In the Korea Match Cup, Bjorn Hansen was a hot favourite to win a third consecutive event, but today the Swedish skipper and his Ework Sailing Team narrowly missed the cut for the Quarter Finals.
Hansen knew he needed to up his game from the previous days, and he did. 'We had three really good starts in our last three matches. We were well ahead of Johnie Berntsson but he did a great job to pass us on the last downwind.
'Then we had a typical Williams-Hansen match with a lot of screaming and shouting and flags flying all over the place. Ian managed to catch a penalty at the top mark which he cleared by passing our stern line. We were feeling pretty good where we were, then when he gybed, we gybed and hit the bottom and stopped.
During the gybe we came off the bottom again, but that was pretty much the decider as Ian managed to cover us and was faster after that.' According to the Swede, bumping along the bottom was enough to hand the advantage to GAC Pindar who were never going to give up their unexpected advantage. 'That was quite tough,' said Hansen. 'We felt that was the match decider, hitting the bottom.
Pierre-Antoine Morvan and Vannes Agglo Sailing Team had been leading the regatta at the end of day one, but were another high-profile casualty today. The French team had been leading Kim Taejeong’s Gyeonggi Match crew but then got caught in the anchor line of the windward mark. The Koreans stormed past the stricken French, and losing that match contributed to their elimination from the competition.
Hansen was philosophical about the ‘Acts of God’ that occurred. 'I guess we have to accept it as part of the game, but on the other hand during the whole week there have been quite a few issues with boats hitting the bottom and boats dragging marks. There have been different decisions regarding redress and we don't feel the umpires are keeping to their line and judging the same way in all cases. It feels a bit frustrating, but we shouldn't put ourselves in a situation where we are relying on the umpires. We just have to come back stronger in Marstrand.'
Tour Director of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, Craig Mitchell, said it was unfortunate to see sailors go out in controversial circumstances but commented: 'We know this is a tight venue where we’ve had issues in the past, but we have to strike a balance between keeping the event running and stopping after every single issue arises. You don’t get much redress in match racing, that’s just how it is. We’ve just completed 66 matches in the Qualifying, and there’s a lot more to come. Today the umpires kept to the policy that was laid down at the beginning of the week. If a boat runs aground and stops while in the lead or within two boatlengths of its opponent, the match will be stopped and resailed. But today the umpires saw Hansen slow down but not stop, so the race wasn’t abandoned. As for Morvan catching the line and hooking the mark, that scenario was all discussed this morning at the skippers’ briefing. It’s just the luck of the game.'
Adam Minoprio doesn’t like his reputation for always scraping through into the knock-out phases of Tour regattas by the skin of his teeth. But Team Alpari FX did nothing to dent that reputation by doing exactly that in Korea today, the Kiwis squeaking into the Quarter Finals. 'We feel like it's been tough, a bad rub of the green. That last race against Ian Williams was a case in point. Ten seconds before the start they called off the race because they had a timing error. It wouldn't have affected the race, we were both late for the line and we had a penalty on Ian, and had the advantage.
'That was disappointing and then in the resail against Ian we had a fishing boat blocking our entry, and we were unable to have a dial-up with Ian and that put us on the back foot in the critical race. We're disappointed with how things panned out and it seems to sum up our Qualifying, with things not quite going our way. But to know we have qualified for the Quarter Finals is a big relief. It's always strong to have learned a lot of lessons in the Qualifying phase, a lot of different scenarios can happen, and we've had most of them happen to us, not in our favour. We've had the hard knocks and hopefully now we can go out there and beat up on whoever chooses us.'
Despite their lacklustre performance thus far, no one chose Minoprio’s team, perhaps fearing a big comeback from the Kiwi who scraped through qualifying at Match Race Germany a couple of weeks ago, but then finished second overall. Instead, winner of the Qualifying Ian Williams joked that he would 'stick with tradition and choose Gilmour', the joke being that the Tour rookie David Gilmour is the son of four-time match racing world champion Peter Gilmour, with whom Williams has had many a high-spirited run-in in the past. Maybe Williams’ trimmer Mal Parker will be wearing his special anti-Gilmour ear defenders.
As for Hansen and the shock exit of a team that many of their rivals feared as the biggest threat in Korea, well Hansen said he would come back fighting at the next Tour event in a month’s time, Stena Match Cup Sweden. 'We will make sure this is a once-in-a-season miss of the Quarter Finals, and we hope we can show we are still in the game at Marstrand.'
Quarter Final Pairings
Ian Williams (GBR) v David Gilmour (AUS) Mathieu Richard (FRA) v Keith Swinton (AUS) Taylor Canfield (ISV) v Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Phil Robertson (NZL) v Adam Minoprio (NZL)
Stage 2: Korea Match Cup – Qualifying Round Final Standings
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 10-1 Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team 7-4 Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone 7-4 Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 7-4 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 7-4 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 6-5 Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX 5-6 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 5-6 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team 5-6 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 5-6 Taejeong Kim (KOR) Gyeonggi Match 2-9 Gunwoo Park (KOR) Busan Match Team 0-11?