It could all be decided long before the finals. After scrapping every inch of the way to secure a place in the quarter finals of the Monsoon Cup, Britain’s Ian Williams and his team GAC Pindar were immediately pitched into a fiery battle which could decide the 2011 World Match Racing Series.
He meets Italy’s Francesco Bruni in a first to three wins in the knockout stage of what is the finale of the eight-regatta grand prix. If he wins, no-one can score enough points, even if Williams were then knocked out in the semi-final. Bruni would at least have to win the third place play off to be sure of overtaking Williams.
Bruni kept his hopes alive when they seemed to be ebbing away when knocking out the man lying third overall, Australia’s Torvar Mirsky, by a margin of four seconds. Earlier Bruni, who is moving on to be tactician on Italy’s Prada challenge for the America’s Cup, had beaten the veteran Peter Gilmour by just one second.
This would be Williams’ third world championship and he, like Bruni, was quick to commiserate with Mirsky, who also suffered the disappointment earlier in the season of seeing the Venezia Challenge America’s Cup team have its entry turned down by the Golden Gate Yacht Club on behalf of the San Francisco-based holder, Oracle.
Mirsky’s contribution to the series over the years was acknowledged, but he was distraught, having led Bruni to within yards of the finish line. He may yet be back, but indicated strongly he would not be on the circuit next year. “Our team’s just shattered right now,” he said. “We know we have a competitive team but this has left a real sour taste in our mouths. We’re in a real mess right now.”
Outstanding performances by two young Kiwi teams, both of which have come through the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron academy scheme, skippered by William Tiller and Phil Robertson, topped the original 12-boat entry, but only two points covered first to eighth when they had all raced each other.
There could yet be upsets and Williams needs to be in killer mood in the quarter finals. As the top three chose their opponents, he said: “No-one will pick us or Bruni.” He was right.
Motoring towards Tristan da Cunha, the crew of the dismasted, American-flagged Puma, the third from six starters to retire from the first leg of the Volvo round the world race from Alicante to Cape Town, is worried it will be picked up in time to reach South Africa for repairs which will allow them to start the second leg, to Abu Dhabi, in time.
Counting down through the 500 miles to go marker, Spain’s Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez, was still leading from the second Spanish boat, Camper by 130 miles, and France’s Groupama third, nearly 500 miles behind Telefonica.