Survival of the fittest
A major culling took place on day three of the Argo Group Gold Cup, the penultimate event on the 2013 Alpari World Match Racing Tour when the eight quarter finalists were decided from the 20 strong starting grid in Qualifying. 12 crews are now packing their bags and heading home.
None of the skippers has so far survived without dropping at least one match. Three finished on 8-1: Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar team fell to Bjorn Hansen’s eWork Sailing Team, while among the two crews fresh from the America’s Cup in San Francisco, Ben Ainslie lost to Ian Williams, while Francesco Bruni’s Luna Rossa crew fell to Keith Swinton’s Black Swan Racing.
Sadly the big guns not making it through to the Quarter Finals include Johnie Berntsson, Pierre Antoine Morvan, William Tiller and Mathieu Richard.
Hamilton Harbour was its usual balmy self today, however the wind had veered into the southwest forcing David Campbell-James’ race management team to set shorter courses across the Harbour rather than down its length. Conditions were also lighter, challenging the tacticians with shifts and holes on the course.
Ben Ainslie’s Argo Group-backed team managed to overhaul Pierre Antoine Morvan up the first beat and then led for the rest of his race, but in the second he was trailing Will Tiller’s Full Metal Jacket team only for the Kiwi team to sail the wrong course, thinking they had finished after two laps, rather than three.
“It was a bit lucky for us,” said Ainslie. The British Olympic legend admitted he was surprised to have come out among the top trio in Qualifying. “We didn’t even think we’d get through to the next round. We had no idea how things would go. We are here to have fun.”
Tonight he and his tactician Iain Percy will be central to a fundraiser for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation hosted at the home of Mark Watson, CEO and President of Argo Group. “It is shaping up Mark and Ana Paula Watson have put a lot into hosting the evening. Any support people can give, we’d really appreciate it.”
Today, after winning the ‘spaghetti showdown’ against fellow countryman Simone Ferrarese, Francesco Bruni got roundly beaten by Keith Swinton’s Black Swan Racing team. “I made a mistake in the pre-start and got a penalty straightaway. Then on the second beat we had a dial-down situation where I was pretty sure we were safe, but I got another penalty. Anyway, it is hard to keep a high record for so long. We are happy going into the Quarter Finals.”
But today the focus was more on those fighting for a berth in the Quarter Finals.
For example Bjorn Hansen’s position was looking marginal going into today, but victory over Ian Williams helped him through. “It feels good,” said Hansen of his win over the Alpari World Match Racing Tour leader. The Swedish skipper managed to put a penalty on Williams in the prestart and led around the course, but Williams closed on him and up the second beat there was a dial down during which the British crew picked up a second penalty. “After that it was pretty much game over. As always with Ian after the first three dial ups there is a lot of shouting and screaming and laughing – everything happens out there.”
But the biggest come-backs were made by Keith Swinton and defending champion Taylor Canfield and his USone team.
Swinton was pleased to have beaten Bruni, but his toughest match was against Johnie Berntsson, in which he came out on top. The Australian skipper felt today’s luck made up for a disappointing first day when he lost two points through his boats twice experiencing main halyard failures.
After dropping two points on day one, defending champion of the Argo Group Gold Cup, Taylor Canfield has gone on to win six races in a row. “It is reassuring for us,” said Canfield. “We are feeling great in the boat. At this event, the tough goal is to make the quarter finals.”
The highlight of their day was racing Adam Minoprio and his Team Alpari FX. In this Canfield led off the line only for Minoprio to catch up. “We came back together and we got a red flag penalty for tacking too close and forcing our way between Adam and the mark,” explains the US Virgin skipper. They carried out their penalty and it appeared to be all over when Canfield caught a gust to roll past Minoprio and take the win.
Not so happy about his performance was Stena Sailing Team skipper Johnie Berntsson. “That was probably my worst day,” admitted the Swedish skipper. “We made too many mistakes in our decisions. This was one of those days when you don’t get anything to work as you want. When we had an advantage or an opportunity then we didn’t have any luck, there was a shift against us or the wind died. This was a really bad day for us.”
For the Quarter-Finals tomorrow, Ian Williams has picked to race Taylor Canfield, while Francisco Bruni will race Phil Robertson, Adam Minoprio chose Keith Swinton, leaving Bjorn Hansen to sail Sir Ben Ainslie.
Group 1 results
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa 8-1
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone 7-2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 7-2
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 6-3
Eric Monnin (SWI( Swiss Match Race Team 4-5
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 4-5
Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Sailing Team 3-6
Lance Fraser (BER) Digicel Business Match Racing 3-6
Marek Stanczyk (POL) Nautiner Yachts Sailing Team 2-7
Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing 1-8
Group 2 results
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 8-1
Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR) Ben Ainslie Sailing Team sponsored by Argo Group 8-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team 6-3
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 5-4
Chris Steel (NZL) 36 Below Racing 5-4
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 5-4
Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team 3-6
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) Trefor Match Racing 2-7
Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket 2-7
Joshua Greenslade (BER) Wide Open Racing 1-8