by Phil Riley
Royal Southern ISAF Grade 2 Match Cup 2014 - When two of the world's best match-racers go head-to-head the smallest edge can be decisive - and so it proved in the final.
The winning Team Alpari FX led by Keith Swinton (far right) was presented with The Boysterous Trophy by Naomi Hall at Sunday afternoon's Royal Southern Match Cup prizegiving.
The two top ISAF seeds at the event - Britain's four-time World Match Racing Champion Ian Williams, number two in the world, and rising Australian star Keith Swinton, number seven - battled it out under leaden skies but with a solid Solent breeze, and it was the young man from Perth and his Team Alpari FX crew who claimed The Boysterous Trophy with a decisive two-zero scoreline.
As ever, it was smart tactics and a quick adaptation to the J80 sportsboat which produced an edge in upwind boatspeed that sealed the deal. Just a week ago Williams' GAC Pindar team had triumphed over Swinton racing Bavaria 40s at Match Race Germany, but found the tables turned on him at the Royal Southern Match Cup.
'The first race was a tight one, but Keith just figured out a little bit better how to work with the guardrails, which we're not used to, and the cross-winching, which gave him a little bit of a boatspeed edge upwind, and that was the story of the final,' conceded Williams. 'That was the big difference between the teams, but credit to him for figuring it out.'
Williams performance hurt by penalities
While the first race of the final was a tight-run affair, the second was effectively over when Williams was given two penalties in the pre-start for first clipping the pin-end mark and then being judged as failing to keep clear of his opponent during a dramatic back-down.
'The two penalties hurt us but that's the way it goes sometime in match-racing to so all credit to Keith, he got the job done,' said Williams.
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A delighted Swinton agreed that it was speed that won the day: 'We feel pretty confident in the J80 though it's been a little while since we sailed them. It was a little different with the lifelines and whatnot, and I think we figured out how to do some pretty good things with the boat.
'We had enough speed to keep in control and we felt comfortable all the time. Ian wasn't slow, we just had a couple of better modes on him and were very competitive in the starting, and it went our way today.'
Swinton full of praise
Swinton was full of praise for the Match Cup and the Royal Southern's organisation: 'It was a great event and we've been really well looked after and had a good time. It's been great to be here. It would be great to have another event like this here.
'We always want to do more events of this calibre where you have a good yacht club involved and plenty of good people running it, everyone wants to come to those events. We're really happy.'
And he added: 'Hopefully we've helped some of the younger sailors improve, and they've learnt a little bit. I think it's important for the growth of match-racing, everyone's got to get an opportunity.'
It was a sentiment echoed by Williams: 'The Match Cup is great news for British match-racing, and British sailing actually, to have a top level match-racing event in the UK.'
Swinton and Williams progressed to the final after defeating, respectively, New Zealander Reuben Corbett (two-zero) and Australian David Gilmour (two-one), both of whom had come through Friday's weather-shortened Round Robin stage undefeated.
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Indeed Gilmour had been the star of the Match Cup show over the first two days, having a perfect scoreline until running up against Williams in the semis. On what turned out to be a disappointing final day, he also lost out to Corbett in the Petit-Final third place play-off.
With competitors also coming from Denmark, France and Ireland to compete with other British and Royal Southern Academy members, the Match Cup - supported by the RYA and Raymarine - looks like a success that is due a repeat performance.
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'To have the top guys here, along with some of the middle-ranked guys from Europe, has been a great learning experience for our guys who are able to sail against them in home waters,' said Colin Hall, the driving force behind the 2014 Match Cup.
'What I love about match-racing is that out on the water it's to die for; the competition is ferocious - but they come ashore and there's great camaraderie. I think of it like the front row of a rugby scrum - they smash each other up but as soon as they get in the bar they are best friends.'
Hall added: 'I think that almost certainly we will be running this event next year. We've had great support from the RYA, Raymarine, the competitors and above all, our own Club volunteers. We've also had a fantastic international umpire team, they are a joy to be with.'