Early headache for Tour stars
If Flight 1 of the Chicago Match Cup is an indicator of things to come, there will be plenty of upsets in the coming days. Three out of four of the leading lights on the Alpari Match Racing World Tour lost their opening matches to the qualifier and Wild Card teams.
In a light and fluky start to Qualifying, local sailor and skipper from the Chicago Match Race Center, Don Wilson, beat last year’s regatta winner and reigning Alpari Tour World Champion, Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar. Australian qualifier, Jordan Reece and his Estate Master Sailing Team, pounced on an error by Adam Minoprio’s Team Alpari FX to sail into the lead on the second beat and win their opening match. And even after being six years away from the Tour, Gavin Brady and Team Vesper also managed to overtake their opponents, Bjorn Hansen and the eWork Sailing Team, who will expect better after winning last month’s Tour event, Stena Match Cup Sweden.
The only Tour card holder to come through round one unscathed was US Virgin Islander Taylor Canfield and USone, who snuck across the line after trailing the wild card from New Zealand, Will Tiller’s Full Metal Jacket, for all but the final few boatlengths to the finish. “We kept fighting,” said Canfield, “and 100 yards to the finish we were able to roll him, threw two gybes in and managed to cross the finish ahead.”
Don Wilson was delighted to have beaten Williams, one of the hot favourites in Chicago. “Beating Ian Williams isn't easy, but we've got a really good team this year and expected to take our fair share of wins in this event. The key moment was in the start where we could get off the line at the favoured end, with a little jump on him. And then Sally Barkow our tactician did a great job of extending from there. It’s exciting for me to be here, racing against these guys, and starting with a win makes us feel good. But I think Ian has got a pretty thick skin. He's used to not winning all the time, so I doubt we've rattled him by taking that win.”
Williams smiled wryly at the loss. “We always lose to the local guy,” he laughed, and was not that surprised to have lost to Wilson. “He won the Grade 2 qualifier here against some of the best match racing teams, and I think he'll win plenty more this week. But we’re only one race in, and it's a long regatta.”
America’s Cup veteran Gavin Brady is one of the most experienced match racers here, yet he was scratching his head to work out when he last competed in an event on the Tour. “I think it was Portugal 2007, so it’s been a while, but I guess we’ve done enough in the past to remember a few things. It’s great to get a wild card to sail here. Bjorn Hansen is one of the older guys on the circuit, and this morning we were having a laugh about two of the older teams having a crack at each other first, and I've always enjoyed racing against them.
“We won the start, did what I though was the right thing to do, percentage-wise, and they passed us. Then they did the right thing by sailing towards the next gust, but then we saw a gust that appeared out of nowhere, we gybed over to it and we were able to sail over to it, and we beat them by three or four minutes. We sailed over to them afterwards, and I said, 'I don't think any other team would have done any different.' It's a slugfest out there. You put the frustrating ones behind you and keep chugging away. We’re having fun just being back in the game. We're the older team here, but there’s still plenty of gas in the tank, and we’d love to be in the Tour again.”
In Flight 2, the Tour card holders got their revenge, with Williams beating Brady and Hansen beating Wilson. Minoprio made amends from his Flight 1 defeat with a victory over Keith Swinton and Black Swan Racing. Canfield is currently the only sailor with two wins on the board after beating Johnie Berntsson and Stena Sailing Team.
With the light wind swinging around all sides of the compass, and then a huge rainstorm arriving at midday, principal race officer Peter ‘Luigi’ Reggio had a tough time getting matches in. Even so, the twin attractions of the Chicago Match Cup and the presence of Tall Ships Chicago is set to attract close to a million spectators to the historic Navy Pier, the Windy City’s largest and most famous tourist spot, over the next several days of the event. Fourteen tall ships have sailed from various corners of the USA to meet at the Navy Pier this afternoon for a week of festivities. Between the old charm of the traditional wooden tall ships and the modern cut-and-thrust of world class match racing in Tom 28s, visitors to Chicago are getting a chance to experience the full spectrum of what sailing has to offer.
Qualifying continues on Thursday with the knock-out stages due to commence on Friday.
Chicago Match Cup, Stage 4, Alpari World Match Racing Tour – Results After Flight 2
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone 2-0
Jordan Reece (AUS) Estate Master Sailing Team 1-0
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 1-1
Don Wilson (USA) Chicago Match Race Center 1-1
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 1-1
Gavin Brady (USA) Team Vesper 1-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team 1-1
Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket 0-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 0-1
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 0-1
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 0-0
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 0-0