The Quarter-Finals of the 2010 ISAF World Match Racing Tour, the Monsoon Cup are being sailed in KualaTerengganu, Malaysia and the World title could be decided in the next few hours.
In the final match of the qualifying round, triple Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie (TEAMORIGIN) was matched against Ian Williams (Team GAC Pindar), a dual World Match Racing Champion.
A crucial match for both skippers as it would decide the winner of the round robin series and who would have first choice of opponent for the quarter finals.
Racing yesterday afternoon provided nail biting excitement and drama. Three skippers, the 2009 World Match Racing Champion Adam Minoprio (ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing), the 2010 World Match Racing Tour leader Mathieu Richard (French Match Racing Team) and four times World Match Racing Champion Peter Gilmour (YANMAR Racing) were all in danger of missing the quarter finals.
Minoprio crashed out, while Richard and Gilmour gained much needed momentum and got through.
The Monsoon is a welcome guest at the Monsoon Cup – it provides a challenging race course with plenty of wind. The course is down river from Pulau Duyong, an island in middle of the Terengganu River and torrential rain and flooding overnight meant that gusts on the water were very hard to read, providing very challenging conditions especially for the tacticians.
This morning the last matches were sailed to complete the Qualifying round.
The highlight match was between the two British match racing heavy weights - Williams and Ainslie. At stake? Both bragging rights and more practically the right to chose an opponent for the quarters.
The Battle of Britain started in the heaviest rain of the morning. After winning the start from the favoured pin end, Williams took an early advantage when he lee-bowed Ainslie twice and led at the top mark, but Ainslie kept the match close. A lap later, Ainslie attempting to luff Williams, incurred a penalty. Williams accelerated away and won.
Dockside Williams commented ‘It is always nice to win the British battle. That is four times out of four against Ben on the Tour this year.
‘It was a great race. We started very well, the start line was very pin biased and we managed to take all that bias. But on the water Ben is smooth and fast and he kept coming at us. With the heavy rain and with the top mark close to the Monsoon Cup building, it was hard to see the pressure. With the rain on the water, you could have an opinion but could not be confident, so we were a little defensive on style. Ben kept coming at us in the puffs.
‘The turning point was when we managed to hold him all the way to lay line on the second windward leg. Then we had the luff, we managed to peel away, we were fast and he was slow and we sailed on to a good win.
‘The penalty could have gone either way - green or against Ben. In the absence of the penalty we still won the race. But now the regatta starts again’ Williams concluded.
Ben Ainslie commented on the match. ‘Ian and his team are sailing very well, as you'd expect, he has won two World Championships.
‘It was a very close race, we both had similar strategies at the start. It was close until the second top mark.
‘The luff? In hindsight we would have been better following him around, been close, without a penalty and with the ability to attack him down the last run.’
‘Overall our performance this year must be better than his (Williams) because we are ahead on (World Championship) points.’
This afternoon the Quarter finals begin.
Williams fighting for the Monsoon Cup has chosen the opponent he considers easiest to beat, the Swede Bjorn Hansen (Hansen Global Team).
Ainslie aiming to win the World Champion has chosen Richard, because if he beats the Frenchman in the quarters, Ainslie will be the 2010 World Champion. His choice is a major step towards making that happen.
Much is at stake – the ISAF World Match Racing title and the prestigious Monsoon Cup.
The Race for the Title
Richard wins the title if he:
Comes 1st, 2nd or 3rd, irrespective of who wins the Monsoon Cup
Comes 4th or 5th so long as Ainslie doesn’t win
Comes 6th, 7th or 8th so long as Ainslie isn’t in the final
Ainslie wins the title if he:
Comes 1st, so long as Richard doesn’t come in the top 3
Comes 2nd, so long as Richard doesn’t come in the top 5
Mirsky wins the title if he:
Wins the Monsoon Cup, so long as Ainslie doesn’t come in the top 2 and Richard doesn’t come higher than 8th
Quarter final Opponent draw.
Ian Williams (Team GAC Pindar) v Bjorn Hansen (Hansen Global Team)
Ben Ainslie (TEAMORIGIN) v Mathieu Richard (French Match Racing Team)
Jesper Radich (Gaastra Racing Team) v Francesco Bruni (Azzurra Team)
Peter Gilmour (YANMAR Racing) v Torvar Mirsky (Mirsky Racing Team)