailing Team $6,250
9. Adam Minoprio (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing $2,500
10.Bjorn Hansen (SWE), Alandia Sailing Team $2,500
11. Manuel Weiller (ESP) $2,500
12. Nick Cherry (GBR), Cherry Racing Team $2,500

ISAF Match Racing World Championship Leaderboard (Top 8)
(After Stage 7 of 9)
1. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 98
2. Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, 92
3. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team/ French Team Spirit, 87
4. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team , 53
5. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 51
6. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Shosholoza, 43
7. Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Alandia Sailing Team, 40
8. Mattias Rahm (SWE) Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 34

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