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2023 World Match Racing Tour Final in Shenzhen - Day 2

by WMRT 14 Dec 2023 08:17 PST 12-17 December 2023
2023 World Match Racing Tour Final in Shenzhen - Day 2 © Ian Roman / WMRT

The second day of the 2023 WMRT Final in Shenzhen, China, carried a recurring theme of challenging light wind conditions and a slim margin for error. The start was delayed with a postponement due to light winds until the breeze filled in, and racing began at about 1300 local Shenzhen time.

Sweden's 'Master of Marstrand', Björn Hansen, and his crew of Philip Kai Guhle, Mathias Bredin, Nils Bjerås maintained their dominance over the fleet today, notching up an additional two wins for an undefeated score of 5-0. There is a lot of racing left, but consistency like this in these conditions has proved difficult.

A highlight of the day was a photo finish between veteran match racers Ian Williams from GBR and Chris Poole from the USA. The thrilling finish saw Poole narrowly edge ahead, crossing the line just half a meter in front. Both Williams and Poole are likely favourites coming into this event, with Williams being a six-time world match racing champion and Poole holding the current number-one rank in world match racing.

Remembering the moment, Poole said, "it was pretty light air against Ian. We had a close match the whole way; he did a really good job on the downwinds to keep closing it up. On the final run, we had to do some defensive manoeuvring, and coming into the finish, I had a plan to match his gybe, and Joachim had a plan to go for the pin end, and it was a little tighter than we would have liked, but we were happy to take the win."

Poole and his Riptide Racing team finished the second day of racing with a score of 4-2, along with New Zealand's Nick Egnot-Johnson and Gavin Brady.

Brady and his True Blue Racing USA team saw significant improvement from the start of the regatta. Brady, who is making his return to match racing this season, surprised even his own crew with his aggressive moves, which don't come naturally.

"It's me adapting to the new rules and my muscle memory from when I was match racing before. My natural instinct is to not go for the aggressive move, which has been a tendency over this last year. I'll decide to get the clean start and not go for the kill," explained Brady.

Luckily, his crew have been fueling his fire and encouraging him to take risks on the course. He surprised them today by going in for the kill. In his race against Berntsson, he flipped his natural 50/50 decision and went for the penalty rather than a clean bottom mark rounding, to the pleasant surprise of his crew.

Brady recalls the moment, "totally outside of my comfort zone. We made a pass, gybed onto starboard, and instead of just going to the mark and getting a clean rounding, which instinctively was what I wanted to do, get that clean rounding, we actually went for the penalty, and Johnie got the penalty."

Ireland's Ruairi Finnegan and his Craic'n Racing are getting their first win on the board today as they make their debut at the WMRT Final. Finnegan had a strong 2023 season, which gained him an entry into this week's prestigious regatta.

"Our goal this year was to get to the final, so we're happy with that. Everything else from here is a plus for us. It's challenging, shifty, light winds, but it's providing a lot of exciting racing. We're hoping to take some wins off of some very good competitors I used to watch on YouTube," said Finnegan.

The forecast for the first two days of racing has been light and shifty, however, the forecast predicts that a strong breeze is on its way over the weekend, bringing a completely different kind of racing experience.

"I think the bigger breeze will suit us a bit better. Back in Ireland, we generally get a lot more breeze, so we look forward to the bigger breeze," says Finnegan. "The changeable conditions are pretty fun for match racing; you can overtake in different spots and get yourself back into it."

With eight flights completed, the round-robin stage will resume tomorrow at 1000 local Shenzhen time.

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