Ian Williams firing on all cylinders
After his progression through Qualifying at Match Race France went down to the wire, Ian Williams returned to form in his Quarter Final today as the challenge ended for home favourites Damien Iehl and Pierre-Antoine Morvan of France.
GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams put in a dominating performance to beat the reigning 2011 event Champion, France's Damien Iehl in three straight matches. In the absence of Tour challenger Swede Bjorn Hansen in the latter stages, Williams sees the regatta as an opportunity take top spot on the overall Alpari World Match Racing Tour leaderboard.
“It’s a great win today for GAC Pindar and adds to our set of results which we can take to Malaysia for the Monsoon Cup," said Williams. "We’re really pleased and now we’ll look to score big at this regatta. If we can make the Final of Match Race France, we’ll definitely be in with a shot at taking the Tour title.”
The Quarter Final win wasn’t as clear cut as the 3-0 scoreline suggested and Williams suggested that he had to be on top of his game to knock out the Frenchman at his home event, saying: “It was fantastic to beat someone as strong as Damien Iehl, it might not have looked that close but it was a tough battle out there where the starts were critical and the umpire calls that went our way today.
“We were a bit ragged for the first couple of days after the practice session was cancelled but as we go through the event we’re feeling more and more comfortable. If we carry on like we are, we’ll be in good shape.”
Iehl remained happy after the defeat in his first Tour event this season, having competed as a Tour Card Holder last year. He said: “I’m very happy to come back on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because I am competing with a new team. A lot of the guys I was with last year are on different boats and my tactician [Fred Guilmin] is even competing at this event with Peter [Gilmour].
“There is a big difference not sailing all the events compared to sailing with the same crew for six years. That makes it much easier to work together so this wasn’t as easy for just one event.”
French hopes were extinguished as France's Pierre-Antoine Morvan also failed to progress at the hands of Kiwi William Tiller, who features in the Semi Final as one of two New Zealand teams remaining. Morvan, said: “We’re disappointed after coming second in Qualifying yesterday. It’s an event we expected to do well at and I thought we had a good chance to win. The team were all agreeing on taking the left or the right in the starts and we won the side of the course we’d hoped for in most of the matches. I just think we were a bit unlucky with some of the pressure today and a few times our choices turned out to be wrong."
Reflecting on his season ambitions following the exit at Match Race France, Morvan added: “We started the season looking for a top 5 overall but coming into this event I think we had a chance to podium. It’s not over yet but we’ll have to do well in Malaysia.”
New Zealand's Laurie Jury continued his good run of results from the opening two days of the event, beating Italy's Simone Ferrarese, who was showing some of his best form of the Tour season in Qualifying. Jury said: “I think once you’ve qualified for the knockout stages, the picks don’t really matter to be honest. Coming top in Qualifying, the best thing is that you’re finishing at least fifth. These guys all know what they’re doing out there and showed that to get to the knockout stages. Whoever we go up against now in the Semi Final, it’ll be a tough match. It’ll be down to who sails best on the day.”
In one of the most exciting and tightly fought matches of the day, a to and fro affair between fellow Perth skippers Peter Gilmour and his Yanmar Racing team and Keith Swinton eventually went the way of the youngster. Swinton said: “The thing is, when you’re sailing against Gilly [Gilmour] it is so hard to get rid of him. He just won’t go away! It was really tight throughout that match and we felt like he was always right on our heels. In that last one, we took the right hand side on the last upwind and it paid off for us.
“At this event we’ve had a little bit of a different feeling to St. Moritz, where we were improving all the time. Here I think we’ve hit a really good level quite early. We’re in the Semi’s and that’s a good step so far."
Gilmour could have felt unfortunate not to get the better of his compatriot, but feels that on his current form, he could be one to watch out for in the latter stages: “They won the last event and they’re sailing really well. They could go all the way again. We’ve chosen to race Keith and his guys a couple of times this season and gone on and beaten them so I guess it was likely that they’d come back and wack us one at some point.
"That final race was a bit disappointing but the frustrating thing was that we let it get to that situation in the first place. In the last match, we really just wanted to put him under a bit of pressure at the end there. We were a little bit behind so tried to get him in a difficult situation. Unfortunately it worked out perfectly for him and he managed to jump us.”
The teams will be back on the water from 1115 local time tomorrow for the Semi Final at Match Race France. Semi Final picks will be made in the morning, before racing.
Match Race France – Quarter Final results:
Laurie Jury (NZL) Kiwi Match vs. Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team 3-1
William Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing vs. Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 3-1
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing vs. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 3-2
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar vs. Damien Iehl (FRA) Wind 2 Win 3-0