Bruni edges ahead
Francesco Bruni sits on the shoulder of Damien Iehl at Match Race Germany after the Italian continued his unbeaten start in the second Qualifying Session on Lake Constance.
Teams were left to play a frustrating waiting game for much of the second Qualifying Session as the wind continually failed to gather. However it was Bruni who faired best in the limited racing, making the most of a very light mid-morning wind on a short course to notch up two early scalps and take his tally to five straight wins.
Echoing the comments made yesterday by his pitman that smooth manoeuvres and teamwork were ever more crucial in light conditions, Bruni said: "Maintaining the speed of the boat was the key. It's a team game - you need a lot of concentration from the skipper and the trimmers. We have an all Italian crew on board and when you have the opportunity to speak your own language, everything seems to happen a lot quicker."
In his first match against the young Kiwi skipper Phil Robertson, who had also posted an overnight unbeaten record, he put in some textbook match racing. Capitalising on an early mistake by Robertson's WAKA Racing team who mis-judged their time on distance to the start line, Bruni timed his start perfectly. Despite the Italians having to re-hoist their spinnaker after a bad set around M3, they had built enough of a gap to maintain their lead and stay in control to the finish.
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team was on the ropes after the first Qualifying Session but had an early win over Stefan Meister to boost his confidence. Unfortunately he met an on-fire Bruni in the next flight where the Italian was faultless, making the correct calls to lead Berntsson round the course and make it 2-0 for the session.
Although Bruni, Damien Iehl (French Match Racing Team) and Robertson will be confident of qualifying, no team is mathematically out of Match Race Germany. Behind this trio sit a cluster of teams like Peter Gilmour's YANMAR Racing, Mathieu Richard's French Match Racing Team and Jesper Radich's Adrian Lee & Partners who are each still in the mix with two or three wins.
The feeling amongst those skippers is that these tricky conditions make racing more of a lottery so there is less significance to qualifying in 2nd or 7th place. Making the Quarter-Finals is all that counts as Jesper Radich's trimmer Christian Scherrer noted: "We're taking it race by race. We're just focused on the need to stay in the top 7, learn as much as possible about the boats and the conditions and get to the Quarter-Finals."
Evgeny Neugodnikov (RUS) Team Synergy is one skipper in that middle group who can consider himself unlucky not to be up alongside the likes of Bruni, Iehl and Robertson. In what must be a highlight race so far from Match Race Germany, Neugodnikov faced Eric Monnin's Team Okalys Corum. After an early split, Neugodnikov seized control and was defending hard against Monnin who was trying to block the Russian's air. A slow gybe drop by Monnin at M2 left Neugodnikov to round cleanly. He had the edge on Monnin all the way round the course until the last third of the run when the pair split gybes to lunge for the line where Monnin grabbed the win by half a metre.
Reflecting on that defeat, Neugodnikov said: "We've lost a race by half a metre so it's difficult to relax after that. I have been here [Match Race Germany] before so I know how difficult it is to win a point. We were leading in most of our races but we only won 50% of them. We are under pressure before every race with little time to practice as the umpires set the course as soon as they see a puff of wind. After the start, you choose one side and then it's all about boat speed. You never know, the Race Committee might modify the format so I think you need to aim for the top 4 to be sure to qualify."
As the Race Committee hoping to get Flight 11 underway, a thunderstorm struck over Lake Constance which drew the second Qualifying Session to a natural close. With 15 knots of wind expected for the third Qualifying Session, a very different test awaits the teams with plenty of racing left before the Quarter-Final spots are confirmed.
Standings After the First Qualifying Session:
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing Team 5-0
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 5-1
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing Team 4-1
Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners 3-2
Mathieu Richard (FRA) – French Match Racing Team 3-2
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 3-3
Eric Monnin (SUI) – Team Okalys Corum 3-3
Eugeney Neugodnikov (RUS) – Team Synergy 3-3
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 2-3
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) – Berntsson Sailing Team 2-4
William Tiller (NZL) – Full Metal Jacket Racing 0-5
Stefan Meister (GER) 0-6