Berntsson topples Mirsky

Day of tricky conditions at Portimão Portugal Match Cup

Saturday June 25th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: Portugal

Ian Williams sailed into the Semi Finals of the Portimão Portugal Match Cup today after winning his grudge match with rival Bjorn Hansen. Despite a valiant effort from Hansen in tricky breezy conditions it wasn’t enough to stop Team GAC Pindar's Ian Williams becoming the first skipper to advance into the next stage of the competition.

Williams went into the Quarter Final clash confident after Qualifying in second place with seven wins from 11 matches, just behind a rampant Torvar Mirsky of The Wave, Muscat. In a marked change from the Qualifying Sessions the forecasted wind arrived blowing up to 20 knots through the waters of Portimão.

After losing the start of the first match Williams then asserted his presence, catching Hansen on the sprint to the first mark and stealing the lead back. Hansen never got back into the game and it was a comfortable victory for the Brit. Hansen replied with a masterful display of match racing in a nail-biting match. Williams led off the line and kept the lead until the pair split after rounding mark three. Williams chose the favoured left side of the course while Hansen went right, risking everything on the second upwind leg. It paid off, with Hansen blasting towards mark four as the right-of-way boat forcing Williams way past the layline and into trouble.

A poor spinnaker hoist from Hansen allowed Williams to sneak past to reclaim the lead on the final run with victory all but secure. But just when it looked like it was all over, Hansen squeezed some extra speed from his boat surfing on the swell to snatch the win out from under Williams’ feet in the dying seconds of the race.

At 1-1 it was all to play for but 2007 and 2008 World Match Racing Tour champion Williams regrouped and came back dominant to seal his place in the Semis with a 3-1 win.

Williams said: “Going into the fourth match 2-1 up, we knew it was about trying to win the pin at the start. Bjorn was in a good position but got there too early and had to slow down while we had good speed. That was the decisive moment - from there we held him and defended what we thought was the favoured side.

“There’s always a lot of emphasis on who you pick and Bjorn is often the one just getting through and we’re often at the top. Racing Bjorn is never easy. In the last two knockout rounds that we’ve faced him in - Malaysia last year and in Korea this year - he’s beaten us. It was a difficult pick but he finished eighth and we felt he was the weakest opponent but we’re pleased to beat him in the Quarter Final.”

Hansen, who earlier this month sailed to victory at the Korea Match Cup, said: “It was a great match but the last race was a bad one from us. We had the side we wanted but were about half a boatlength behind and didn’t have speed over start line. Ian passed in front and we were chasing him all the way from there. We are disappointed to be out and we will definitely look for revenge in Sweden.”

After dominating the Qualifying Sessions Mirsky took his form into his Semi Final clash with Sweden's Johnie Berntsson winning the first two matches with ease. But it wasn’t to be that simple for Mirsky, Berntsson staging a brilliant comeback to even the scores to 2-2. Berntsson became only the second skipper to beat Mirsky at the 2011 Portimão Portugal Match Cup, ending Mirsky’s incredible 10-match back-to-back winning streak.

After losing the first match against Jesper Radich, Francesco Bruni proved why he is currently leading the World Match Racing Tour pulling it back to 2-1. Mathieu Richard and Peter Gilmour of Yanmar Racing had to wait until late in the afternoon to begin their battle for a place in the Semi Final.

Later Johnie Berntsson pulled off a dramatic comeback against Torvar Mirsky to claim a place in the Semi Finals. Berntsson fought back from 2-0 down against Mirsky, the top ranked skipper in Qualifying, to win 3-2 and send Mirsky home.

Berntsson said: “To be picked by Torvar for the Quarter Finals and then come back from 2-0 down to win is a great thing and the team did an amazing job. The competition is so strong on the Tour and it just goes to show that anyone can beat anyone on their day.”

Mirsky added: “Johnie did a great job out there today beating us in the starts of the last three races and that was the key to him winning. We’re feeling down after leading from qualifying and now we’re going home but that’s racing and we will come back stronger at the next event in Sweden.”

Quarter Final results:
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar beat Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 3-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team beat Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat 3-2
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing beat Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners 3-1
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team beat Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 2-0


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