Defending champion out
Defending Korea Match Cup champion Mathieu Richard’s dreams of retaining his title were shattered today after being knocked out in the Quarter Finals by come-back kid Bjorn Hansen. The twelve Korea Match Cup competitors were whittled down to four in a dramatic day of fraught battles which saw current Tour leader Damien Iehl and Torvar Mirsky among the skippers to be sent home empty-handed.
Hansen of Mekonomen Sailing Team now joins Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing, four times Match Racing World Champion Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing and highest scoring qualifier Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar in the Semi-Finals. Former double World Champion Williams automatically progressed to the Semi-Finals after notching up an impressive nine victories in 11 matches.
In a complete contrast to yesterday’s racing the final Qualifying Session was played out against a backdrop of clear blue sky, bright sunshine and a six to 12-knot breeze blowing through Jeongok Harbour in Hwaseong City.
The day culminated in a tense finale between Hansen and Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team. Earlier in the day Hansen won two of his three races in the Qualifying Session including one against Richard and was looking like he had finally found his form. A win in the first flight of the Quarter- Finals only reinforced the confidence onboard the Mekonomen Sailing Team boat.
Richard came back strong winning the second clash and forcing a third race. But with the low tide causing havoc on the racecourse the final match was abandoned on four separate occasions, twice when Richard was ahead. With the light and wind fading fast it was Hansen who finally emerged victorious. Richard was left wondering what more he could have done to defend his title.
“It’s times like these where you feel most sorry for your opponent when you win,” said Hansen. “Mathieu was in front more times when the races were abandoned but we also had races cancelled where we were in front. We’re very glad to be in the Semi Finals.”
In one of the flagship matches of the day Williams took down Richard, managing to slip in front of his rival on the home strait. It was a crucial victory for Williams who managed to secure his place in the Semi-Finals despite having to sail the downwind leg with a broken spinnaker pole.
Williams said: “Obviously we’re very happy to go straight to the Semi-Finals. It’s nice to be able to relax and watch the Quarter-Finals play out in pretty tough conditions. The match against Richard was the key one for us. It was a tough match but we were able to get him right before the finish line. We knew if we won that one we won the Qualifying Session. I think we will need to up our game in the Semi though.”
One of the biggest shocks of the day was the exit of Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team who failed to make the final eight. With just four wins to his name current World Match Racing Tour leader Iehl was eliminated from the race for the 2011 Korea Match Cup. Iehl suffered crucial losses to Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing, Torvar Mirsky and Mathieu Richard.
Iehl said: “I’m very disappointed to have been knocked out of the Korea Match Cup. It was our first time at this event but all day long we stayed in the match. We lost our last three races and that’s what finished it for us. It’s very difficult to analyse why we lost but I’m very disappointed. I think the Portimao Portugal Match Cup will be a bit easier for us, it will be our second time there and I know the boat. We will just have to wait and see how we get on because everyone on the Tour is so strong.”
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team staged a fantastic come-back during the final Qualifying Session defeating Reuben Corbett (NZL) AON Racing as well as Bruni but the Italian got his revenge in the Quarter-Finals beating Berntsson by two wins to one.
Peter Gilmour secured his place in the Semi Finals after seeing off fellow Australian Torvar Mirsky. The former America’s Cup sailor put paid to his young rival’s hopes of advancing further in the regatta defeating him by two matches to one in the Quarter Finals.
Williams chose to face Hansen in tomorrow’s Semi Finals, leaving Bruni to face Gilmour. Watch all the action from the final day of the Korea Match Cup live at www.wmrt.com from 1000 to 1700 local time (GMT +9).
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing beat Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 2-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team beat Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 2-1
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing beat Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat 2-1
Standings after the Final day of the Qualifying Session:
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar 9-2
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing 8-3
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 7-4
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat 7-4
Bjorn Hansen (DEN) Mekonomen Sailing Team 7-4*
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 6-5
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 6-5
Paul Campbell-James (GBR) Dream Team 5-6
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 5-6
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 4-7
Sung Wook Kim (KOR) Busan Match Team 1-10
Reuben Corbett (NZL) AON Racing Team 1-10