Into the semis
There was dramatic tension all the way into the final two matches of the Qualifying stage at the Chicago Match Cup, when two slots still remained open for the top four to go through to the Quarter-Finals. For Pierre Antoine Morvan and Vannes Agglo Sailing Team the path was simple: the French skipper had to win his match against Jordan Reece and Estate Master Sailing Team to keep his hopes alive to make this final four of this, the fourth event in the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. The scenario was looking grim for the French when the Australians held the lead going into the final top mark, set up nicely on starboard to simply tack at the mark, set the spinnaker, and defend their lead to the finish.
But the waves from a passing boat stopped Reece through his tack, allowing Morvan to roll over him after the kite set. In the ensuing gybing duel, Reece regained the lead when Morvan gybed, but then lost to the French on the final gybe to the finish. Reece was philosophical about the loss. “We made a few mistakes around the race course, got some penalties we shouldn't have, a couple of lead changes with Morvan. Every time we had a moment we needed to cross Morvan we'd hit some powerboat wash on our bow. It just didn't go our way.” Still, all was not lost for the young Australian, with a final Flight to run.
In the next match, Morvan had a similar downwind duel with Will Tiller and Full Metal Jacket who had a slim initial lead on their first run but carrying a penalty. Morvan played the Tour rules brilliantly by hooking and luffing the Kiwi, who was judged by the umpires to not have kept clear, thus earning a second blue flag. The luffing then continued, both spinnakers flailing, for too long before Full Metal Jacket earned a black flag for not doing everything needed to do their turn, thereby giving Morvan his 7th point and an invitation to sit out from the Repechage. The Frenchman said he was looking forward to having a rest and going shopping for some cut-price electrical goods along Michigan Avenue.
But there was still one more slot to fill, with the outcome uncertain going into the final match. If Reece won against Robertson and WAKA Racing, then Reece would go to 7 points and get the nod. But if Robertson won, even though he would have been on a roll in having won both his final matches, he would only go to 6 points, and get into a 3-way tie break with Hansen and Reece. And even though he would have defeated Reece, he had earlier lost to Hansen, and since Hansen also beat Reece, Hansen would get the nod.
So, Hansen and eWork Sailing Team sat on the sidelines while their fate was being decided, silently cheering on Robertson. The Kiwi duly won the race, making the Swedes very happy, and consigning Reece to the Repechage. Hansen said: “I was so nervous watching that race, I couldn’t even eat my sandwich. I'd much rather sail for my survival than have to sit on the sidelines like that. It’s a great relief to get through to the Quarter-Finals, and to not let Ian [Williams] slip away too far in the overall Tour rankings.”
Clearly Hansen is thinking not just about winning in Chicago, but winning the 2013 Tour season, and every place counts. He also has an added worry about the match fitness of his bowman, Mathias Bredin. “He has a problem with the tendons in his leg, so it’s good that we have a day off from racing now. If the breeze stays light we will be OK, but if it's windier we might have to find a replacement bowman, maybe from one of the four teams being kicked out after the Repechage.”
With the Qualifying completed, there was no rest for the vanquished, but straight into the Repechage for the bottom eight teams. From this, four will go through to the Quarter-Finals, and four teams will go home. In the four flights held before the wind died out, it was Will Tiller who became the comeback kid, turning in an impressive 3-1 performance by defeating Johnie Berntsson, Keith Swinton, and Adam Minoprio and losing only to Robertson, who also went 3-1 for this stage and 5-1 for the day. “We’ve been like an unguided missile the first couple of days here,” said Tiller, “and we had a lot of close matches but got really good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Good that we seemed to have turned that around this afternoon though, getting some wins on the board.”
Jordan Reece, on the other hand, from having done so well on the first days of the competition, has suffered a dramatic fall from grace today. “We’ve basically fallen from 3rd to 12th in a day, and we were probably lucky that racing was called off early today,” he said. “But I don’t think we’re doing anything too wrong, just getting on the bad side of some marginal situations like that powerboat wash with Morvan this morning. We’re looking forward to getting back into it tomorrow.”
Chicago Match Cup, Stage 4, Alpari World Match Racing Tour – REPECHARGE after Flight 4
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 3-1
Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket 3-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 2-2
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 2-2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 2-2
Don Wilson (USA) Chicago Match Race Center 2-2
Jordan Reece (AUS) Estate Master Sailing Team powered by Etihad Airways 1-3
Gavin Brady (USA) Team Vesper 1-3