Williams surges ahead
It was an exciting day on the water and after day one both the event and the series are plainly wide open.
Going into this final event of the 2010 World Match Racing Tour there were five skippers who had a mathematical chance of winning the 2010 Tour. Mathieu Richard (French Match Racing Team), Adam Minoprio (ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing), Ben Ainslie (TeamOrigin), Torvar Mirsky (Mirsky Racing Team) and Ian Williams (Team GAC Pindar) were all in contention.
On day one the Monsoon squalls brought bucketing rain and winds from every direction, delaying the start of the Round Robin series until mid-afternoon.
In the first match of flight one, Torvar Mirsky faced the reigning World Champion Adam Minoprio. Mirsky won a tight prestart battle starting on the pin, was ahead at the first cross and rounded four to five lengths clear at the top mark. Mirsky closed out his rival and went on to win.
In the second match Ian Williams sailed against Mathieu Richard. Williams had a narrow advantage at the start, found the first shift and gained, forcing Richard beyond the lay line. Williams held an impressive three lengths lead as the two crews headed down-wind. Richard closed up and attacked but Williams defended his lead to take an important win.
Jeremy Koo of Koo Racing Team-Evernew, the Malaysian Match Racing Champion, matched up against Sweden's Bjorn Hansen. Hansen won the start and cleared away.
Peter Gilmour of Yanmar Racing, two time Monsoon Cup champion, was pitched against triple Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie and his TeamOrigin crew. Gilmour led Ainslie off the line but Ainslie sailed through Gilmour and led by more than a length at the top mark. Ainslie extended and was three lengths ahead at the start of the last run but Gilmour closed up. However it was not enough to prevent the British star defeating Gilmour.
As Flight 2 was about to start another storm cloud dragged the breeze hard right forcing a short delay as PRO David Tallis repositioned the course.
In the first match the wounded Mathieu Richard sailed against ninth ranked Bjorn Hansen (Hansen Global Team). With a 7-0 scorecard in recent times in Richard's favour, he was expected to win. After a collision prestart, a penalty was awarded against Richard.
Hansen was fast on the favoured left and was ahead at the top mark and was a penalty up. Hansen rounded the top mark four lengths ahead and led down the second run for a great win.
A nightmare start for Richard and heads were down on the French boat; 0-2 for the day surely a blow to his title chances.
Ian Williams, pleased with his first up result, took on Jeremy Koo, shutting out his Malaysian rival off the start line in the softening conditions. Williams was three lengths ahead at the top mark - game over.
Dane Jesper Radich of Gaastra Racing Team, with second places in Germany, Sweden and Bermuda this season and ranked sixth in the world, made his first appearance in this regatta against Ben Ainslie.
Radich was red flag penalised in the prestart for a professional foul. With that penalty Ainslie was three lengths ahead in ever softening conditions. But Radich kept attacking in a soft air tacking ballet. Just half a length behind at the hoist, Radich was able to put dirty air on Ainslie but the as the new breeze came in there was a left shift and the race closed up. The last beat was a penalty battle flag flight; two green flags then a penalty on Radich, another red flag that had to be taken immediately. Ainslie took the match and was now 2-0 for the afternoon.
The 'in form' Kiwi Phil Robertson of WAKA Racing, coming off wins in the New Zealand Match Racing Championship and the Sunseeker Australia Cup went up against Peter Gilmour . Gilmour sailed away from Robertson, after Robertson got mixed up in the Radich-Ainslie battle.
At the start of Flight 3 in nine knots of breeze, Ainslie took on Robertson. After a clear start Robertson led Ainslie, who was fighting to gain the advantage and finish 3-0 up for the day. Ainslie sailed well on the downwind leg clawing back Robertson's advantage. In the end Robertson held his nerve, crossing the line ahead of Ainslie for the win.
Ian Williams continued his good form defeating Jesper Radich. A great start to the regatta for Williams and his Team GAC Pindar, finishing the day at 3-0, the only undefeated team.
"To be honest, the World Title isn't at the forefront of our minds; we are just out here to try and win the Monsoon Cup," said Williams. "It is a fantastic regatta, we love coming here and it would be great to win. As we are fifth ranked on the Tour, the final series outcome is out of our hands, we just have to go and try and win the regatta' he said obviously pleased at the day's outcome."
In the remaining matches, Francesco Bruni of Team Azzurra defeated Peter Gilmour while Jeremy Koo went down to Australian Keith Swinton of Black Swan Racing, but not without a fight.
Seeming like a man under pressure France's Mathieu Richard dockside was shaking his head. "Today was not a very good day, not what we expected. We had two bad starts and that was the day really. In our first race again Ian Williams, there was a shift before the start, so we suffered, but he sailed well and did not let us back in.
"Against Bjorn Hansen, another bad start. We might have a strong record against Bjorn but he beat us today and that is the only result I care about.
"The only thing we can be sure of is that we must do much better tomorrow."
In a striking mood contrast, a beaming double ISAF World Match Racing Champion Ian Williams, he had little to lose. The Team GAC Pindar skipper said: "We are of course very pleased with the day. We've started every regatta well this year but we have not won one yet. So we have to keep going.
"With the light here and in the rain, it is really hard to see the pressure on the water, so you are never really confident you are going the right way.
"We thought we managed that uncertainty well today. When we were ahead we made sure we covered, Richard came back to us a few times, but we held our cover."
The final words of the day came from Ben Ainslie. "A very tricky day on a very challenging course. What we really like about this venue is that on a day like today every leg is different. There was very little current, only on the last race did it seem to have any real influence.
"If you look at the line-up of this Monsoon Cup, it is one of the toughest fields I have seen in terms of the quality. I think really, we have talked a lot about the different possibilities and who has to win and who has to finish where. The reality is everyone is just going to race as hard as they can."
Skipper Win Loss Record
Ian Williams 3-0
Bjorn Hansen 2-0
Ben Ainslie 2-1
Torvar Mirsky 1-0
Francesco Bruni 1-0
Keith Swinton 1-0
Phil Robertson 1-1
Peter Gilmour 1-2
Adam Minoprio 0-1
Mathieu Richard 0-2
Jesper Radich 0-2
Jeremy Koo 0-3