Into the semi-finals
A packed day of racing today saw the end of the qualifying session at the St. Moritz Match Race, as well as the Quarter Finals and one of the most exciting twists of the Tour season so far.
In an unusual situation, the bottom of the qualifying table provided a defining contest for the wider Tour standings in the very last match of the final Qualifying Session. GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams found himself in a position where he would go through to the knockout rounds of the regatta at the expense of his closest rival on the 2012 Alpari World Match Racing Tour, Bjorn Hansen, if he could come out on top of his rival.
Hansen went into the match knowing that a victory would not only eliminate Williams from the competition, but also give him an opportunity to extend his narrow lead at the top of the overall standings after Tour stage 5. Both skippers had previously stated the importance of the event on their overall ambitions for the season and after his victory, Hansen reiterated the importance of the win, saying: "It was fantastic to go through to the Quarter Final and we knew before the match with Ian [Williams] that it was probably our most important race of the season. We didn’t know for sure whether the win would put us through to the knockout stages but we were sure it would put us ahead of him which was well enough for us."
Reigning ISAF Match Racing World Champion, Williams now finds himself facing a real challenge to keep within touching distance of Hansen ahead of the season-finale Monsoon Cup in December, where up to 38 points are available to the winner. He said: "That last one was a very important race and we didn‘t do a very good job. It’s not been a great regatta for us and we’ve struggled picking the breeze this week with the Northerly. It’s the first time for a while we haven’t been strong here so that’s something for us to go away and look at why that was.
"We need one more good result ourselves to make a set, France or Bermuda we need to do well at and we’ll see where we end up going into the Monsoon Cup after that.
"I guess we’ll have to wait and see how well Bjorn [Hansen] does in this event now. If he goes on and wins i think it’ll be very difficult for us. If he loses the Quarter Final, which obviously we’d hope for, there is still a chance."
Hansen‘s Quarter Final match up was against event wildcard and two time ‘King of the Mountain‘, France's Mathieu Richard. The Frenchman managed to take the victory, not only helping Ian Williams‘ bid for a fourth Tour title but also reinvigorating the prospects of compatriot, Pierre-Antoine Morvan, who sits third on the Tour leaderboard after four events.
Hansen remained pleased with his lead but reflected on a missed opportunity, saying: "Overall we had a pretty average regatta and it isn’t all just about skills, you need to have a bit of luck and i think we’ve had a mixture of that on our way. The additional points on Ian [Williams] are still going to be really important but we had a chance to really pull away today.
"Conditions here are always difficult and we stuck to our beliefs in that last match against Mathieu [Richard]. We were first around the course, taking the side that we thought was best, then he got a puff and passed us which is always disappointing. That’s sailing."
Hansen had continued his dominance of the pre-start in the first match, pushing Richard to the start line and forcing his opponent to go over early, much like he did in his victory over Ian Williams. Richard did well to claw his way back into the match and kept Hansen within a managable distance for the majority of the race. On the final downwind, the frenchman saw his opponent struggle to fill his spinnaker in the dying breeze whilst he found a gust which propelled him over the finish line to take the first win.
That victory became doubly important as race officials were forced to reduce the Quarter Final format to a first to two points in the light conditions. After a brief postponement, Richard confirmed his place in the Semi Final, taking the second race despite carrying a penalty from the pre-start and winning the tie 2–0. Richard, said: "We were very lucky at times in the Quarters, it’s difficult with the conditions changing all of the time but this time it worked out well for us."
Morvan held off the challenge of Tour veteran and former World Champion Yanmar Racing's Peter Gilmour after picking him as Quarter Final opponent, winning 2-0 and setting up a last four match against Richard.
Richard, said: "We’re good friends with Pierre-Antoine, the teams know each other very well as we’re all from Brittany in the West of France and we’ve trained together a lot. It’s great to be together at a Tour event. Of course we can win this event but all of the teams in the Semi Finals are very good and that has been shown by the big names that have already been kicked off."
Whilst he also would have preferred to meet his countryman in the Final, Morvan is confident that his team can go one better than their second place in Switzerland last year. He said: "We are here for the win. We finished second last year and didn’t get a chance to race the final against [Torvar] Mirsky because of the conditions. We are very confident in these boats and think we have a good chance.
"Mathieu [Richard] is a good opponent and it’s a shame that we’re together in the Semi but we knew that was likely. With Hansen and Williams going out we will look at the overall leaderboard after this event and going into Match Race France we’ll see what we can do. But first we have to concentrate on the next match."
Kiwi Laurie Jury progressed directly to the Semi Final as a result of his position at the top of Qualifying and the event’s shortened Quarter Final format. Those finishing 2-7 in Qualifying then made up the three Quarter Final matches
Jury now meets Australian Keith Swinton, who beat Johnie Berntsson 2-0 in their Quarter Final.
The Semi-Finals of the St Moritz Match Race will begin at 1100AM CET tomorrow and the Final is scheduled for 1400.
St Moritz Match Race – Semi Finals:
Mathieu Richard (FRA) Loire Atlantique Sailing Team vs. Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing vs. Laurie Jury (NZL) Kiwimatch Sailing Team
St Moritz Match Race – Quarter Final Results:
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team vs. Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 0-2
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team vs. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 2-0
Mathieu Richard (FRA) Loire Atlantique Sailing Team vs. Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 2-0
St Moritz Match Race – Final Qualifying Table:
Laurie Jury (NZL) Kiwimatch Sailing Team 8 - 3
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 7 -4
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 7 - 4
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 7 -4
Mathieu Richard (FRA) Loire Atlantique Sailing Team 6.5* - 3 (0.5 point deduction for boat collision)
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 6 - 5
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 4.5* – 6 (0.5 point deduction for boat collision)
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 4.5* – 6 (0.5 point deduction for boat collision)
Jerome Clerc (SUI) Team CER 4 - 7
Eric Monnin (SUI) Okalys Corum 4 - 7
Josh Junior (NZL) Wellington Spirit 3 - 8
Phil Robertson (NZ) WAKA Racing 3 - 8