St. Moritz Match Race, the sixth stage of the World Match Racing Tour, is currently being held on Lake St Moritz in the Engadin Valley.
Pierre-Antoine Morvan put in a stunning semi-final display to defeat in-form skipper Ian Williams to make the final where he will face Torvar Mirsky. Williams will now need to win the petit final tomorrow against Bjorn Hansen if he is to overhaul Francesco Bruni in the 2011 World Match Racing Tour standings after six stages.
Morvan is a proven talent on the match racing circuit with the 2010 Internationaux de France amongst other titles to his name. He showed that class today winning his quarter-final against Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 3-0 and in doing so, became the lone Frenchman to make it to the semi-finals after his compatriots Mathieu Richard and Damien Iehl of the French Match Racing Team crashed out.
Williams was pleased to have secured a bye into the semi-finals after winning Qualifying however his team’s break from racing perhaps showed in his opening match against Morvan. An early penalty in the pre-start after the umpires ruled he had responded too slowly to a luff by Morvan was followed by a late entry by the Brit. Morvan seized the upper hand and quickly built an unassailable lead to draw first blood.
In the next match, Morvan was on the immediate back foot, picking up two pre-start penalties and being pushed over the start line early to trail Williams. However, Morvan, having taken one of his penalties, forced his way back into the match. As they approached the second mark there was little between them. Williams was to windward but thought he had broken the overlap with Morvan and pushed his his way round the mark on the inside but the umpires ruled against him. It earned him a red flag as he also seized control of the match leaving Morvan to build a big enough lead to take his penalty and the win. 2-0.
In the final match, Morvan and his Extreme Team Morbihan seemed unbeatable. Williams managed to stick to Morvan’s stern until the second mark but by the time Morvan rounded the final mark and headed downwind to the finish he was home and dry.
Morvan, who is keen to secure a Tour Card for next year, said: 'It’s amazing to be through to the finals, we never could have imagined this before coming here and winning against Ian Williams is particularly amazing for us. We came here aiming to make the semis so it’s an added bonus to get through to the finals. Also, Bertrand Pace told us St. Moritz [Match Race] is the best event on the Tour and we beat him in the qualifiers to make it here so we are happy.
It’s incredible to fight against the Tour Card Holders because we hope to secure a Tour Card next year so we can race in the finals.'
Meanwhile, a dejected Williams commented: 'It was a very frustrating afternoon for us - the boat felt like it was stuck to the water. Morvan was faster than us and he picked up the puffs well. Not competing in the quarter-finals potentially hurt us. We could have done better as a group today, we didn’t work together in the shifty conditions but we’ll learn from that. We are still driven to get to the top.'
In the other semi-final, Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat versus Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing was an exciting prospect and a difficult one to call. While Mirsky held a 75% win rate against the Swede coming into St. Moritz Match Race, the last time they faced off in the knock out stages was at the Portimao Portugal Match Cup where Hansen beat Mirsky 3-2 having been picked by the Australian.
Mirsky was also coming into this match off the back of a bruising 3-2 victory against Mathieu Richard and it showed in the first match in which he trailed from start to finish. Mirsky started poorly in the next match too, earning a penalty for crossing the line early. After a split tack he managed to claw back the lead, only to lose it again to Hansen after taking his penalty. Hansen started the final beat with the lead but again, a tenacious Mirsky pulled it back to win by no more than a couple of feet.
That proved to be the spur Mirsky needed as he then quickly racked up a further two wins to reach his first final since the Portimao Portugal Match Cup in 2010 and a chance to win his first Tour event since Portugal in 2009.
'The quarter-finals really took it out of us so when we went into racing Bjorn we were pretty tired', said Mirsky. 'I really hope that we will win here. We don’t want a record of coming second and we have a good feeling amongst the team this week. It’s our first final for 2011 so we couldn’t be happier. Morvan sailed well in France and he is comfortable racing here in the shifty conditions so it’s going to be tough racing tomorrow but we up for it.'
For defending ‘King of the Mountain’, Richard, he remained bullish after finishing seventh here: 'We got off to a very slow start here in St. Moritz but we felt better every day and we put up a good fight against Torvar. It’s been a tough season in which we’ve often got close to the quarter-finals and semi-finals. Obviously last year we won a few events unlike this year but that’s sport. Before the event we knew our chances weren’t looking good to win the Championship but the bad result here means we have no ambition to take the title now. We still have a chance to get to the top 5 though and will try hard for third place starting in Bermuda.'
As the Tour heads towards the Argo Group Gold Cup, the race for the Championship continues to heat up. Following the cancellation of the 2011 Danish Open, the Tour Card Holders who chose Denmark as one of their 6 allocated events (everyone except Bruni) will receive an average points score based on their other 5 allocated events. If that average is one of their best 5 scores this season it will count towards their Championship total. St. Moritz Match Race semi-final results:
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat beat Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 3-1
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Extreme Team Morbihan beat Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar 3-0 ISAF World Match Race Tour 2011 – ranking after five stages:
1 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 81pts
2 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 74pts
3 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar – 71pts
4 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners – 59pts
5 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 59pts
6 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 57pts
7 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 57pts
8 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 53pts
9 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing – 39pts
10 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team – 34pts St. Moritz Match Race website World Match Racing Tour website