by Phil Riley
It's all set for a thrilling finale to the Royal Southern Match Cup 2014, held in association with the RYA and Raymarine, with the four top ranked sailors set to go head-to-head out on The Solent on Sunday.
It's all about tactics!
The sun shone - mostly - and the breeze stayed in for the concluding Round Robin matches followed by the Quarter-Finals. While the pre-regatta favourites progressed to the semis, all were kept on their toes by some determined opposition.
Denmark's Lucas Lier, ranked a hardly shabby 42 in the world, gave Reuben Corbett (ranked 15) a run for his money in their Quarter-Final pairing, taking a win off the New Zealander before losing 3-1.
Meanwhile France's Arthur Herreman (ranked 33), who won last year's Royal Southern Grade 3 event, harried the UK's star match-racer Ian Williams around every inch of the course. Eventually, however, he lost out 3-0 to the four-time World Match Racing Champion.
Australian Keith Swinton (ranked seventh) had a relatively easier passage to the semi-finals, despatching Ireland's Philip Bendon (ranked 36) with some clinical and effective sailing for a 3-0 winning margin.
Star of show, once again, was a confident David Gilmour (ranked 12), who continued his so far unbeaten regatta run with a 3-0 quarter-final victory over Royal Southern Academy member Mark Lees (ranked 29).
The Australian will face Williams in their semi-final showdown tomorrow (Sunday), while his compatriot, Swinton, will have to overcome Corbett to make it an all-Aussie final.
'We're pretty happy with how it's gone so far and not dropping a race,' said Gilmour. 'We don't really think going in to a regatta that we are going to win every race, we just take each race as it comes - it's exactly what we've done and it's just come together for us.
'The four teams in the semi-finals are those I expected to make it, so there are no easy teams there. They all have their moments, and with these small boats (J80s) almost anything can happen. We just have to focus on what we are doing. We're happy to race with whoever.'
Williams - who carries with him all non-Antipodean hopes - sounded a more cautious note.
'We had some really nice strong breeze out there and it was great to get the boats going - and progress to the semi-finals.
'With any of the Grade two events when you get to the semi-finals and beyond it gets to be tough and it will be - were going to have to pick our game up for sure.
'Those guys are specialists and go to the regattas with the same crew, whereas I've got a completely different team to the one I was sailing with in Germany last week. We've been learning how to work together a bit better and we'll see if it's going to be good enough (on Sunday).'
The remainder of the 12-strong fleet took part in play-off match races to determine their positions below the semi-finalist. Their final places, in descending order from fifth, were: Lees, Bendon, Lier, Herreman, Ali Hall, Tom Mallandine, Andy Shaw and Annabel Vose.
The Match Cup concludes tomorrow with a Prizegiving.