Early lead for Ainslie

TeamOrigin skipper 6-2 up, ahead of Barker, after the opening day of the Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta

Wednesday March 3rd 2010, Author: Warren Douglas, Location: New Zealand

Shifty winds and strong tides on Auckland’s Waitemata harbour tested the teams competing in the opening day of the Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta today and produced a results board that defied any form guide.

Spectators were treated to extremely close racing, with spectacular luffing duels, tight finishes, penalties and collisions as teams fought for ascendancy. At the end of a full day’s racing, Ben Ainslie topped the leaderboard with a 6-2 score while Dean Barker (NZL, Adam Minoprio (NZL) and Bertrand Pace (FRA) were on 5-3 each.

“The level is very high,” commented America’s Cup veteran Pace. “Everybody can beat everybody else.”

This regatta has pitched young rising stars New Zealander Adam Minoprio and his Aussie arch rival Torvar Mirsky (read more about these two here) against a fleet of more seasoned America’s Cup campaigners. Minoprio and Mirsky, who are ranked one and two on the World Match Racing Tour, are having their work cut out against more experienced match racers with lower rankings because of their infrequent appearances on the world circuit.

One of the closely watched battles of the day involved Minoprio against Dean Barker and his Emirates Team New Zealand crew, with the young BlackMagic team claiming a valuable victory by 8 seconds.

The match saw two lead changes and a penalty against Barker, before the outcome was decided.

“That was pretty good,” said a relieved Minoprio afterwards. “That is a big win for us.” In the close racing, every point was gold and Minoprio predicted a very tight tussle to decide the four semi-finalists at the end of the double round robin.

Barker agreed and said if the conditions continued it was going to be very difficult for one team to leap clear and dominate. “It is very hard to win races. Everybody is sailing well and everybody is losing some matches.”

Barker won the tightest match of the day, coming from behind to beat Sebastien Col of France by just 1 second. The biggest margin of the day saw Ben Ainslie of Great Britain defeat Bertand Pace of France by 1 min 31 secs after a fiery match in which Pace was penalised twice during a fierce luffing match. Fireworks also marked the match between Karol Jablonski of Poland and Sebastien Col, with Col penalised after a pre-start collision.

Skippers who have accepted invitations to compete are: Dean Barker (NZL – Emirates Team New Zealand); Ben Ainslie (GBR – Team Origin); Francesco Bruni (ITA – Azzurra Sailing Team); Sebastian Col (FRA – former Areva Challenge); Karol Jablonski (POL – former Desafio Espanol); Magnus Holmberg (SWE – former Victory Challenge); Chris Dickson (NZL – former BMW ORACLE Racing); Bertrand Pacé (FRA – former BMW ORACLE Racing); Adam Minoprio (NZL – BlackMatch Racing); Torvar Mirsky (AUS – Mirsky Racing Team).

Racing takes place under the auspices of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in identical Farr-designed MRX yachts and comprises a double round robin, semi-final and final. Weather permitting, the semi-finals and finals will be decided by the first skipper to win three matches.

As the regatta approaches its climax on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (March 4 – 6), spectators and fans will be able to follow the action live on a dedicated radio station on 103fm organized through LiveSPORT. International yachtsman and commentator Peter Lester will provide expert analysis and blow by blow accounts of the racing (listen live when the racing is on here)

The Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta is the opening event of the Auckland Festival of Sailing, which comprises a series of on and off the water events. The Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta is followed by the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland (where five of the skippers from the Omega regatta will also compete) and by the BMW Sailing World Cup Final. Also part of the festival is the Auckland International Boat Show.

Results after eight flights
Ben Ainslie (GBR)    6-2
Dean Barker (NZL)   5-3
Adam Minoprio (NZL)         5-3
Bertrand Pace (FRA) 5-3
Karol Jablonski (POL)         4-4
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) 4-4
Chris Dickson  (NZL)          3 / 5
Magnus Holmberg  (SWE)   3 / 5
Sebastien Col  (FRA)          3 / 5
Francesco Bruni  (ITA)        2 / 6

Flight One
Ainslie bt Dickson by 17 secs; Barker bt Mirsky by 31 secs; Bruni beat Col by 8 secs; Minoprio beat Holmberg by 10 secs; Pace beat Jablonski by 29 secs.

Flight Two
Mirsky beat Bruni by 9 secs; Col beat Holmberg by 5 secs; Dickson beat Minoprio by 31 secs; Jablonski beat Ainslie by 35 secs; Pace beat Barker by 12 secs

Flight Three
Col beat Dickson by 23 secs; Minoprio beat Jablonski by 12 secs; Barker beat Ainslie by 9 secs; Mirsky beat Pace by 14 secs; Holmberg beat Bruni by 18 secs

Flight Four
Minoprio beat Barker by 8 secs; Ainslie beat Pace by 1min 31 secs; Mirsky beat Holmberg by 18 secs; Bruni beat Dickson by 19 secs; Jablonski beat Col by 30 secs

Flight Five
Ainslie beat Mirsky by 47 secs; Holmberg beat Dickson by 5 secs; Jablonski beat Bruni by 7 secs; Barker beat Col by 1 sec; Pace beat Minoprio by 34 secs

Flight Six
Holmberg beat Jablonski by 24 secs; Barker beat Bruni (DNF); Pace beat Col by 24 secs; Ainslie beat Minoprio by 30 secs; Mirsky beat Dickson by 18 secs

Flight Seven
Minoprio beat Col by 48 secs; Jablonski beat Mirsky by 27 secs; Dickson beat Barker by 11 secs; Pace beat Holmberg by 16 secs; Ainslie beat Bruni by 4 secs

Flight Eight
Barker beat Jablonski by 27 sec; Dickson beat Pace by 14 secs; Ainslie beat Holmberg by 44 secs; Col beat Mirsky by 8.5 secs; Minoprio beat Bruni by 1 min 9 secs



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