If match racing as a spectator sport gets any better than this, I’ll eat my hat – except that this afternoon I didn’t have a hat, and two hours in the brilliant sunshine at the Korea Match Cup finals definitely left their mark.
KIBS12 0715 - Korea Match Cup 2012 - full house on the Gyeonggi Harbour wall. Governor Kim Moon-Soo (light blue jacket) enjoys the world class match racing
Current WMRT World Champion Ian Williams went into the finals after squashing Torvar Mirsky 3-0, and the reigning Korea Match Cup champ Bjorn Hansen was there after a 3-2 fight against Phil Robertson. The breeze was pumping 12ts+ and often quite a lot of ‘+’, and the start line was just metres away from the end of the harbour mole at Jeonggok Marina. It was a grandstand made in heaven, packed to the rafters (if there had been any rafters) and with the boats spinning through the pre-starts mere feet away from the crowd. Some of the manoevres were executed just feet from the 20’ high concrete wall, each time drawing oohs and aahs from a well-impressed crowd – and with plenty of justification.
Race 1 and Williams got caught between a rock and a hard place (actually, between Hansen and an OCS), bailed out and then misjudged the space available to turn back and t-boned the Committee Boat firmly on the starboard quarter, damaging his bow. Penalty. Hansen sailed away, and Williams spent the match in catch-up mode, displaying superior upwind speed to squeak into the lead at the last top mark. Halfway down the run, and Hansen gybed onto starboard to make for the line while Williams continued on port, and then failed to find the speed to get back to Hansen even with a hotter angle to sail. Hansen won by an anorexic whisker, and it looked as if Williams had let his opponent just get away by standing on just too long on the right and allowing the separation to get too big.
Race 2 was a little easier for the defending Korea champ, and now it was 2-0 to Hansen. But Ian Williams is not a good man to bet against, and came into Race 3 with all guns blazing. Both boats were OCS, with Williams getting back and clear more quickly and Hansen playing catch-up all the way round. Williams wins. Race 4 went pretty much the same way, and now we were back to 2-2 and one match to go for the title.
Split tacks off the line, and an uncomplicated race in which Williams looked as if he was going to walk away with the big cheque by the time the rounded the top end for the last time, some 50m ahead. At that point I’d have put the house, car, dogs, Fort Knox and Warren Buffett’s entire portfolio on Williams. But he had a shocker of a bear-away, and Hansen slipped behind with a beautiful gybe-set, and sailied into good breeze. Williams sailed into marginally less breeze and some 200m separation on the left. When both boats came back and crossed it was still Williams in front – but not by much. Now Hansen was on the left, and when they both gybed for the finish line it was Hansen who won the cross, and rolled through to win by more than 50m. Hansen said, ‘In that last match, we were four lengths behind and saw an opportunity when he had problems with his spinnaker. We put in a fantastic jibe set to get over to the right, probably the best I’ve seen from the guys!’
The afternoon’s entertainment was further improved by the arrival on site of the Governor of Gyeonggi Province, Kim Moon-Soo, and the Korea Cup Promoter, Dong Young Kim. Ever a man of the people, Mr Kim (who recently declared himself in the running for President of Korea – elections later this year) took the opportunity to wave to the crowds from the top of the wall, then wave to the crews circling right underneath his feet, and then stay on to watch the rest of the show. Sail-World Asia provided the ‘Match Racing 101’ tutorial in English, while Dong Young Kim provided filled in the Korean bits.
Then it was time to head back to the main event area, spray a little champagne around and pick up the enormous cheques on stage. Hansen collected his third consecutive Korea Match Cup and KRW75,000,000 (USD63,500), and Ian Williams – who has now lost four KMC finals – went home with just KRW51,000,000 (USD 43,200). Last seen checking out of the hotel and heading for the Extreme 40s in Istanbul, first start 07 June.