Another command performance from Iehl
Damien Iehl has continued his imperious form at Match Race Germany where he is joined by Francesco Bruni and Phil Robertson at the top of the standings after each team posted unbeaten records in the first Qualifying Session on Lake Constance.
After a deserved victory at Match Race France where he only lost 5 from 21 races, it looked like business as usual in Langenargen for Damien Iehl (FRA) and his French Match Racing Team. The Frenchman didn’t have it all his own way though having to come from behind in his opening match against Peter Gilmour's Yanmar Racing. He then benefited from a mistake by Russian Eugeny Neugodnikov and Team Synergy to claim his next scalp.
Against the Russian, Iehl was losing on the beat to M2 which had been changed due to a wind shift. Neugodnikov and Iehl rounded different windward marks - Neugodnikov the original red mark and Iehl the white alternative mark.
Thinking Iehl was at fault, Neugodnikov displayed his red flag to protest but it was clear the confusion lay with the Russian who finished second and had no joy with his protest. A 2-0 scoreline and Iehl was now firmly in his stride, next defeating New Zealand's William Tiller and his Full Metal Jacket Racing and Bjorn Hansen's Mekonomen Saling Team in quick succession. A comfortable win against Dane Jesper Radich of Adrian Lee & Partners in Flight 8 wrapped up a perfect day for Iehl – it’s a performance that mirrors his opening day in France and will send yet another warning shot to his opponents.
It was a welcome return to form for Phil Robertson and his WAKA Racing team after struggling at the season opener in France. The postponement flag and course changes punctuated the Qualifying Session as the wind across Lake Constance continuously shifted and dipped, rising only to a light peak of 6 or 7 knots. However, Robertson seemed to judge the tricky conditions perfectly in all three of his opening races, catching the best of the patchy wind to lead Stefan Meister, Johnie Berntsson and Eric Monnin from start to finish.
Speaking about the start to his Match Race Germany campaign, Robertson said: “Losing a couple of early races in France cost us a top 8 finish there. It reminded us that the early races are as important as the later races and every result can come back to bite you. We’ve taken that on board which seems to have made us hungrier here.”
Reading the shifts was clearly a key factor to winning on Lake Constance in the first Qualifying Session, but if anything the conditions meant clean manoeuvres and working the Bavaria 40S boats hard was equally important. This was reflected by Bruni’s team who appeared well drilled in their victories against Mathieu Richard, Eric Monnin (SUI) Team Ocalys Corum and German qualifier Stefan Meister. Commenting after their great start to Match Race Germany, Bruni’s pitman Pietro Mantovani, said: “Our strategist did well to read the shifts in the short and long term but I also think manoeuvres were vital. It’s really easy to lose speed on these boats so you have to move carefully and continually trim the sails well. It was nice work from the crew.”
Iehl, Bruni and Robertson will be happy with their start here at Match Race Germany however the script for Qualifying is far from complete with 6 teams having only raced 3 flights in the first Qualifying Session. For the next chapter, look no further than Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team who is up next in the first two races of the second Qualifying Session when he will be keen to stamp his mark on this regatta and his 2011 Tour campaign.
Standings After the First Qualifying Session:
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 5-0
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Mascalzone Latino 3-0
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing Team 3-0
Evgeniy Neugodnikov (RUS) – Team Synergy 3-2
Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners 3-2
Mathieu Richard (FRA) – French Match Racing Team 2-1
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 2-3
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 2-3
Eric Monnin (SUI) – Team Ocalys Corum 1-2
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) – Berntsson Sailing Team 0-4
Stefan Meister (GER) 0-4
William Tiller (NZL) – Full Metal Jacket Racing 0-5