AWMRT Match Race Germany - Light, strong, shifty, stable winds, rain and shine is what Lake Constance threw up to test the skippers. Today, it was the turn of 25 knot winds, sharp seas and driving rain in the morning only for these to peter out leading to a long delay before the Semi Finals could start.
The Quarter Finals comprised three first-to-three point matches, which got underway late yesterday afternoon. Today started with Karol Jablonski level at 1-1 against Mathieu Richard’s GEFCO Match Racing Team, Adam Minoprio’s Team Alpari FX on the same score with Bjorn Hansen’s Mekonomen Sailing Team and Johnie Berntsson’s Stena Sailing Team looking strong 2-0 up against Taylor Canfield and USone.
Having the easiest ride through the Semi Finals was France’s Mathieu Richard who won both his matches today against the Polish former America’s Cup helm and ISAF Match Racing World Champion.
The experienced Richard said this was not the first time he’d experienced such tough conditions off Langenargen. They were equally unpleasant six years ago in the final he sailed (and lost) against Paolo Cian. 'I was very happy with the way we sailed. The crew did an excellent job in difficult conditions - it was very tricky to keep the boat going fast and to have smooth manoeuvres. We did a great job in that, which was the key point today.'
In 20-25 knots, the Bavaria 40S yachts used at Match Race Germany are also hard work for a five man crew to race well. 'Everything is tough on board,' admitted Richard. 'They are very physical, that is why the crew work is crucial.'
Jablonski was pleased to have got so far into the event considering that he only sails one or two match racing events each year. Despite their experience his crew, that included Polish Olympic Star sailor Dominik Zycki, was lacking the fluidity of their competitors.
Adam Minoprio once again did his ‘comeback kid’ routine. His Team Alpari FX crew lost today’s first race to Björn Hansen’s team after picking up a penalty for failing to keep clear as the two boats came together up the first beat. This left the Kiwi team 1-2 down.
In the next race they had a dramatic final run where neck and neck, the Swedish crew luffed slightly causing both boats to wipe out. After they had recovered and careered on towards the finish line, Minoprio managed to make use of the finish line bias to take the point. 'We got him by a centimetre,' admitted the Kiwi.
In the final race Hansen won the start but coming into the top mark Minoprio managed to roll past as, short of the layline, the Swedes slowed as they attempted to shoot the mark.
Like Richard, Minoprio put his success today down to superior boat handling by his crew. 'The guys did really well - the main part of where we got Bjorn today is that we could keep the boat fast, we were tacking faster and in general were a lot smoother and quicker around the course.'
After a relatively slow start to Match Race Germany, Johnie Berntsson’s Stena Sailing Team crew has been firing on all cylinders in the Quarter Finals, resulting in some of the most aggressive and penalty-laden bouts we have seen here.
Yesterday Berntsson had Canfield on the ropes with a 2-0 advantage including one race where he had recovered from two penalties down after hooking into his own personal breeze.
This morning Canfield fought back to even the scoreline. 'In the first race we had one penalty against him and in next one we had two against him,' described Canfield. 'But in the last one he sailed a much cleaner pre-start and I made a little error in a dial-down just after the start.' From this Canfield’s USone team was unable to recover, ending the US Virgin Islander’s winning streak (he won the last two events of 2012 – Argo Group Gold Cup and the Monsoon Cup).
'We are a little disappointed, but we have definitely learned a ton as a group here,' said Canfield, gently steaming as he dried out in the competitors’ tent afterwards. 'And the rain doesn’t make things easy either. But it was still a great day’s sailing. I don’t think there was ever a point where it was unfair sailing at this event. All in all it was a good event and this was our first as a Tour Card Holder. Our team is strong and we’ll just continue to grow through the year.'
Early afternoon, the wind died and the sun came out. It wasn’t until late afternoon that Rudi Magg’s race management team could get the Semi Finals underway.
Having come out top of the Qualifier, Ian Williams chose to take on Berntsson in the first-to-three Semis, leaving Mathieu Richard up against Adam Minoprio.
As a light breeze filled in, the GAC Pindar crew came out on top in their first match while the Franco-Kiwi match was more nip and tuck with Richard finally edging ahead on the second beat to take his first point.
Following this Berntsson fought back winning the next two matches, taking it to 2-1 in favour of the Swede. Similarly Minoprio fought back to turn around his match regaining two points for his Team Alpari FX.
Racing will conclude tomorrow at Match Race Germany with the remaining races of the Semi Finals going into the first-to-three Finals. Who knows what the weather will bring.
Final Semi Final Results after Flight 2: Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team vs Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 1-1 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar v Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 1-1
Final Quarter Final Results: Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team vs Karol Jablonski (GER) Jablonski Sailing Team 3-1 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team vs Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone Sailing Team 3-2 Björn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team vs Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 2-3