In an action-packed day American Mike Buckley landed the biggest shock of the year when he delivered a hammer blow to ISAF World Match Racing Tour leader Mathieu Richard in the opening race of this year’s Danish Open earlier today.
The tour has a reputation for unearthing great new talent – this was seen again when Buckley, placed 665th in the world rankings, showed no regard for reputation to lead Richard from start to finish for the biggest victory of his career. Buckley then looked on course for an incredible second victory of the day, when in his very next race he led reigning World Match Racing Tour Champion Adam Minoprio of ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing until the very last moment.
With the 28 year old American on course to spring the second major shock of the day, Minoprio showed all the guts and determination that led him to be World Champion, to mug Buckley on the finish line in a move that was crowned play of the day.
“This is just my third match race so to win first up was amazing. Although Mathieu is ranked number one and a great sailor we try and treat all the boats the same. Our aim was to get a clean start and not get drawn into over match racing. We had another great race against Adam but unfortunately the wind dropped on the final leg and he just got us on the line.” said Buckley
The Danish Open is the seventh stage of the nine-round ISAF World Match Racing Tour, that sees the sailors compete against one another over the opening two days of competition, with the top four going through to Saturday’s semi-finals. The skills of the crews were pushed to the absolute limit as they battled strong winds with fierce gusts of up to 33 knots.
The weather took its toll with several boats needing running repairs, while 20 year-old newcomer to the tour, William Tiller of Full Metal Jacket experienced first hand how tough the conditions were, with one of his crew being knocked overboard. The most experienced teams were also challenged to the limit – TeamOrigin's Ben Ainslie also saw fellow gold medalist Iain Percy dumped in the water as they wiped out in a titanic struggle with Sweden’s Bjorn Hansen.
Four-time World Champion Peter Gilmour of Yanmar Racing, however, was one of the few skippers to take the extreme conditions in his stride, to win all three of his races, the only skipper to finish the day with a 100% record.
Fans packed along the shore had two home crews to follow, with Dane Susanne Ward and Mads Ebler flying the flag for the host country. Elber finished the day with 1 win and 2 losses while Ward, who was suffering a major weight disadvantage, failed to get on the score sheet.
With eight of the 12 teams facing knock out in tomorrow’s round of qualifying races in advance of Saturday’s semi-finals, skippers will be under intense pressure to avoid losing a single match. Although the wind is forecast to moderate over night, there will be no relief for sailors from the intensity of the action.
Standings after Day 1 of Qualifications
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 3-0
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team 4-1
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 2-1
Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing 2-1
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN 3-2
Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Global Team 3-2
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Azzurra 3-2
Bertrand Pacé (FRA) Aleph Sailing Team 2-3
Mads Ebler (DEN) Ebler Matchracing 1-2
Michael Buckley (USA) MB Sailing 1-2
William Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing 0-3
Suzanne Ward (DEN) Team Ward 0-5