Wimbledon on sea
With Taylor Canfield and Alpari World Match Racing Tour leader Mathieu Richard failing to make the grade at the end of Qualifying, there was further upset today in the Quarter-Final rounds of Stena Match Cup Sweden. Defending Tour champion Ian Williams and his GAC Pindar crew were trounced 1-3 by Keith Swinton’s Black Swan Racing, despite the young Australian skipper having only just scraped his way into the Quarter-Finals yesterday. Racing went to the full five matches (first to three points) between Bjorn Hansen’s eWork Sailing Team and Adam Minoprio’s Team Alpari FX, with the Swede ultimately coming out on top.
With both Minoprio and Williams out, Stena Match Cup Sweden is suffering from a dose of the Wimbledons, with all of the present top four from the Alpari World Match Racing Tour leaderboard now out of the competition and having to reschedule their travel home.
Particularly impressive was the Hansen-Minoprio match when Hansen performed an Andy Murray-style comeback from 0-2 down. The Swedish skipper pulled back from the brink, bringing the score to 1-2, but seemed to have been roundly defeated in the pre-start of the fourth match. First he was penalised for failing to enter the starting area properly and then had to restart after he was over early at the gun.
“I put us in a fairly stupid situation at the start to be honest,” Hansen admitted. As he couldn’t see the committee boat at the start he took longer than normal to return and restart, by which time he was eight boatlengths behind. However fate smiled on the Swedish team on the first downwind leg. As Hansen recounted: “The wind filled in from behind. First we took Adam [Minoprio] on a port-starboard and then, gybing on the layline to the mark, we rolled over him.” The Swedish team then defended well to even the score 2-2.
After a mid-afternoon break to allow a race to take place, in which all the boats were crewed by the Swedish stars of sport and the stage, Hansen won the final decider to earn his berth in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
Held in the holiday hotspot of Marstrand on Sweden’s west coast, the boost of having spectators and corporate guests by the coachload cheering in support no doubt benefits local crews such as Hansen’s. “It is like having a sixth crewmember,” Hansen agrees. “It is great to be back here in Marstrand.”
A bigger upset to the pecking order was Ian Williams falling to Keith Swinton. Williams’ GAC Pindar crew got off to a solid start, winning the first race, but Swinton, the 27-year-old Aussie skipper, won the next three.
“It was tricky – very light airs and he seemed to be able to get a bit more speed out of his boat than we could out of ours. We’re pretty disappointed,” commented Williams as he came to terms with falling at this early stage, despite finishing third here last year and winning in 2011. “We had high hopes to do well here.”
Conversely Keith Swinton was elated by the outcome: “We had a really bad first day and we have steadily improved, which is critical with these events coming into the knock-outs. We still aren’t sailing to our highest potential, but we are sailing well and maybe just caught Ian at a bad time.” Swinton admitted that beating the GAC Pindar skipper and four time Tour champion is not something that has occurred too often in the past. “We are really thrilled to have beaten Ian. He is the guy who everyone is trying very hard to beat.”
For Swinton the power of the home crowd may also have been on his side for two of his crew, main trimmer and tactician Olof Lundgren and pitman Jakob Gustafsson are both Swedes. “We have some fans here so it is good to get a good result, to perform in front of our friends and families.”
The two other Quarter-Final matches also went the full way with New Zealand’s Phil Robertson and his WAKA Racing winning the decider against local hero Johnie Berntsson and his Stena Sailing Team. Similarly Italian Simone Ferrarese and his Ferrarese Racing Team, winner of Qualifying, went to five races against Finland’s Staffan Lindberg and his Alandia Sailing Team, with Ferrarese coming out on top.
Racing continues tomorrow with the semi-finals at around 1100 UTC. Simone Ferrarese has chosen to race Bjorn Hansen, leaving Phil Robertson to line up with Swinton, winner of this year’s Congressional Cup.
Live streaming of the racing starts at 1100 UTC (1300 local time) tomorrow.
Quarter final results
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team v Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 3-2
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing v Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 3-1
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing v Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 3-2
Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team v Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 3-2