Gilmour leads the charge
Several skippers have started strongly at the Stena Match Cup Sweden, stage three of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, with Tour stalwart Peter Gilmour finishing the day as the man to beat on four victories and a loss while Australian Keith Swinton also staked an early claim to win in his adopted home country.
Gothenberg-based Swinton finished Qualifying Session 1 on three wins without a loss but won’t begin to relax until he has confirmed his place in the event Quarter Final: “Obviously it’s good to win three races but I think we’re going to need seven wins to be guaranteed to go through to the Quarter Finals. We still have plenty to do and I think there are plenty of improvements to be made for us too. I know lots of people here and have a few fans that have come down so it’s a really nice feeling to compete.”
A good win against New Zealander Phil Robertson was a highlight for Swinton, taking the race despite carrying a penalty for much of the race. Swinton got a good start which saw him move into an early lead but a mistake in the second half of the first leg allowed Robertson to close the gap and by the leeward gate it was neck-and-neck with the boats choosing opposite marks.
When the pair crossed again Swinton was given a penalty turn: “We did a dial down when we came back together and got a penalty which made things a bit more difficult than we’d have liked going into the closing stages. Thankfully, a good run to the line gave us enough room to do the turn before the finish.
“We have to learn the track as there were a couple of different wind directions today which makes it a little bit difficult and we had to adjust. We’ve been doing a bit of sailing on these boats in the last couple of years and we have a couple of Swedish guys on the team who are pretty familiar on them too so I guess that helps.”
Swinton was also keeping tabs on another team during the day, often training with young Swedish skipper Viktor Ogeman as part of his role as mentor for Magnus Holmberg’s Elite Challenge GKSS Youth Squad. Swinton, said: “This event is fantastic for those guys. I was so pleased to hear when they got the wildcard spot as I think it’s important for them and for the development of the young Swedish teams to come and see what they have to do to step up to the next level. I’m sure we’ll see them back here a few times in the future.”
Four-time Tour Champion Peter Gilmour of Yanmar Racing Team said that while very pleased with the start his team have made, at this stage he is just looking to progress to the next round: “We treat these early rounds as an opportunity for additional practice and the aim is just to put ourselves into the Quarter Finals. It’s early days and there is still a lot of work to be done. There will be lots of challenges to deal with and we just need to keep ourselves out of the group at the bottom who are struggling for wins.”
Sweden’s top two match racers came head-to-head in the sixth and final flight of the day and Bjorn Hansen took a win against fellow Swede Johnie Berntsson as he looks to extend his lead at the top of the overall Tour standings. Hansen, said: “We got two wins today so we’re happy but there is still a lot to be done tomorrow.”
The loss was disappointing for Berntsson, who had started the day with impressive victories over an in-form Robertson and Torvar Mirsky before losing out to reigning Tour Champion Ian Williams and GAC Pindar team. Williams took an early lead over the start line by a couple of lengths, favouring the left side of the course. He found some good pressure out on that side and continued to build a lead as he rounded the top mark the first time, extending downwind.
In a bid to make up the ground, Berntsson went hard left on the second upwind leg but the gamble didn’t pay off, leaving Williams with a comfortable win and three victories for the day. Williams said: “We’re pleased to have three wins under our belt already at this stage. On the DS37s used here the trailing boat, particularly in strong air, can often catch up and put a lot of pressure on when you get to the gate so we never relaxed in the match against Johnie [Berntsson], even when we were ahead.
“We’re slightly rusty on the boats having not really sailed them since this time last year and had a couple of really close races today, particularly the first two [against Reuben Corbett and Simone Ferrarese]. Having this good early start should give us a good base to go forward in qualifying.”
After an opening loss in qualifying to home favourite Berntsson, Robertson returned to their impressive early season form which has seen him take a first and a third place at Match Race Germany and Korea Match Cup in the two opening events of the 2012 Tour. Robertson came out on top of a tight encounter against compatriot Laurie Jury to leave him on three wins and two losses going into the second day of the event.
Results after Qualifying Session 1:
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 4-1
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 3-0
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing Team 3-0
Phil Robertson (NZ) WAKA Racing 3-2
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 2-0
Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN) Team Trifork 2-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 2-2
Laurie Jury (NZ) Kiwi Match 1-2
Reuben Corbett (NZ) AON Racing Team 1-2
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 1-1
Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 1-3
Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team 0-3
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Miss Sophie 0-3
Viktor Ogeman (SWE) Team Vejar 0-3