Stena Match Cup Sweden, the second event in the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour, provided a fairy tale finish for local Swedish fans with skipper Bjorn Hansen claiming his third successive title in Scandinavia’s premier match racing contest.
Held in the fjord to the south of Marstrand island, 20km northwest of Gothenberg on Sweden’s west coast, Stena Match Cup Sweden celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The event was originally set up by Swedish match racer Magnus Holmberg in conjunction with the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club (GKSS). It was therefore appropriate to celebrate the occasion that two of the top names in the event’s history had agreed to return in the form of Holmberg and American three time ISAF Match Racing World Champion, Ed Baird.
Holmberg, who hadn’t competed since hanging up his seaboots three years ago, had rounded up most of his original team including Stefan Rahm and the Björndal brothers, Mikael and Daniel, while Baird brought along a high calibre line-up from his Quantum Racing 52 crew.
14 teams took part in Qualifying with Phil Robertson’s Waka Racing and Keith Swinton’s Team Alpari FX teams leading after day one, both on 5-0. Qualifying was cut short on day two as a giant frontal cloud passed over Marstrand taking the wind with it. However in the racing that did take place, it was Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar crew that had pulled clear ahead with an 8-1 scoreline, the first to gain a Quarter Final berth. However this was despite some close matches including one against Francesco Bruni’s Luna Rossa team, which saw the boats cross the line neck and neck with Williams deemed to have won by less than a metre.
One of the most respectable performances in Qualifying came from the Stena Match Cup Sweden’s youngest skipper Joachim Aschenbrenner. On the opening day the 20 year old Dane beat Ian Williams – ultimately the only skipper to do so during Qualifying - and on day two scored big wins against the likes of Mathieu Richard, Ed Baird and Keith Swinton.
Williams continued to dominate Qualifying, but on the final two days, Francesco Bruni was on the ascent and the two teams ended up dominating this was part of the regatta. During Qualifying both lost just one match to finish on an impressive 12 points, four points clear of third placed Mathieu Richard’s Lunajets and Keith Swinton’s Team Alpari FX.
The final flights in Qualifying Session four were held in conditions for which Marstrand is famous – 25 knots with gale force gusts, the boats being hammered around the race course, their crews pushed to the limit to remain in control of their yachts under spinnaker and during manoeuvres. The DS37 yachts used at the regatta are near impossible to broach, however there were gasps from the spectators who had braved the conditions as 26-year-old Swede Viktor Ogeman managed to lay his on its side.
Meanwhile the mid-fleet had been fighting to make it into the final eight, with Bjorn Hansen and David Gilmour picking up the last spots, at the expense Dane Nicolai Sehested and Tour Card holder Phil Robertson. Also out were Ogeman, former Tour Card holder Johnie Berntsson, and sadly ‘the legends’ Ed Baird and Magnus Holmberg, with Baird toppling Holmberg in their match.
Coming out on top in Qualifying Ian Williams chose to race Joachim Aschenbrenner, the only opponent to have defeated him in the regatta so far. The four time World Champion must have been wondering if he made the right choice when the young Dane claimed the first point off him. However Williams claimed the next three to go through.
Star performer of the Quarter Finals was Francesco Bruni who won all his races against David Gilmour. After scraping through Qualifying, Bjorn Hansen dispatched Keith Swinton’s Team Alpari FX 3-1, while some of the hardest fought matches were between Mathieu Richard’s Lunajets and defending Alpari World Match Racing Tour champion Taylor Canfield. Despite Canfield colliding with Richard in one pre-start, this went to the full five races with Canfield’s USone team going through.
Williams made a similarly brave call going into the Semi-Finals, choosing to race Francesco Bruni. The Italian team evened the scoreline to one-one but then lost the final two. Bruni felt this to have been the result of an umpire call going against him in the first while a broken winch cost him the second.
'To lose the semis because of a break down is a pity,' admitted Bruni. Otherwise he said he felt confident about his crew’s ability: 'The guys are on fire. They have been driving the boat fast. It has been running very smoothly on board. You don’t have to push in situations if you feel that you are fast.'
Meanwhile Bjorn Hansen’s crew had changed a gear and in particular their ability to call the shifts correctly on the harbour, to dispatch Taylor Canfield three-one. This left Williams’ GAC Pindar crew facing the local Swedish heroes in the Final.
For the final days of the regatta the spectators and corporate guests, for which Stena Match Cup Sweden is renowned, had been gathering on the shore and on Marstrand’s cliff tops. Particularly evident was a group of supporters for Bjorn Hansen, on the shore opposite Marstrand, who had laid out giant banners of encouragement for the Swedish team.
In the finals, Williams got the first point on the board, after a match which saw Hansen lead around the top mark, then Williams passing him on the second beat to lead from then on.
In the second race, Williams unsuccessfully attempted to shovel Hansen over the line, allowing the Swede to get the upper hand on the first beat and to round the top mark ahead. The GAC Pindar crew attempted to roll Hansen during a gybe but fell into a light patch allowing the Swedish team to extend away and level the score.
The third race saw the boats close up the first beat with Hansen leading around the top mark, but a dial-down on the second beat resulted in a penalty for Williams, ultimately handing the Swedes their second point.
For what turned out to be the final race, Hansen’s tactician Gustav Tempelman made the call to take the left side of the first beat, gaining an advantage which Williams’ GAC Pindar team were unable to overcome. Game, set and match to Hansen. The outcome could not have been better for the local Swedish fans and for Hansen’s crew, this being the fourth time they have won Stena Match Cup Sweden and the third consecutive occasion.
Hansen paid tribute to his crew of Phillip Kai Guhle, tactician Gustav Tempelman, Mathias Bredin and Sebastian Wedel: 'It is a privilege to sail with these four guys. I am so proud of them.' He singled out their wily tactician: 'Gustav did a fantastic job - he found wind puffs, which we didn’t think existed.'
Hansen also thanked the huge turn-out of Swedish supporters. 'As soon as we do something well we hear the crowd shouting and if we do something not very good, we hear ‘OH NO’ from the crowd. When we hooked Taylor [Canfield] this morning, you could hear from the crowd that we were overlapped. I didn’t need to have anyone on the bow calling the overlap!'
After two events, Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar crew leads on the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour on 47 points with Bjorn Hansen moving up to second on 39 ahead of Keith Swinton’s Team Alpari FX in third on 34. Full replay on Livestream 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour Calendar
Stage 1: 5-9 June Match Race Germany, Langenargen, Germany
Stage 2: 30 June-5 July Stena Match Cup Sweden, Marstrand, Sweden
Stage 3: 31 July-3 August Sopot Match Race, Sopot, Poland
Stage 4: 17-21 September Chicago Match Cup, Chicago, USA
Stage 5: 24 - 28 September Dutch Match Cup, Lelystad, Holland
Stage 6: 21-26 October Argo Group Gold Cup, Hamilton, Bermuda
Stage 7: 25-29 November Monsoon Cup, Malaysia* (to be confirmed)
Note: dates denote scheduled race days 2014 Tour Card Holders
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour
The Alpari World Match Racing Tour now moves on to Poland, with a new event for the 2014 schedule, Sopot Match Race
, taking place over 31st July to the 3rd August.