Portimão Portugal Match Cup is stage 4 of the World Match Racing Tour and in a marked change from the qualifying sessions the forecasted wind arrived blowing up to 20 knots through the waters of Portimão.
Ian Williams sailed won his grudge match with rival Bjorn Hansen, despite a valiant effort from Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team.
Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar becoming the first skipper to advance into the next stage of the competition.
In tricky breezy conditions, Williams went into the quarter final clash confident after qualifying in second place with seven wins from 11 matches, just behind a rampant Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat.
After losing the start of the first match Williams then asserted his presence, catching Hansen on the sprint to the first mark and stealing the lead back. Hansen never got back into the game and it was a comfortable victory for the Brit. Hansen replied with a masterful display of match racing in a nail-biting match. Williams led off the line and kept the lead until the pair split after rounding mark three.
Williams chose the favoured left side of the course while Hansen went right, risking everything on the second upwind leg. It paid off, with Hansen blasting towards mark four as the right-of-way boat forcing Williams way past the layline and into trouble.
A poor spinnaker hoist from Mekonomen Sailing Team allowed Team GAC Pindar to sneak past to reclaim the lead on the final run with victory all but secure. But just when it looked like it was all over, Hansen squeezed some extra speed from his boat surfing on the swell to snatch the win out from under Williams’ feet in the dying seconds of the race.
At 1-1 it was all to play for but 2007 and 2008 World Match Racing Tour champion Williams regrouped and came back dominant to seal his place in the Semis with a 3-1 win.
Williams said: 'Going into the fourth match 2-1 up, we knew it was about trying to win the pin at the start. Bjorn was in a good position but got there too early and had to slow down while we had good speed. That was the decisive moment - from there we held him and defended what we thought was the favoured side.
'There’s always a lot of emphasis on who you pick and Bjorn is often the one just getting through and we’re often at the top. Racing Bjorn is never easy. In the last two knockout rounds that we’ve faced him in - Malaysia last year and in Korea this year - he’s beaten us. It was a difficult pick but he finished eighth and we felt he was the weakest opponent but we’re pleased to beat him in the Quarter Final.'
Hansen, who earlier this month sailed to victory at the Korea Match Cup, said: 'It was a great match but the last race was a bad one from us. We had the side we wanted but were about half a boat length behind and didn’t have speed over start line. Ian passed in front and we were chasing him all the way from there. We are disappointed to be out and we will definitely look for revenge in Sweden.'
After dominating the Qualifying Sessions Mirsky took his form into his Semi Final clash with Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team winning the first two matches with ease. But it wasn’t to be that simple for Mirsky, Berntsson staging a brilliant comeback to even the scores to 2-2. Berntsson became only the second skipper to beat Mirsky at the 2011 Portimão Portugal Match Cup, ending Mirsky’s incredible 10-match back-to-back winning streak.
After losing the first match against Jesper Radich, Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing proved why he is currently leading the World Match Racing Tour pulling it back to 2-1. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team and Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing had to wait until late in the afternoon to begin their battle for a place in the Semi Final.
The six remaining Quarter Final teams were this evening still out on the water contesting for the three places in the Semis. 2011 ISAF World Match Racing Tour Standings (After Stage Three):
1 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 59pts
2 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 48pts
3 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 41pts
4 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 31pts
5 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee and Partners – 28pts 6 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 27pts
7 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing – 27pts
8 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 24pts
9 Bertrand Pace (FRA) Aleph Sailing Team – 22pts
10 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar – 21pts
World Match Racing Tour website