Victory for Sweden's Hansen
Swedish number one Bjorn Hansen saw off a spirited challenge from Tour legend and four-time World Champion Peter Gilmour to lift the Stena Match Cup Sweden trophy and retain his lead at the top of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour leaderboard.
Yanmar Racing's Gilmour called on all of the experience he has gained during his previous seven wins at the event but was ultimately unable to match Hansen, who barely put a foot wrong from the opening day of competition and won the final 3-0.
Hitting their best ever form in the 2012 season of the Tour, Hansen, said: “We have a little bit less pressure for the rest of the season now. We already have two wins from three events and now the other guys have to get points on the leaderboard to catch up. There might be a few more eyes on us in the upcoming regattas but we’d definitely prefer to be in our position going into the second half of the season.”
Gilmour felt that his opponent had had the better of the day’s sailing and was philosophical about the loss, saying: “There wasn’t anything specifically that went too far wrong but I think our underlying strategy, probably we needed to start to the right. We were thinking that we needed to start to the left and every time we did, the gap would just get bigger and open up for him whereas normally it goes the other way. Every start was the same and he just had that going for him. When he got 2-0 up a bit of pressure comes into the system and to be honest, they did a really nice job.
“I’m quite pragmatic about it, I’ve been in amongst finals over the years that have gone my way and not gone my way and it’s all part of the game.
“This event has a huge history for me, I remember racing Russell Coutts, Ed Baird, Dean Barker, Magnus Holmberg. It’s been a really important place for me and I have a lot of love for this place.”
Bjorn Hansen finished the final day unbeaten, having started the session by seeing out the remainder of his Semi Final battle against GAC Pindar's Ian Williams. He won both remaining matches and booked his place in the Stena Match Cup Sweden Final with a 3-1 victory, much to the delight of the attending home fans.
Williams’ must-win fourth match of the tie was defined by a mistake, as he carried a penalty into the race from a misjudged manoeuvre in the pre-start. After a split tack start was perfectly timed by both teams, Hansen went to the left hand side of the course before tacking back towards his opponent.
Williams managed to cross Hansen but in the process gave up the right hand side, which turned out to be an error as Hansen came back across, tacking on to the layline for the top mark ahead and in control. Hansen maintained the lead comfortably with Williams still carrying his penalty, to land the knockout blow to Williams’ title challenge. Williams, said: “Our starting was good and the tactics were good but the problem was that when we got close and into a scrap we felt he could accelerate a little faster and that meant we were worried about getting into that situation and we made some mistakes as a result. In terms of the Tour leaderboard this season, with the average points that those guys [Bjorn Hansen]will get from Portugal, they’re pretty much gone now. If we have some good results we can be close behind them.
“They’re doing everything they can to make it hard for us this year. We have to sail a lot better than the other teams now to get ourselves back in it.”
Kiwi Phil Robertson felt aggrieved to have gone into his fourth Semi Final match in a must-win situation at 2-1 down, having been on the receiving end of a controversial double penalty against Peter Gilmour in match 3. Robertson went into the start of match 4 with a real advantage as Gilmour carried a double penalty which he had picked up for squeezing his way in at the committee boat at the start of the race.
The penalty was offloaded in one manoeuvre as Gilmour completed a turn away from his opponent, then crossing his stern, appealing that the second had been completed in accordance with the new rules for the season. Some showmanship may have helped to convince the umpires of his viewpoint but Gilmour remained sure that it had been a correct call, saying: “I think it was Phil’s [Robertson] mistake in tacking to allow us to cross his line but once he had, I don’t see a problem with it.
“Our double was absolutely deserved. We were trapped there and couldn’t get out of it in the pre-start so no complaints. There was jeopardy on both sides but you really have to think through the solutions.”
The umpires agreed that the decision was a difficult one after the match and Robertson felt strongly that it had been incorrect, saying: “We did a really nice job to stick the double penalty on him and I don’t think it was a good decision from the umpires. 30 seconds after getting the two penalties he was doing both of his penalties immediately and gybed around to be carrying one, which is fine, that’s how you clear it. Then after the gybe he crossed our stern and I think bullied the umpires into dropping the other one down. We’re not happy.
“We made sure it wasn’t going to affect us into the next match but we didn’t start with enough speed and ended up losing it, which was a shame. We’re really happy with how we’re sailing on the Tour this season so we’ll look forward to Chicago next week.”
In the Petit Final, Robertson locked horns with 2011 Tour Champion Ian Williams with the additional Tour points and prize money still to play for. The teams tied at 1-1 in the best of three contest before Williams was able to close out the third.
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team vs Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 3-0
Petit Final Result:
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar vs Phil Robertson (NZ) WAKA Racing 2-1
Semi Final Results:
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing vs Phil Robertson (NZ) WAKA Racing 3-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team vs Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 3-1