Williams and Ainslie through to semi-finals
On a frustrating day for the six teams battling to reach the semi-finals of the St. Moritz Match Race, perhaps the biggest fight was off the water between the gradient northerly wind and the thermally induced southerly, which left the race course peppered with monumental wind shifts, holes and gusts.
The weather has tested the skippers’ mettle all week and today it created a spectacular sporting moment that had the crowd holding its breath. It looked as if it was all over for reigning ‘King of the Mountain’ Adam Minoprio of ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing in his match against France's Damien Iehl.
Iehl, looking to build on a remarkable previous day, had what seemed like an insurmountable lead however he hit a hole and unfavourable wind shift just before the finish line. At the same time, Minoprio caught a big gust that he rode all the way to the end, storming past Ihel just two boat lengths from the finish. The King of the Mountains clearly controls the wind however it was a hollow victory: “Damien did a really good job extending his lead around the course. Then, when it was almost all over, he sailed into a hole and we sailed round him. I really don’t feel good about it, but we need the points.”
No skipper was given Minoprio’s luck forcing them to relentlessly pursue every possible advantage. A pre-start incident between TeamOrigin's Ben Ainslie and Swede Björn Hansen saw the umpires find in favour of the British team, as Ainslie explained: “It was a 50-50 situation in which we had to keep clear when Hansen luffed us hard. It was a difficult decision for the jury as to whether he had been too aggressive, or whether our response was too slow. Luckily they decided in our favour.”
Next up was a French derby between Iehl against Bertrand Pacé of Aleph Sailing Team. There was no love lost though as Richard tried to pin Pacé outside the line at the start. In a super-close rounding of the second mark, Richard had the favoured inside line, while Pacé collected a penalty for failing to give him space giving Richard the advantage which he held to the finish.
In what proved to be the final chapter of the day, Ainslie held a big lead over Hansen when a wind shift of such magnitude made it difficult for Hansen to hold the spinnaker. Despite vehement protest from Hansen’s team, the race was not abandoned giving Ainslie a second and decisive win to join fellow Brit, Ian Williams of Team GAC Pindar, in the semi-finals.
The battle between the two wind systems continued through the afternoon, and despite supreme efforts by the race committee, racing eventually had to be abandoned for the day. The remaining quarter-final races to decide the two teams that will face Ainslie and Williams in the semi-finals, will take place at 1000 local time tomorrow morning.
Quarter-final results at the St. Moritz Match Race:
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar: goes straight to semi-final
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAM ORIGIN: 2
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team: 1
Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing: 1
Bertrand Pace (FRA) Aleph Sailing Team: 0
Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Global Team: 0
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team: 0