Ian Roman Photography / www.ianroman.com

Down to the final flight

Bjorn Hansen on a charge at Chicago Match Cup

Friday September 19th 2014, Author: Dobbs Davis, Location: United States

After a lacklustre performance in Qualifying yesterday, and a terrible start to the Repechage today, Björn Hansen looked as though the Chicago Match Cup would end early for him when after three flights he had still not won a single match. He needed to win all of his remaining four matches to have a chance to go through to the Quarter Finals, and even then would be at the mercy of tie-breaks among the other seven teams to determine his fate.

This outcome would be a blow for Hansen: as one of the senior members of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour , Hansen has done well this year, winning Match Cup Sweden in July and is only one point behind Qualifying series winner Taylor Canfield who is third on the Tour leaderboard.

But then things started to fall into place for the Swedes, starting with a win against top-ranked US match racer Don Wilson. Then another win in Flight 5 against the ISAF #8-ranked Danish team led by by Dane Joachim Aschenbrenner.

Suddenly the impossible became plausible, as the other teams wins and losses through Flight 5 started to bring into focus some scenarios where the Swedes could get through. In the building 8-12 knot breeze and steep 1m high waves on Lake Michigan, teams like Chris Steele who had more time in the TOM 28s were beating their opponents through shear boathandling prowess and excellent timing.

Regardless, Hansen had to keep winning and get to four points to have a chance. The next match in Flight 6 was going to be a hard one against Mathieu Richard, as the French were already strong on four wins and were nearly certain to go through. But Hansen did it, and the final showdown lie ahead in Flight 7.

In this flight, not only did Hansen have to beat Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX, another strong team already through on five wins, but also have Wilson defeat Tom Slingsby, because if Slingsby won he would go to four points as well and beat Hansen on the tie-break.

In this final flight the breeze kicked up a notch to 15 knots, with a hint of right shift, Hansen successfully controlled the right side off the start and well into the first beat, shearing off the Aussies on the long starboard tack off the start line. The hard part came on the next leg, when any boat trailing could find the right wave and surf ahead into an overlap to completely change the match.

But Hansen’s team kept their cool, survived the attacks on the run, protected the right side on the next beat, and survived the final run to cross the line ahead by several lengths.

And Wilson did his part by defeating Slingsby, strategist on Oracle Team USA in the last America’s Cup, by taking and winning the start and leading throughout the match to the finish.

“It feels great to get through and start with a clean slate now,” said Hansen. “It has felt like we’ve just been out of luck all week, where whatever we did was just the wrong thing. It was like that this morning too, until we made a few changes in our trim upwind, and this made a big difference. And in our match with Richard, we got a little lucky when Mathieu was down speed with us at the top mark and hit a wave that caused him to stop and drift into the mark [to get a penalty], helping us to win that match.”

When asked if he knew who would select him from the top four determined from the Qualifying Series yesterday, Hansen said he didn’t know. But he did say who Canfield, the top seed from yesterday, should pick to make the Tour leader board tighten up.

“We were talking amongst ourselves earlier and agreed Taylor should choose Ian Williams,” said Hansen. “Taylor has raced here more than anyone and has the strongest chance to beat him.” The reason for this is that if successful, Williams would be deprived of a chance to go to the Semi-Finals and thus gaining more than the 14 points awarded a fifth place finisher for the event. With a 17-point lead over the current runner-up Richard, this would help compress the standings coming into the final run of two events in Holland and Bermuda and the season’s finale in Malaysia.

Quarter Final racing will start tomorrow at 0930 CDT as a first-to-three point series, with pairings determined in the morning before racing.

Repechage Results:

1. Chris Steele (NZL) 36 Below Racing, 6-1
2. Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets, 5-2
3. Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX, 5-2
4. Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team, 4-3
5. Tom Slingsby (AUS) Slingsby Racing Team, 3-4
6. Eric Monnin (SUI) Team Sailbox, 2-5
7. Don Wilson (USA) Chicago Match Race Center, 2-5
8. Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN) Aschenbrenner Racing, 1-6

Quarter Finalists:

Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
Pierre Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
Chris Steele (NZL) 36 Below Racing
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team

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