The Semi Final of Match Race France took place today in Marseille and young New Zealander William Tiller won the all-Kiwi battle against compatriot Laurie Jury to book his place in the Final, whilst reigning Tour Champion Ian Williams also progressed.
Having edged through the Qualifying round after a countback, Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing recorded an impressive 3-1 win against Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Aggle Sailing Team in the Quarter Final. He then followed up with an outstanding 3-0 Semi Final victory over the form skipper of the event, Laurie Jury (NZL) Kiwi Match Racing, on the penultimate day of sailing.
Tiller qualified for Match Race France by winning the Race Sails of White Nights Grade 1 event in St Petersburg and came into the event confident that his team could challenge for the title at the sixth stage of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. He said: 'We came here to win. It’s our third Tour event and we’re always looking to compete at this top level. There are so many top New Zealand teams at the moment so we need to beat them at the highest level to try and move up the world rankings.
'It was a lot tighter than the scoreline suggested but we did a great job getting around the course fast and were able to take advantage of the small errors that Laurie [Jury] made.'
It was a composed Semi Final performance from Tiller and his crew. In the second match of the first to three points encounter, Jury had built a slim lead on the final downwind but carried a penalty from the pre-start. Jury tried to slow up and lure Tiller into tussle in an attempt to offset his penalty. Reflecting on that finish, which would eventually put the young Kiwi 2-0 up, he said: 'It got pretty tight there on the last downwind. He tried to slow up at the finish line to trap us. We were probably a bit excited and got too close but we managed to stay out of trouble and keep a bit more pace to roll him at the end there.'
After taking the final match to make it a clean 3-0 sweep, Tiller then looked ahead to his opponent for the Final, either of which he felt would prove an interesting battle: 'It won’t make a big difference who we face. We’re sailing well and I reckon we’ve got a good chance against either. Both Ian [Williams] and Keith [Swinton] are great yachties so it’ll come down to our own performance in the Final.'
Jury was certainly no passenger in the tie and threatened several times before ultimately coming up second best. He said: 'Today we really let ourselves down and to be honest I especially let the team down a lot with a few stupid mistakes. I got us one penalty in the prestart which was ridiculous and I hit the top mark to get another. Just stupid, you know.
'The guys were sailing the boat well and we were leading the races and winning the starts but 3-0 is what it is. We were definitely in all the races, we were leading a lot of the time. We just gave it away.'
Jury will now start to prepare for the season-finale Monsoon Cup in Malaysia in December. 'We’ll go back to New Zealand, get the five guys together and do some training. We’ve been there twice before crewing for other teams so we’re looking forward to doing well again this year.'
In the day’s other Semi Final, some fantastic sailing from both Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar and Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing resulted in a tightly-fought 3-2 victory for the Brit, who will now move into first on the overall Tour leaderboard, regardless of his result tomorrow. Swinton had battled back from a 2-0 deficit but was unable to stop Williams, despite leading the must-win fifth match over the start line.
The bad start from Williams was quickly recovered with some excellent boat handling in the first downwind, he said: 'We made it hard for ourselves today. I’m not sure we won a single start and in that final prestart, we lost concentration and Keith just shut us out at the committee boat end. We brought it back though when we managed to get across him up the first beat, allowing us to round the top mark ahead. We were consistently faster downwind so we were away.'
Swinton came into the event off the back of a win at the St. Moritz Match Race and was targeting a strong finish to his Tour season in a bid to challenge for a podium position come Monsoon Cup. He said: 'We’re disappointed not to have done better after our win in St. Moritz. It was a difficult match with a few small mistakes and some bad luck. Frustratingly, we held the lead in each of our races against Ian but just couldn’t seem to make the lead count by pulling away.
'Overall though, we’re happy with how we’re sailing, we’re in a good position going towards Malaysia, hopefully lying in third after France. We want a podium finish – that would be a great season for the team.'
Williams will target a victory tomorrow before looking ahead to Bermuda and then the Monsoon Cup as he chases down Tour leader, Hansen: 'We just want to get as close as possible to him. Sometimes it’s better to be the hunter and not the hunted. I think, now, whoever wins out of us and Bjorn in Malaysia will probably win the title.'
The Match Race France Final will take place at 1200PM Noon local time (GMT+2) and the Petit Final will commence at 1000AM tomorrow in Marseille.