Gram-Hansen leads Match Cup Sweden after Day Two

Sebastien Col slips past Ben Ainslie on day 2 of Match Cup Sweden 2008 Image © Dan Ljungsrik - Match Cup Sweden

Yesterday’s sunny skies returned today on day two of Match Cup Sweden, but the wind did not. Nonetheless, race officials from the Royal Gothenburg YC (GKSS) valiantly shifted courses in the fiord to suit the morning easterly offshore breeze, then to the westerly sea breeze which never built above about seven knots. In all, seven flights were completed in the day’s schedule.

The shifty breeze seemed to suit the Scandinavian teams most familiar with the DS37’s used in the competition, as Dane Jes Gram-Hansen and his Trifork Racing Team won five of seven matches today to take the lead on a 7-3 record. With only one flight left in his eleven-match Round Robin, this guarantees him a place in the next stage of the competition, the Quarter Finals, to be sailed on Friday. Also going to the next stage on six wins each will be Swedes Magnus Holmberg and his Victory Challenge Team, as well as yesterday’s leader Mattias Rahm and his Stena Bulk Racing Team.

Conversely, there will be some teams likely not going into the next round. Surprisingly, and a testament to the tough 12-team field at this fourth stage of the World Match Racing Tour, these include a prior Tour stage champion: Brazil Sailing Cup victor Paolo Cian (ITA) and his Team Shosholoza, who has remained winless in the event. Match Cup Germany winner Damien Iehl and his French Match Racing Team may also be in trouble, as they are on only three wins, but with three matches left to sail they still have a chance to get through by doing well tomorrow. Both can act as spoilers in the inevitable complex tie-break scenario that will determine the remaining positions in the Final Eight.

Besides Cian, another team unlikely to sail on Friday is Ben Ainslie (GBR) and his Team Origin. Despite having good starts, and demonstrating fast pace around the track today, the Finn champion came ashore with just three wins with only one match left to sail tomorrow. Ainslie said he was surprised with his performance, as with the Olympics only weeks away, he still felt more confident than ever in a match race event.

'It was fun sailing today, but frustrating too, as I felt we were sailing well, with good starts and good speed. But in not having match raced since last September, we’re just not as tuned as some of these other teams that are sailing on the Tour, so our stupid mistakes really cost us,' said Ainslie.

One such mistake was in having gotten two penalties on fellow Brit Ian Williams, he failed to recognize the change mark for the second windward leg, and rounded the incorrect mark while leading Williams’ Team Pindar by four lengths. Williams then cleverly planned to also round the wrong mark and even start to hoist their spinnaker, but then quickly doused and extended upwind to round the proper mark.

Realizing their mistake late, Team Origin had to douse their kite, hoist their jib, and also avoid entanglement with another pair rounding the same mark. The mistake put them behind not only Williams but the other pair as well, and it looked as though Team Pindar had more than enough space to do their last penalty turn and finish comfortably ahead.

Yet an early gybe and finding some pressure in the middle of the course brought Ainslie to within only a few lengths of his rival at the finish line, and only through outstanding and seasoned crew work on Williams’ team of reigning World Champions were they able to do their douse, perform their turn, and still cross the line ahead with only metres to spare.

Round robin racing will be completed tomorrow in day three of Match Cup Sweden, with four flights scheduled for the afternoon. More sunny skies, warm temperatures, and light winds are forecast, which should prompt even more spectators than today’s estimated 30,000 to line the rocks for the show in Marstrand.

Results:
Lars Linger trimming the jibs for Magnus Holmberg at Match Cup Sweden 2008 © Dan Ljungsrik - Match Cup Sweden

1. Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN), Trifork Racing Team 7 – 3
2. Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Victory Challenge 6 - 4
3. Mattias Rahm (SWE), Stena Bulk Racing Team 6 - 4
4. Mathieu Richard (FRA), French Match Racing Team 5 - 2
5. Peter Gilmour (AUS), PST Team 5 – 3
6. Bjorn Hansen (SWE), Alandia Sailing Team 4 - 3
7. Torvar Mirsky (AUS), Mirsky Racing Team 4 - 4
8. Sebastian Col (FRA), French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge 4 - 4
9. Ian Williams (GBR), Team Pindar 3 - 4
10. Damien Iehl (FRA), French Match Racing Team 3 - 5
11. Ben Ainslie (GBR), Team Origin 3 - 7
12. Paolo Cian (ITA), Team Shosholoza 0 – 7

For more information about the World Match Racing Tour, visit the WMRT website at www.worldmatchracingtour.com