World Tour leaders Williams, Col and Richard defeated in Quarter-Finals
Hamilton, Bermuda – In a stunning upset to the three leaders of the World Match Racing Tour, Mattias Rahm (SWE) and his Stena Bulk Sailing Team, Johnie Berntsson (SWE) and his Berntsson Sailing Team and young Adam Minoprio (NZL) and the Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing team have all advanced to the Semi-Final round of the King Edward VII Gold Cup presented by Argo Group. Ben Ainslie (GBR) and his Team Origin have also advanced, defeating Tour newcomer Keith Swinton (AUS) in today's first-to-three point Quarter Final round.
Semi final racing will feature these match-ups:
Ben Ainslie vs. Adam Minoporio
Johnie Berntsson vs. Mattais Rahm
World Tour leader and reigning World Champion Ian Williams (GBR) and his Team Pindar fell prey to Match Cup Sweden winner Rahm in five matches, the longest of any in this round. And two teams of the seemingly invincible French Match Racing Team – Mathieu Richard and Sebastian Col – fell in four matches to Berntsson and Minoprio, respectively.
Racing today was delayed for an hour awaiting the easterly breeze to fill fully in Hamilton harbor, but once in it developed into a pleasant 8-10 knots, perfect for match race sailing. Shifts and puffs were still determining factors in many matches, however, so like in the three earlier days in this competition the leaders were rarely safe without having substantial margins over their rivals, and the action was often quite close in all four pairs.
"It was a relief to see that Richard and Col didn't make the cut for the semi's too," said Williams. "The World Championship is out there for the taking, and we are all very driven individuals so it will be a tough event. All we know at this stage is one of us will be crowned World Champion."
On today's tight matches with Rahm, Williams said "Normally you need just a little something extra to win at this level, and Mattias had that today while we did not."
The other quarterfinal matches saw Ben Ainslie (GBR) of Team Origin continue his winning streak by taking three matches from Keith Swinton (AUS) of Black Swan Racing. However Swinton remains the only competitor so far to have won a race against the Olympic Gold Medalist - a great achievement for the young antipodean who has shown great promise at his first Tour event.
Col was not able to carry his momentum from his win last week at the Troia Portugal Match Cup, only able to secure one win against Minoprio, a young Kiwi talent now in his second Tour Semi-Final. "Previous winners of the Gold Cup include fellow countrymen Russell Coutts, Rod Davis and Chris Dixon, so it would be great if I could join them," commented Minoprio.
As an example of the closeness of the competition today, defending Gold Cup Champion Richard won the first match against Bernstsson and was holding a slim lead on the second beat of the second match. Nearing the windward mark for the second time Richard was on starboard and dialed down Berntsson on port tack. The young Swede reacted well, dipping Richard's transom and luffing hard as Richard tacked to port. Richard, as the give-way boat, was forced to tack away again. This gave Berntsson the edge he needed, and along with a lucky left shift meant he got to the mark just ahead of Richard, setting his Argo Group spinnaker and sailing away to level the score. Bolstered by the win, Berntsson continued the excellent form he has shown so far in the event and took Richard down 3-1 in the series.
After a consolation round of racing for 5th through 8th places, the Semi-Finals will start tomorrow with Ben Ainslie facing Mattias Rahm and Johnie Berntsson taking on Adam Minoprio.
While the downfall of the top three Tour teams will have them re-focusing forward to the Monsoon Cup, today's thrilling Quarter-finals still may have an interesting impact on the overall Tour standings. Both Col and Richard breathed a sigh of relief when Williams was eliminated by Rahm. Among the top three in the Tour only Col can get closer to Williams by two points if he finishes in 5th place, and any worse finish and his points stay the same. For Rahm a win here in Bermuda would see him leap to 4th in the Tour, as would a win by Minoprio. As the penultimate event on the World Tour the Gold Cup has delivered some great opportunities for the chasing pack to turn up the heat on the final event.
Current World Match Racing Tour Leaderboard (top eight teams):
1. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 98 points
2. Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, 92
3. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team/ French Team Spirit, 87
4. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team , 53
5. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 51
6. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Shosholoza, 43
7. Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Alandia Sailing Team, 40
8. Mattias Rahm (SWE) Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 34
For more information about the World Match Racing Tour, visit the WMRT website at www.worldmatchracingtour.com