Kuala Terengganu - Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar made an impressive start to his Monsoon Cup campaign by posting a 3-0 scoreline in the opening Qualifying Session in Kuala Terengganu whilst Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team did little to silence his rivals, losing both of his match races.
Richard, who has both defending champion, Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing and Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN breathing down his neck in the race for the championship, needed a strong start here in Malaysia. An early defeat to Ian Williams was followed by a match against Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Global Team. Having picked up a penalty in the pre-start, Richard tried to wind it off at one of the mark roundings but forfeited his lead in doing so, allowing the Swedish skipper to take control of the race and finish 45 seconds ahead. It was a bad time to lose for the first time this season against the Swede.
The Frenchman reflected: “Not the start we wanted at all today. We had two bad starts. In our first race again Ian Williams there was a shift before the start, so we suffered. Against Bjorn Hansen, he was sailing well today. We might have a strong record against Bjorn but he beat us today and that is the only result I care about. The only thing we can be sure of is that we must do much better tomorrow.”
Despite these defeats, the Frenchman will be buoyed by the mixed fortunes of his nearest rivals, with Minoprio losing to Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team and Ben Ainslie going down to the increasingly-impressive Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing to take the polish off his two opening victories.
Ainslie was earlier involved in an epic battle against this season’s most consistent skipper, Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team in what commentator PJ Montgomery deemed “match racing at its best.” Radich picked up a red flag penalty early in the race, allowing Ainslie to take what started to look like an unassailable lead. However, on the first run Radich got just ahead and when the two boats crossed the fireworks started. After two dial-downs in quick succession, Ainslie luffed Radich, pined a red-flag penalty on him and then held his lead to the finish.
Off the water, Terengganu Menteri Besar YAB Dato Seri Ahmad announced that discussions are already underway ensure the Monsoon Cup remains part of the World Match racing Tour beyond 2012. In what is already the richest event on the Tour, offering nearly $500,000 in prize money, Dato Seri Ahmad revealed that an increase in the prize purse is being considered:
“Obviously we want the Monsoon Cup to stay here beyond 2012. Perhaps we can offer more prize money if that will help us secure a longer contract. All the facilities are already in place and it will be a waste if we can’t extend the contract. The additional prize money will come out of the state’s budget as we want to keep the event in Terengganu as it has been a big boom for the state.”
Results after 3 Flights:
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar 3-0
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN 2-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Global Team 2-0
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team 1-0
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Azzurra 1-0
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 1-0
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 1-1
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 1-2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing Team 0-1
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
0-2Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team 0-2
Jeremy Koo (MAL) Koo Racing Team Evernew 0-3