Raw deal for Williams
Ian Williams and Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group crashed out of Stage 8 of the ISAF World Match Racing Tour in dramatic fashion following a three way tie-break between his team, Adam Minoprio and Ben Ainslie, each team on 4 wins and 1 loss.
After a tense period of deliberation locked away in the race office, the committee called for a sail-off. Each skipper drew a letter. Minoprio drew ‘A’, Ainslie drew ‘B’ and Williams was left with ‘C’. Under the scheme, Minoprio would sail Ainslie and the winner would qualify for the Quarter-Finals. The loser would then sail Williams and the winner of that match would advance while the loser would fall into the 5-8 bracket. But the skippers were unimpressed. In an atmosphere of tension, confusion and frustration, Ainslie’s tactician Iain Percy remonstrated that his team’s earlier defeat of Minoprio appeared to count for nothing. Ian Williams also called to question the very format of the proposed sail-off and filed a request for redress.
It fell to the international jury to attempt to diffuse the mounting controversy. After a long deliberation, Chief Umpire Shane Borrell concluded that there was a three-way tie in the repechage group and that the repechage round was in fact part of Stage 1 of the event, sailed as Group 4.
Under the RRS tiebreaker rule C11.1a as applied to the three competitors, Ainslie came out on top with two wins. He automatically moved up to the Quarter-Finals. Minoprio and Williams were still tied. The same tiebreaker rule was then applied again; and since Minoprio beat Williams in the only match they had sailed against each other so far, Minoprio took second place in the repechage. Minoprio moved up to the quarters and Williams lost their last chance.
The set back for Williams and his Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group was enormous. He was ranked #4 on the Tour going into the Argo Group Gold Cup and hoped to pick up valuable Tour points in Bermuda.
“It is farcical,” said Williams, “that you could be knocked out based on a race you didn’t sail. It all came down to who won in Group 2 and we were not in that group. That’s basically it.”
Minoprio who moved up said: “I feel that no decision would have been ideal, but I think in the end it was the fairest decision they could make. I am glad that it went in our favor although it was too bad it had to be decided in this way, but it was fair.”
Ainslie added, I feel really sorry for Ian, but I have been in that situation before. It is sometimes impossible to break a tie to suit everyone. The jury has to work with what they have got. You have to take it on the chin and move on.”
On the water it had been an action-packed day with strong and gusty winds, saw numerous quick-fire penalties, breakdowns and collisions that brought spectators off their seats. The tone was set from the start with Williams pinned between the start boat and Minoprio’s vessel, eventually colliding with both and earning Williams a double penalty. That’s a costly manoeuvre in the long-keel International One Designs raced here and the British skipper never recovered.
With next to no room for error in the Qualifying Play-Offs, every skipper had to be on their game. Like Minoprio, Ainslie displayed a ruthless yet tactical edge in each of his matches. Having clawed back a three-length deficit against Portugal's Alvaro Marinho, Ainslie jostled with the Portuguese skipper, exchanging a string of penalties before the Brit landed the final knock-out blow just before the finish line.
With the pressure increasing on Minoprio, Ainslie and Williams, the latter’s match against Robertson became even more crucial. The intensity matched the importance with penalties picked up in the pre-start and on the final beat. Although Robertson finally powered ahead to take the lead seconds before the finish, he didn’t have time to spin his penalty off before Williams took the winner’s flag.
Ainslie vs Minoprio was a monster match that Ainslie needed to win to retain a chance of staying in the competition, while victory for Minoprio would secure him one of the two remaining Quarter-Final places. Minoprio started tight under Ainslie’s leebow, forcing the Brit to tack away to the right of the course. This put them on the best side of the big windshifts to take a four-length lead at the first mark. Minoprio challenged hard to close this to just one length at the finish however he wasn’t able to find an opportunity to get ahead.
Tomorrow sees the racing re-convene and with Minoprio and Ainslie both still in contention, the race to challenge Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team overall lead in the World Match Racing Tour is firmly on.
Qualifying Session Play-Off Results
Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing 4-1
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN 4-1
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group 4-1
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing 2-3
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Racing Team 1-4
Alvaro Marinho (POR) Seth Sailing Team 0-5
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team
Taylor Canfield (USA)
Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Racing Team
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
Reuben Corbett (NZL) Black Sheep Racing
Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN