St. Moritz Match Race - Another step closer for Williams

Williams takes the lead over Berntsson during the qualifying round at St. Moritz Match Race 2011
Loris von Siebenthal/St Moritz Match Race
The St. Moritz Match Race is the sixth stage of the World Match Racing Tour and is currently taking place on Lake St Moritz in the Engadin Valley. During the day’s competition, Ian Williams took another step closer to qualifying directly for the semi-finals after dispatching his joint overnight leader Johnie Bertnsson in a tie-break match in the second Qualifying Session. Team GAC Pindar has now secured seven wins and sits above a group of teams in a tense battle for the seven quarter-final spots.

With both Team GAC Pindar and Berntsson Sailing Team on six wins and one loss, their match in flight 17 could prove crucial in deciding who qualifies directly for the semi-finals. Both Williams and Berntsson wanted the favoured left however Berntsson was forced to tack just after the start and was forced right. As has been the case all week, Williams found more pressure on the left and built an unassailable lead.

Williams was clear in the build-up to the event that he was focused on winning Qualifying: 'The win against Johnie was a really big one for us', commented Williams. 'We’d seen that Johnie had been sailing really well so it was an important one for us to win to help achieve our aim to win Qualifying. We do have a habit of losing to teams that don’t do so well, as we showed today, so that’s something we need to work on for tomorrow.'

Overnight there was a pool of teams, including Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat who still needed three or four wins to see themselves through to the quarter-finals. Mirsky hasn’t failed to qualify for the knock-out stages since last year’s St. Moritz Match Race and also boasts the best win rate amongst the Tour Card Holders in the Qualifying rounds this season. He showed that pedigree today in very fickle winds, grinding out wins over Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Extreme Team Morbihan, Eric Monnin (SUI) Oklays Corum Sailing Team and Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team. Standing on the verge of the quarter-finals, Mirsky said:

'This regatta is a tricky one as the conditions are so shifty. No one can understand this Lake but that’s the fun of it. Even the locals can’t give us any tips! We are a bit rusty at the moment as we haven’t been focussed entirely on match racing recently and my career has been a bit of a rollercoaster so our results here are very satisfying.

'We probably need to get one more point to guarantee our spot in the quarter-finals but if we do miss out with six wins we will be unlucky.'

The day was punctuated with stop and starts owing to necessary course changes as a result of the inconsistent winds but the tension remained to the close. Defending ‘King of the Mountain’ Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team went into his match against fellow struggler Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing in a do or die situation with both teams realistically needing to win their remaining three matches to stand a chance of qualifying. It was Richard who dominated and lives on but only by a thread:

'I’m not surprised that some teams are struggling here, the level is very high. I’m not sure how confident I am of making it through to the next round - we are in a bit of a tricky situation. We still have two matches left and we really have to win them so we will head out tomorrow and do what we can.'

Robertson is all but out however he remained upbeat about his debut performance here in the Engadin Valley: 'It was an important match for us and Mathieu was on similar points so we really had to win. The conditions were really difficult and they didn’t really favour us. We haven’t really gelled well as a crew this week but we’ve done well for our first time here. I really don’t think we could have done much more, we put our all in.'

Like Mirsky, Damien Iehl came into the second Qualifying Session on a 3-2 scoreline and a dogged display today from his French Match Racing Team puts him on the verge of Qualifying for the quarter-finals for the third time this season. 'It was tough out there today and we relied on our pre-starts which have been very good. With two wins and one loss it’s near perfect. We just need one more point and I think we will make it through.'

The 2011 St. Moritz Match Race is proving to be one of the toughest events this year on the World Match Racing Tour with eight of the nine Tour Card Holders vying for the honours, something Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners is only too aware of. He is firmly in the danger zone with a 3-5 scoreline and commented: 'I’ve been thinking ‘when are we going to get to race an easy team’ but realistically we’re not going to get one here. From match to match anything can happen and on the day anyone can win.'

Catch the end to this exciting Qualifying round of the St. Moritz Match Race tomorrow when the fate of Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team (4-4), Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing (4-4) and Morvan (5-4) will be determined.

Standings after the Second Qualifying Session:

Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar 7-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 6-2
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat 6-2
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 5-3
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 4-4
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing 4-4
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Extreme Team Morbihan 4-4
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 4-5
Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners 3-5
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 3-6
Eric Monnin (SUI) Oklays Corum Sailing Team 2-7
Jérôme Clerc (SUI) Team CER 1-8

2011 ISAF World Match Race Tour – ranking after five stages:

1 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 81pts
2 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 74pts
3 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar – 71pts
4 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners – 59pts
5 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 59pts
6 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 57pts
7 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 57pts
8 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 53pts
9 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing – 39pts
10 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team – 34pts

St. Moritz Match Race website
World Match Racing Tour website