by Tony Torres
Showing the match race skill that led to his being crowned as the reigning World Champion, Team Pindar's Ian Williams from Great Britain won the first Casa de Campo Sponsor Challenge. Ian and his team of Denis Cartier, Sue Harvey, and Mick Byrne bested US Virgin Islands native and Alinghi alumnist Peter Holmberg in an exciting first-to-three point series held in the harbor at the Casa de Campo Resort.
Also assisting Ian in the practice rounds were Jim Read, Jose Rodriguez, and Eduardo Otero. These six and six others racing with Holmberg attended a match race clinic in the morning held at the Casa de Campo Yacht Club, then followed theory with practice out in the club's J/24's.
'It was great to have this opportunity to put on this exhibition of match race sailing,' said Williams. 'This is a fantastic place, and I hope this starts a trend here towards more interest and more events.'
Holmberg too was supportive of the efforts made by CCYC Commodore Gianfranco Fini to organize this exhibition match as part of the larger Casa de Campo Regatta, which starts tomorrow here with fleet racing in IRC and PHRF classes.
'I hope this shows the people here in the Dominican Republic how exciting match race sailing can be, how accessible it is to spectators, and hope that this will grow into more events in the future,' said Holmberg. 'There is tremendous potential here.'
While the scores went 3-1 in Williams favor, the racing was close throughout as these two veterans of the World Match Racing Tour sparred in a tight course area set by PRO Pete Lawson and his team at the mouth of the Casa de Campo Marina. Conditions were perfect, with a shifty 8-12 knot trade winds providing plenty of opportunity for close action.
Sometimes this action got a little too close, with collisions occurring with boats, rocks, and marks. Holmberg led in the first beat of the second match but then ran hard aground on a rock off the breakwater, allowing Williams to sail off to his second win in the series. In the critical third match, Holmberg fought back to lead Williams around the first mark by a length, but then Williams touched the mark in his rounding, prompting umpire Dobbs Davis to give a penalty to the Briton who could not close the gap enough to try and offset the foul. And in the fourth and final match, it was Holmberg's turn again for contact, this time surging on a wave while chasing Williams back to the start to hit the transom of the Deutsche Bank boat, prompting a penalty for Holmberg.
'The was a great start towards building interest in match racing here,' said World Match Racing Tour director Scott MacLeod, who was providing shoreside commentary from a pier located immediately adjacent to the course area. 'The crowd really enjoyed this, and Peter and Ian put on a great show.'
Tomorrow fleet racing starts at 11:30 local time, with two races scheduled on windward-leeward courses set offshore just minutes south of the Casa de Campo Marina, and nightly social events will be held at the Casa de Campo Yacht Club.
For more information www.regatta.com.do
Video action of all the racing can be found at T2P Productions' website at www.t2p.tv