Stena Match Cup Sweden is known for being one of the few events where, thanks to the boats and venue topography, sailors can race in anger inshore in gale force conditions with spinnakers. Over its 20 years this has provided some of the most action-packed match racing of all time, all visible to the spectators packing Marstrand’s natural sailing stadium.
America's Cup legends Baird and Holmberg at Stena Match Cup Sweden
Today’s racing was a classic example with the winds blowing a solid 25 knots, gusting to gale force. It was a day of shredded, wrapped and trawled spinnakers, collisions, a broach of the normally unbroachable DS37 as well as some at-the-limit match racing.
Qualifying concluded today with Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar winning on an impressive 12 points, but tied with Francesco Bruni’s Luna Rossa. Both teams dropped just one match: Williams to the 20-year-old Dane Joachim Aschenbrenner, Bruni falling to Williams. They finished four points ahead of third placed Mathieu Richard’s Lunajets and Keith Swinton’s Team Alpari FX.
'It is great to get through in the top spot, but our thoughts are now on the Quarter Finals,' said Williams. 'We have got to bring out our A-game.' This afternoon Williams picked to race Joachim Aschenbrenner in tomorrow’s Quarter Finals.
As to today’s big conditions, Williams said they had just been under control, although they suffered a twisted kite. 'It wasn’t crazy, but it puts more emphasis on boat handling, setting the boat up well and getting it balanced. Boat speed differences become more marked in those conditions, so it was good to have a few old hands on board.' The DS37 can withstand being raced in 30 knots mainly due to their having large rudders.
Mathieu Richard made a late charge, winning his last three key matches against Robertson, Hansen and Swinton. The French team had a particularly action-packed match with Hansen: 'It was a crazy match which we will remember for a while. We loved it - a dog fight with penalties, big luffs, a big fight, very physical on board and big engagement for everyone. It was very good racing.'
Ian Williams of GAC Pindar leads the Qualifying at Stena Match Cup Sweden
Fighting for their survival at Stena Match Cup Sweden today were the mid-fielders, Bjorn Hansen, David Gilmour, Phil Robertson, Nicolai Sehested. Robertson in particular had a disappointing day losing his last four matches.
Slipping through to the Quarter Finals was David Gilmour, the newbie Tour Card holder causing upset by beating Tour defending champion Taylor Canfield in the final match of the last flight. Proud father, Peter tweeted: 'Nice work TG @TeamGilmour any more points is a waste of effort!'
Also through and keeping Swedish interests alive is Bjorn Hansen: 'It was a fantastic day for sailing. I really enjoyed it, especially the second race when it really got up to 30 knots in the gusts and you started to get some waves coming in that you could surf on. All the people who came here, even if it was raining, really appreciated what they saw out there.'
Last year Hansen came back from the brink to claim the Stena Match Cup Sweden title, something he hopes to repeat this year.
Winds blowing a solid 25 knots, gusting to gale force during the Qualifying of Stena Match Cup Sweden
Sadly the bottom six teams are now out of the competition. This includes the two match racing ‘legends’: Swede Magnus Holmberg and American three time ISAF Match Racing World Champion, Ed Baird, who finally lined up today with the American coming out on top.
Some of the younger sailors are also heading home. Nicolai Sehested and his Trefor Match Racing team will be returning to Denmark. 'It has been a great week,' said Sehested. 'It is always good fun racing in big wind. Today the game was on.' Sehested had a particular good race against Johnie Berntsson, where after much overtaking, his Swedish opponent ended up a penalty down and with his jib wrapped around the forestay.
Sehested grew up sailing on the DS37 yachts and is very experienced on them. 'They are really good boats for racing in strong winds. They have big rudders, you can turn the boats wherever you want and there is no risk of wiping out on the downwind. They have plenty of control and power, so really good for racing in strong wind.'
In last place on two wins (against Ed Baird and Magnus Holmberg) was 26-year-old Swede Viktor Ogeman. 'We didn’t do as well as we’d hoped,' he said. 'We came here hoping to get into the quarters. We feel we’ve improved from two years ago but we had a lot of close matches and weren’t quite there.'
While the DS37s are difficult broach the young Swedish team managed it on their final downwind leg in their match against Aschenbrenner.
Tomorrow the Quarter Finals set sail at 09:30.
Final Results of Qualifying
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 12-1
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa 12-1
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 8-5
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 8-5
Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN) Team Trifork 7.5-5
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone 7-6
Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 6-7
David Gilmour (ASU) Team Gilmour 6-7
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing 6-7
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) Trefor Match Racing 6-7
Ed Baird (USA) Quantum Racing 4-9
Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Team Magnus Holmberg 3-10
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 2.5-10
Viktor Ogeman (SWE) Team Accure 2-11
Stage 2 Stena Match Cup Sweden, Alpari World Match Racing Tour - Quarter-Finals
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar vs Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN) Team Trifork
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa v David Gilmour (ASU) Team Gilmour
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets v Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX v Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team