Torvar Mirsky defeated Phil Robertson 3-0 in the Argo Group Gold Cup semi-finals to complete a ten match unbeaten run in Bermuda. In the final, he will go head to head with Johnie Berntsson after his team overcame Francesco Bruni 3-1 in the other semi-final.
As well as trying to capture the 2011 Gold Cup, there were two key plot lines to the racing in Bermuda today. The first involved Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat and Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing who both need to capitalize on Williams’ defeat here yesterday to gain ground on the Brit in the race for the ISAF Match Racing World Championship. If Bruni could win here he would go into the Monsoon Cup tied with Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group.
The second was all about Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team, currently ninth in the Tour standings, fighting to get into the top eight to qualify for the Monsoon Cup. Given the results so far, if Berntsson could win here, he would move into fifth place in the Tour standings.
Bruni won the final point he needed against Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team in the morning to qualify for the semi-finals. As the top placed skipper, Mirsky picked Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing leaving Berntsson to face Bruni.
Big puffs rolled across Hamilton Harbour all day to make boat handling very difficult around the 3 lap course. In their first match, Berntsson came from behind against Bruni and built up a big enough lead to get rid of a penalty he picked up in the pre-start. They exchanged blows in the next two races to bring the scoreline to 2-1 however a disastrous start from the Italian in the following race handed Berntsson a huge lead which he maintained for a berth in the final.
A jubilant Berntsson said: 'A win is a win but it’s especially good when it’s against the top guys! Mirsky and his crew are really good - they’ve sailed the Tour for a few years so have experience and a talented young team so tomorrow is going to be tough. But we’ve taken wins against them before so I’m confident we can come out on top.
'We’re hoping to make it through to the Monsoon Cup and the results here will really help us climb the Tour rankings. Hopefully we’ll go through to Malaysia and get some more points there.'
Bruni was left with mixed emotions: 'We’re very happy with the day in general but not about losing the semi-finals. Making it to the top four is obviously great but once you get there you want more. We’re a little bit sad but we’re still getting some points and gaining on Williams so really now it will all be played out in Malaysia.
'We could end up taking third and hopefully Mirsky will get second so the top of the leaderboard will be really tight. It means it will be open up the competition in Malaysia but I really think it’s down to Mirsky, Williams and myself. It would be very hard for anyone else to catch us now.'
Against Robertson, Mirsky was battling another skipper who posted a 3-0 scoreline in the quarter-finals, and with both skippers looking for valuable points here, the match had the potential to go to the wire. The Wave Muscat team read the shifts perfectly though and were almost unchallenged in all three races, winning each with time to spare. Mirsky now hasn’t lost since the first Qualifying Session here, reflecting: 'The conditions were tough today and there were lots of shifts but the guys did a really good job and we have great composure onboard the boat. We managed to keep the boat going fast around the course which really was key to beating Phil.
'Going through to the finals is a great for our World Championship chances as it should boost us up the table so we’re really happy with that.'
Meanwhile, Phil Robertson will have a chance to race for third place tomorrow: 'We’re obviously really disappointed to be knocked out at this point. Torvar and his crew sailed really well, they did a great job getting the lead and then extending it. We just didn’t have an answer to it really. In terms of our World Championship chances I don’t think this makes much of a difference. It’s hard to tell how it will play out until all the results are in.'
Williams had nothing to gain other than a bit of pride by competing for fifth to eighth place as the points he won here in Bermuda won’t count towards his Championship score. He ended up losing to Richard who went on to defeat Radich, earning the Frenchman fifth place and 14 points which he will include in his Championship score.
It was a strong finish for Richard but little consolation for a team that went into the 2011 season expecting to be in the title hunt: 'This was our last chance to come back in the Tour rankings so we’re disappointed. Last year we were fighting for the title, it was really exciting and was a far better position to be in than this year. We will be quite far away from the top three so we’ll have to try and get the best result we can in Malaysia.' Argo Group Gold Cup semi-final results:
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team beat Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing 3-1
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat beat Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 3-0 5th to eighth final standings:
5 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
6 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners
7 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group
8 Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team Overall Championship Standings – after 6 stages:
1 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar – 90pts
2 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 89pts
3 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 84pts
4 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 74pts
5 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 73pts
6 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 67pts
7 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 63pts
8 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners – 61pts
9 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team – 48pts
10 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing – 43pts
World Match Racing Tour website