Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia - The Monsoon Cup, the final event of the World Match Racing Tour, with MYR 1.57 millon (approxUS$454,000) prize money was sailed on the Pulau Duyong basin in Kuala Terengganu in Malaysia this week.
Yesterday Adam Minoprio and his ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing crew of Tom Powrie, David Swete, Nick Blackman and Dan McLean won the ISAF World Match Racing Championship on the way to the Monsoon Cup finals.
Today the new World Champion sailed against the legendary Ben Ainslie, 32 year old British sailor, three-time Olympic gold medallist and ISAF World Sailor of the Year in 1998, 2002 and 2008. Ainslie's mainsheet hand is double Olympic Gold medallist Iain Percy and the balance of his crew Matt Cornwell, Christian Kamp and Mike Mottl are considered amongst the best in the world.
The drama started even before the pre-start when the New Zealand skipper Minoprio sailed out of the sailing area and ran aground. Crew member Dave Swete stripped to his shorts and went into the water to check the keel for damage and to clean off any of the river mud that may have stuck.
In the first match of the final, Minoprio entered on port but headed to the starboard end of the box and had the pre-start advantage.
Ainslie was over early and was penalized for failing to keep clear. Minoprio too was over early but was able to duck back while Ainslie almost stalled and was slow to get back.
Minoprio had a massive advantage; he was in the current and steaming around the top mark while Ainslie was 18 seconds behind. In a risky attempt to close the gap, at the bottom of the course Ainslie went right and sailed into softer air.
Minoprio extended on the left and headed for home with a massive ten boat length lead and crossed the finish line first.
Now all the pressure was on Ainslie and TeamOrigin.
Across the line Minoprio commented 'A good race. We wanted the pin and we got it. We won't be happy until its 3-0.'
Ainslie could only say 'Adam and his guys sailed a good race. Now we have to try and turn it round.'
But it got worse in the second match as Minoprio timed his start perfectly and headed left, leaving Ainslie staggering.
Ainslie's summary of the situation 'Sorry guys.' He headed right but bailed and flopped left. The Olympic master was struggling against his young rivals who were now two lengths ahead at the top mark.
As Minoprio crossed the line to go two up in the first to three, he said to his crew 'one more.'
Ainslie said 'We were on the ropes initially in the pre-start, but we escaped and led on the right. We need to win the next three races; its not going well for us at the moment we have to regroup.'
Regroup was what TeamOrigin certainly needed to do but the young World Champions were not about to help them.
Just seconds before the third race start, Minoprio saw pressure coming in from the right and did not contest the previously favoured left hand side. Ainslie hit the current on the left but it was not enough, Minoprio was around the mark two lengths ahead.
The elation in the voices on the BlackMatch boat could be heard. 'Is this a reversal of the last Bermuda?' 'Come on concentrate' replied Minoprio.
Twenty seconds ahead at the bottom mark, the Kiwis headed left and the Brits followed. With breeze up, Minoprio extended his lead.
On the third lap and on the right, Minoprio had private current and the best breeze.
During the week Ainslie either won easily or lost narrowly. So for him the final was a giant turn around.
There was anguish on Ainslie's boat as a halyard came unclipped and the spinnaker fell down. Ainslie threw his sailing hat down in despair.
Adam Minoprio and his BlackMatch Racing team had won the Monsoon Cup.
The clearly elated Minoprio said 'That last breeze call was the defining moment. It's been a very intense event for us. We came in thinking that if we focussed on winning the Monsoon Cup, the ISAF World Match Racing Championship result would look after its self.
'We just scraped into the quarter finals, but it went pretty well after that.
'We were always keen to meet Ben and his great crew in the final. We've done it twice before in Bermuda. We beat them to win the final of the Bermuda Gold Cup in 2008 and they beat us in the same event in 2009.
'They are a great team and considering how many other sailing events they are involved in, their ability to switch focus to match racing is very impressive.
'Ben and his team don't generally get caught up in trying to tangle people up in the pre-start. He's very focussed on getting to the line fast. He doesn't smash the other guy at the start; he just has a little bit more speed.
'He's a fast sailor and its tricky to counter that and that's how he got us in Bermuda, so today we concentrated on trying to tie him up at the start and that worked for us.'
Ben Ainslie related 'A pretty disappointing day. Everything we did was wrong and the spinnaker coming down on the last run really capped it off.
'We are pleased for Adam and his boys... they gave us a lesson today. We have more work to do as a team.
'It's great to make the final in this last Tour event of the year. For us, the focus of the World Match Racing Tour has been around trying to build ourselves up; mainly the relationship between Iain Percy and myself in terms of an after guard relationship based around the Cup.
'It's been a little bit frustrating that we haven't been able to do more World Tour events and we feel we have a good crack at winning the Tour outright and we are keen to do just that in the future. For us it's been a great opportunity to up our skill level in terms of match racing.
'Kuala Terengganu has provided some really fascinating racing, especially the tactical challenges of the last couple of days with the race course being split (by the river flows).
'In more classic match racing venues generally there aren't that many passing lanes and it's relatively easy to defend a four boat length lead, whereas here even a ten boat lead isn't enough at times.
'This has been a great event. We watched the television coverage for the first time last night and we were trying to analyse some of the manoeuvres. I was amazed at the television - it's fantastic. There is the bow cam and the mast cam and Andy Green cam; it's really good and I'm really impressed. It's far better than the coverage of the last America's Cup and something which should be incorporated in the Cup in the future.'
Monsoon Cup Results
1st Adam Minoprio (NZL) BlackMatch Racing Team
2nd Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin
3rd Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
4th Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team/ALL4ONE
5th Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
6th Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
7th Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
8th Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team