Ian Williams in fighting form
Ian Williams continued his great run of form by qualifying for the knock out stages of the 2011 Argo Group Gold Cup after an epic third Qualifying Session in Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda. Wildcard Staffan Lindberg was the sole non-Tour Card Holder automatically to qualify for the knock out stages after finishing top of his group.
The wind continued to build in Bermuda today where big gusts rolled across Hamilton Harbour, forcing teams to hike hard all day around the course. In Group 3 it all came down to the final flight, with Ian Williams, Mathieu Richard and Damien Iehl all on five wins and Eric Monnin close behind on four.
Ian Williams of Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group was involved in a close tussle with France's Damien Iehl, the lead changing hands several times amid plenty of penalty calls. Williams was the eventual victor and goes through to the quarter-finals with a 6-1 scoreline and first pick as the top seed.
In the other key match, Switzerland's Eric Monnin of Okalys Corum beat France's Mathieu Richard and would have qualified automatically in second place, but the Swiss skipper was given a half point penalty for a collision. It cost him dearly – the penalty relegating him to the repechage and propelling Richard into the quarter-finals. Monnin said: “We’re disappointed. Because of that crappy half point penalty we’re in the repechage. We knew the half point could be a decider but it’s frustrating because it wasn’t clearly our fault. We now have to overcome some strong teams in the repechage but we’ve got a good chance.”
Despite winning all three of his matches today to bring his Qualifying score to 4-2, Italy's Simone Ferrarese failed to make it to the repechage, underlining just how difficult it is to qualify here in a group headed by three Tour Card Holders. “We did really well today – to only miss the repechage by 1 point is disappointing," he said. "We’ll take that experience away and use it to keep improving.”
Overnight in Group 2, Francesco Bruni, Jesper Radich and Staffan Lindberg were all sitting pretty with undefeated scorelines however one would have to fall with only 2 automatic qualification places on offer. Two immediate defeats for Bruni at the hands of Lindberg and then Dane Jesper Radich of Adrian Lee & Partners all but ended the Bruni’s chances of automatic qualification. By the time the Italian crossed the line to defeat Hansen in the final match both teams had already been forced into the repechage after Lindberg had secured top spot with a victory over the already qualified Radich.
Bruni remains confident though and believes a few tough matches in the repechage could play to his advantage: “The repechage round is hard but if you get through you’re in a stronger position as you have five extra races behind you. We struggled with the strong winds this morning but feel we’ve sorted the problem. Hopefully we sail well and go through even stronger.”
Lindberg is the only non-Tour Card Holder to automatically qualify for the knock out stages at the Gold Cup and feels confident to be around the big names: “It’s great to beat the card holders but we’ve got experience racing them and we’re on good form this year with a 4th at the Congressional Cup. The one loss today won’t play on our minds - it gives you more motivation and stops you becoming complacent.”
As in Group 3, the final Group 2 standings would only be decided in the final flight. Taylor Canfield, yesterday’s form skipper in the group was aiming to join Lindberg as the only other non-Tour Card Holder to automatically qualify for the quarter-finals. A loss against local skipper Lance Fraser of FreeLance-Digicel and a win against Britain's Sam Pearson of Team Wight Match meant he still required a further victory in his last race against New Zealand's Reuben Corbett of AON Racing to make sure of it.
He didn’t manage it, which leaves Canfield to fight it out in the repechage: “They weren’t easy matches today and while we were able to grind our way back against Corbett it wasn’t enough. We’ve sailed all the teams in the repechage so we’ll just go out there tomorrow and see what we can do.”
Meanwhile, the four teams of Mirsky, Gilmour, Berntsson and Robertson were locked with one team sure to go home. Mirsky of The Wave Muscat dug deep today, winning all three of his matches to pull himself into top spot, his last win coming against Peter Gilmour of Yanmar Racing who needed that point to make it into the repechage. Reflecting on his day, Gilmour, a three-time Gold Cup winner said: “It was an important day today and we had to do a lot of winning. In the first race we sailed against Berntsson and were about 10 boat lengths in front but we received a penalty out of the blue. We found out it was because the boundary mark had shifted. It was cruel justice and it’s thrown us out.
“I don’t think it’s the end of our World Championship hopes, this was really a bonus event for us so we will likely count the Denmark points instead. This wasn’t in our game plan but someone has to go. You’ll see us bigger and better at the next event.”
The winner between New Zealand's Phil Robertson and Swede Johnie Berntsson would decide the final automatic qualifying spot and it went to the young Kiwi. He now has the chance to collect some valuable points in Bermuda to keep alive his chances of qualifying for the Monsoon Cup.
The repechage and quarter-finals get underway at 0900 local time (-4hrs GMT) on Friday 7 October.
Results after Qualifying Session Three:
Q - Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 6-1
Q - Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners 6-1
R - Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing 5-2
R - Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekononmen Sailing Team 4-3
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 3-4
Blythe Walker (BER) Team RenRe 3-4
Jakub Pawluk (POL) Henri Lloyd Racing 1-6
Jordan Reece (AUS) True Blue Racing 0-7
Q - Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat 5-2
Q - Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 4-3
R - Taylor Canfield (ISV) Team ISV 4-3
R - Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 4-3
Reuben Corbett NZL) AON Racing Team 3-4
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 3-4
Lance Fraser (BER) Freelance-Digicel 3-4
Sam Pearson (GBR) Team Wight Match 2-5
Q - Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo group 6-1
Q - Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 5-2
R - Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 5-2
R - Eric Monnin (SUI) Oklays Corum Sailing Team 4.5-2
Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team 4-3
Laurie Jury (NZL) ZOKE Kiwi Match 2-5
Terry McLaughlin (CAN) Team Commonwealth 1-6
Peter Miller (BER) Miller Match Racing 0-7