Torvar Mirsky won a sudden death final against Johnie Berntsson at the Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda to claim his second consecutive victory on the 2011 World Match Racing Tour. A win in the petit final for Francesco Bruni over Phil Robertson means just over six points now separate the trio of Ian Williams, Bruni and Mirsky with only the Monsoon Cup to go.
Going into the final day, Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team was already assured of an automatic qualifying spot for the Monsoon Cup while Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing would retain tenth place overall regardless of his petit final result. They were fired up though, as were their opponents who were both seeking to close the gap on Tour leader Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group Gold Cup.
At the start of the Gold Cup, Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat and Berntsson were even on head to head wins this season. The final proved no different. In the first match, as they approached the first mark Berntsson careened into Mirsky’s stern and picked up a penalty, the umpires ruling that the Swede altered his course towards Mirsky and didn’t give him room to keep clear. A further penalty downwind forced the 2008 Gold Cup winner into an immediate penalty turn which he had to repeat after the umpires ruled he hadn’t completed the first properly. That spelt disaster for Berntsson but first blood to Mirsky who went on to take the win.
A pause for the Junior Gold Cup allowed Berntsson to re-focus and the Swede fought back brilliantly in the next match. His team were smooth through their manoeuvres and with no penalties this time, Berntsson went on to win with time to spare.
If Berntsson could avoid the penalties, it looked like he had the superior boat speed to win, but he was flagged in the pre-start of the next match. Again, he read the shifts well and his boat speed allowed him to take the lead however Mirsky continued to shake things up and kept it tight round the course. It proved critical. When Berntsson took his penalty turn on the line, he needed to get out the way of Mirsky who was on starboard with all the rights. Mirsky lined him up from 100 yards out and Berntsson didn’t keep clear, forcing the penalty back onto Berntsson and take the match. 2-1.
A comprehensive win for Berntsson in the next match, the Swede leading from start to finish with no penalty complications, took the final into sudden death. No team on port entry had won a match in this final so on paper it was Mirsky’s. A poor start from Berntsson gave the advantage to Mirsky who put in a series of classic match racing defence moves to deny Berntsson the lead. Mirsky continued to pick the shifts perfectly and built an unassailable lead to take the match and the 2011 Argo Group Gold Cup.
Mirsky was knocked out of the 2010 Gold Cup in the quarter-finals by Berntsson and more than avenged for that defeat this year. He said: 'We are over the moon with winning two titles in a row. We’ve never done that well in Bermuda and we’ve never had many Tour wins so this is fantastic, we’re really on a roll. I’m so proud of the way the team sailed this week, everyone just knew what they were doing on board and we felt comfortable and confident. Johnie really tested us in the final which made for some great sailing.
'We are now close to Ian in the points and we have a big chance for the world title so we’ll be fighting for it! Hopefully we can keep on this roll and win in Malaysia too.'
Berntsson, who picked up 22 points for his win here to give his season a huge fillip, commented: 'We’re disappointed but it was a great performance overall. The finals were really tight and we felt like it could have gone either way. We collected too many penalties though and lost the last pre-start and that really cost us. Torvar did a great job and was tough to beat so congratulations to him.
'Maybe in an hour we’ll be happy but right now we’re really disappointed because we came so close to winning. We’ve got a three year aim to finish on the podium so we’re progressing well towards that.
'We’re happy to get an automatic invite to Malaysia. That was our goal.'
Mirsky’s other arch rival for the Championship is Bruni who was involved in the petit final earlier in the day. The first match was really all over in the pre-start, Robertson picking up two penalties which forced him to take an immediate penalty turn and hand Bruni a sizeable lead that he maintained to cruise to a 1-0 lead.
Robertson made a cleaner start in the next match and managed to stay within touching distance as they approached the first mark. Despite not having raced the IOD class before, Bruni’s boat speed had been strong all week and he managed to open a gap on the first downwind leg which he extended on the final lap through to the finish for a deserved win.
Bruni, who now sits in second place in the Championship, just six points adrift of Williams, said: 'It was a really intense regatta for us. We came here knowing it was going to be tough - we didn’t know the boats but I think we adapted really well to them.
'The most important thing is that Ian didn’t go through to the semi-finals and we gained valuable points on him. Everything will now be played out at the Monsoon Cup and that was our aim heading into this regatta. We truly believe we can win in Malaysia.'
Robertson, who remains in tenth place overall, reflected: 'It was a good result for us overall, the team have done a great job and if anything I let them down in the pre-starts today. It’s disappointing to lose the semi-final and then the petit final but it is what it is.
'It’s been an interesting year for us, very much up and down but we’ve learnt a lot and we are hoping to just keep learning and take it all away and use it to improve next year.'
Last year’s Tour leader going into the Monsoon Cup Mathieu Richard drops down to ninth in the overall Tour standings and will not get an automatic invite to the Monsoon Cup. The 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Championship will be decided at the Monsoon Cup which takes place from 22-27 November in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. Argo Group Gold Cup Final result:
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat beat Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 3-2 Argo Group Gold Cup Petit Final result:
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing beat Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 2-0 Argo Group Gold Cup standings:
1 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat
2 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
3 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing
4 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
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
9 Bjorn Hansen (DEN) Mekonomen Sailing Team
10 Eric Monnin (SUI) Oklays Corum Sailing Team Overall Championship Standings – after 7 stages:
1 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar – 106pts
2 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 100pts
3 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 99.8pt
4 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 78.8pts
5 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 75pts
6 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 74pts
7 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team – 73.2pts
8 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners – 71.2pts
9 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 69.6pts
10 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing – 64.4pts
World Match Racing Tour www.wmrt.com