The Alpari World Match Racing Tour’s newest event, Sopot Match Race, commenced today. Eleven flights of Qualifying were sailed in a light to moderate north-westerly wind. At the close of play Alpari World Match Racing Tour champion Taylor Canfield tops the leaderboard unbeaten on 5-0, ahead of Phil Robertson’s WAKA Racing on 5-1 and local Polish legend Karol Jablonski on 4-1.
This is the 11th occasion Sopot Match Cup has been held in the Polish seaside resort, but the first time it has been part of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. There was some relief that an overcast sky prevented yesterday’s scorching 30+?C temperatures recurring. Today the offshore breeze proved tricky for the competitors, but was light enough for them to ease into this regatta.
Canfield on day one - 2014 Sopot Match Race - © Robert Hajduk / WMRT
Phil Robertson suffered his one lost match today to Jablonski; a tight race which saw the lead change twice. Otherwise the Kiwi skipper was pleased with his team’s performance, after they failed to make it through to the Semi Final round at Stena Match Cup Sweden earlier this month. 'It’s been a really good start for us,' he said. 'We are very happy and we’ve still got plenty to work on which is good. It is our first time here and the list just goes on in terms of what we can do better which is a positive.'
WAKA Racing had a particularly intense race today with Australian David Gilmour. This fired up first when the two boats collided coming out of a dial-up in the pre-start – Gilmour bore away causing his transom overhang to hit Robertson’s boat. Then there were two lead changes on first downwind leg. As Robertson recounts: 'We chose the right gate mark and managed to extend from that, but then he caught up and passed us on the last downwind, but we rolled him back on the finish line.'
Phil Robertson of WAKA Racing on 5-1 on the first day of Qualifying - 2014 Sopot Match Race - © Robert Hajduk / WMRT Click Here to view large photo
Part of the challenge for the skippers new to Sopot Match Race is it being raced in a type of boat not used at any other event on the Tour. The 34ft Diamant 3000 is an IOR-style design from the mid 1990s with long overhangs, large overlapping genoa, relatively small cockpit plus running backstays that are requires crews to adapt their roles on board.
'It is the first time we have match raced on a boat with runners,' continued Robertson. 'The main sheet trimmer sorts them out, but it is good fun – it adds another element and makes it exciting.'
Another match racer renowned for being a live wire on the race course is Polish hero, former America’s Cup helmsman and ISAF Match Racing World Champion, Karol Jablonski. His 4-1 scoreline should have been 5-0 today had it not been for an oversight, sailing around the wrong weather mark in one race.
'Okay, we messed that up, but that was the only race we lost,' said a beaming Jablonski. 'We feel more comfortable now.'
Jablonski rarely match races these days but it is a staunch supporter of Sopot Match Race. Here he is racing with an unfamiliar crew, who normally sail with another Polish match racer, Patryk Zbroja. 'It is our first regatta and maybe the crew are trying to over-compensate, but we are getting slowly into the right groove,' said Jablonski. 'I am very lucky to have them. They are doing a great job, are learning a lot and it is good to sail with them.
'Today our boat speed and our pre-starts were okay and we were choosing the right side in the shifty conditions so we were sailing quite smart and the result is very good us. I didn’t expect this, but I’ll take it!'
Apart from unfamiliarity with the boats, today was all about picking the shifts correctly. In this respect Jablonski believed he had done well. 'It wasn’t one side regularly paying - you had to look two minutes before the start to make the call as to where the first shift will be. That has worked quite well for us and I hope it will continue.'
Team Alpari FX skipper Keith Swinton, who sailed his first ever Grade 1 match race here in 2008, admitted that he had been slow out of the blocks. 'We lost the first couple of races, but it was always going to be difficult jumping in these boats and with very difficult conditions as well. We lost a couple of races and then we got on a mini run and won the next three, including some close races.'
In today’s final match against Swede Johnnie Berntsson, Swinton said he had let victory slip through his fingers. 'We should have done better. We were well ahead off the line, but the wind is very difficult to read - we basically just got sailed past and there wasn’t much we could do. All in all it was an okay day and we are still in it, which is good.'
Qualifying continues tomorrow at 1000 local time but with lighter winds forecast it promises to be a challenging day for teams and race officials alike. Stage 3 Sopot Match Race, Alpari World Match Racing Tour
Results after Flight 11
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone 5-0
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing 5-1
Karol Jab?o?ski (POL) Jablonski Sailing Team 4-1
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 3-2
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 3-2
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 3-3
Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 3-3
David Gilmour (ASU) Team Gilmour 2-3
Przemys?aw Tarnacki (POL) Tarnacki Yacht Racing 2-4
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) Trefor Match Racing 2-4
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 1-5
Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 0-5 WMRT website