Two important quarter finals, one across the Atlantic the other on the US west coast were in prospect for Britain’s defending match race world champion Ian Williams and top Olympian Ben Ainslie on Friday.
Williams and his Team GAC Pindar faced a former world champion Adam Minoprio after the Kiwi failed to turn up for the draw in the Argo Bermuda Gold Cup. His would have been first pick having been top performer in the round robin,
Instead he was left with Williams, whom none of the others had picked as an opponent. They have both beaten each other before but Williams comes to the event having just won the French championship in Marseille whereas Minoprio, who until July was racing in the Volvo round the world race with Team New Zealand’s Camper entry, is returning to the Alpari World Match Racing Tour for the first time this season.
After a three hour delay due to lack of wind, Williams made it through to the semis after beating Adam Minoprio in three straight wins.
In San Francisco, Ben Ainslie goes head to head with defending America’s Cup skipper Jimmy Spithill’s Oracle Racing USA in the match racing section of the World Series event.
Ainslie, who won his fourth consecutive gold at Weymouth in August, has joined the Oracle team but is racing under the BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) banner in the 45-foot versions of the 72-footers that will be used in Oracle’s Cup defence next September.
He had also been top scorer, with a first and a third, in the fleet races staged on Thursday and, while many would see the Australian Spithill as the likely favourite to win, Ainslie has some considerable experience of the darker arts of match racing and has won the WMRT tour.
Ainslie, tipped strongly for a knighthood when the Olympics honours list is announced, has a gnarly crew of seasoned campaigners in his crew and could provide another upset for Spithill, who was beaten in the same discipline at the August event in San Francisco by his boss, Russell Coutts. It was in Venice earlier this year that Coutts said he was looking forward to seeing Ainslie battle it out with Spithill in one of the two 72-footers that Oracle is building for its own defender series.