by Phil Riley
Some of the stars of world match racing put on a masterclass of close-quarter sailing and provided ample evidence that their ISAF rankings are not accidental. An enthralling series of races at the Royal Southern Match Cup 2014 demonstrated the mix of precision and ruthlessness necessary to win these one-on-one contests.
More antipodean talent was on display by Swinton & co racing as Team Alpari FX - 2014 Royal Southern Match Cup
Four of the 12 present are ranked in the world top-20 and they put on an almost seamless performance to lead the event after day one.
Australian racer David Gilmour (ISAF ranked 11) was the star of the day with five straight wins. However, the absence of a working wind earlier in the day, before a reliable breeze of up to 14 knots settled in to deliver some sparkling sailing conditions, resulted in a disrupted and truncated sailing programme.
Kiwi Reuben Corbett won all three of his races today - 2014 Royal Southern Match Cup
World number two Ian Williams won all three of the races he was able to sail, as did New Zealand's Reuben Corbett (15).
The other top-20 match racer, Keith Swinton, won four races but had to give best to fellow Australian Gilmour.
'The last race was a really close one with David Gilmour and unfortunately we just lost that one, though we were sailing a lot better,' said Swinton, enjoying a post-race beer on the Club dock.
'It was a loss but a positive race. If we can keep improving like that we should be pretty hard to beat by the end of the regatta.'
Aside from the immediate competition, the unique challenges of The Solent also added some spice to the sailing mix he said.
'It was an interesting day with the tides, and getting used to that for us was a bit of a difficulty. There's really no tide at all at the other venues we race at, so this is the first match racing I've done in tide for a long, long time. It definitely adds a new dimension.'
France's Arthur Herreman (Ranked 33) won three of his five races, but was unfortunate to run aground yards from the finish of his final race - a consequence of high pressure exacerbating an already low tide. He was narrowly behind Swinton at the time so the grounding did not, at least, affect the race outcome.
A further minor drama saw Denmark's Lucas Lier snag the anchor chain of a support vessel shortly after the start of his race with Gilmour. No damage was done but he was recorded DNF.
Day one proved something of a baptism of fire for some Royal Southern members, but was welcomed as a great experience nevertheless.
'Some of the pro guys have come here with a lot to show us, particularly in the pre-starts where there were some big battles which we didn't always come out on the right side of,' said Ali Hall, who ended the day with a 1-4 scoreline including a DSQ after collecting three penalties at the hands of Gilmour.
'I've sailed against a few of these guys in the past, and they have clearly taken their game on to a whole new level which isn't always available to everybody else, but good luck to them,' he added.
'It was tricky racing but really good once the wind got up. We were a bit asleep in the first couple of races but we were sailing pretty well in the last two, and in the last race we lost by what must have been a foot on the line. We showed that we can mix it once we get going.'
Royal Southern Academy member Annabel Vose posted a 0-5 scoreline but was anything but downhearted after racing.
Annabel Vose, Emily Nagel, Suzy Russell, Hannah Peters + 1 - 2014 Royal Southern Match Cup
'It was really cool to race with the guys, and we'd not been to a grade two event before,' she said. 'We improved in every single race and I think we gave them a little run for their money even if the results don't show that. We were closer and closer in every race and we learnt a lot, which is the main thing. Hopefully we can take a few on Saturday.'
As a result of the shortened Friday programme, Saturday's racing will see only two more flights of Round Robin races before progression to the quarter-final knockout phase. Racing continues to the final showdown on Sunday.