Qualifying begins at Match Racing Worlds

Published on October 24th, 2017

Shenzhen, China (October 24, 2017) – The 2017 Match Racing World Championship got underway today as the top 18 teams from the 2017 World Match Racing Tour began the qualifying stage on Daya Bay.

The field is divided into three groups which will compete for two days in fleet race qualifying heats to advance the top 16 teams to the match racing knockout rounds.

Chris Steele showed his mettle on day one as the skipper of the young Kiwi team, 36 Below Racing, put on a dominant display in his fleet racing group. Scores of 1,2,1,1 place Steele as the clear leader of Group 2 ahead of Ian Williams who sits on 11 points, a point in front of top 49er sailor from Australia, David Gilmour. But Steele knows it’s far too soon to be counting his chickens.

“The results keep coming in the fleet racing, which is nice,” notes Steele. “We should keep it simple and keep to the fleet racing. It’s nice to carry some momentum from the last event in Chicago and get a couple of race wins here in China.

“The breeze started quite strong in the morning and fading as the day moved on. The guys did a nice job of getting the boat off the start line and not making any massive mistakes around the race track. We just gave ourselves some good opportunities to pick apart the other guys we were racing and that translated into some race wins and a second as well. We’re pretty happy to be sitting on top of our group at the end of day one.”

Former tactician for Ian Williams and now TV commentator on the Tour, Simon Shaw can’t recall a field that looks so wide open. “It is genuinely hard to pick a favourite right now. It might have been Phil Robertson up until a couple of months ago, but he’s fallen off a bit and others have come up to match him.”

While Steele is running away with Group 2, the leaderboard is much tighter in the other two groups. Former Match Racing World Champion Taylor Canfield holds top spot in Group 1, but only by a point ahead of defending world champ Phil Robertson and Frenchman Yann Guichard who are tied for second.

Fresh off the plane this morning from the Extreme Sailing Series in the USA, Robertson was a little ring rusty to begin with, but started to find his form as the day progressed. “We touched down early this morning and just got the car here in time,” said Robertson, skipper of the Kiwi crew on board China One Ningbo.

“It’s quite warm for this time of year and light airs, so it’s going to be a tricky venue and a good event,” said Robertson. “Our first day of qualifying, we did alright, started a bit slow and pulled it together at the end, finished with a bullet. Being second overall is OK and we’re within striking distance of the front. Day one is about finding your feet and getting into your groove. Tomorrow is where you want to start ramping it up.”

In Group 3 there were three different different winners, with Australia’s Harry Price taking two bullets and The Netherlands’ Pieter-Jan Postma and Sweden’s Nicklas Dackhammar one apiece. Another Swede Johnie Berntsson may not have won any races but his consistency places the Swedish Flux Team in first overall. However the points are very tight and it’s hard to see who’s going to come through on top in Group 3.

As ever, success often comes down to split-second timing on the reaching starts. Get it right, and it can catapult you into the lead. But push it too hard and you cop a penalty. And if you go for a middle-of-the-road start you’re very likely to come away with a middle-of-the-road result across the finish line. With so much at stake this week, knowing when to pull that itchy trigger finger is going to be key.

The first day of the WMRT Match Racing World Championship marks the prologue leading into the 2017 China Cup International Regatta. WMRT China has worked to secure Asia’s largest sailing regatta as a collaborator for this year’s final. Yesterday evening, David Zhong extended a warm welcome to all sailors and was excited to see the M32s racing at this, the 11th annual edition of the China Cup.

Tomorrow sees the conclusion of the fleet race Qualifying Stage, when the bottom team in each group will move to the Sail Off to fight for the remaining spot in the Super 16 Stage.

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Competition format:
• Day One and Two – Fleet race Qualifying in Groups. Each Group sails 6-8 races.
• Day Three – Bottom team from each Group compete in a sail-off to decide who moves on to the Super 16 knockout. Top three from each Group join the sail-off winners in a 16 team, first to three-point, knockout. 1v16, 2v15, 3v14 etc.
• Day Four – Sponsor day and remaining races from the Super 16 Knockout.
• Day five – Quarter-Finals and start of Semi-Finals (knockout format).
• Day six – Finish Semi-Finals and complete Final/Petit-Final (knockout format).

2017 World Championship Level Events:
WMRT Match Cup Australia, March 20-25
WMRT Congressional Cup, March 29-April 2
WMRT Match Cup Sweden, July 3-8
WMRT Match Cup Russia, August 1-6
WMRT Match Cup Chicago, September 26-October 1

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
WMRT Match Cup China, October 24-29

Background: In 2013, Swedish company Aston Harald AB acquired the design and production rights to the one-design M32 catamarans. In July 2015, Aston Harald AB acquired the World Match Racing Tour, which then began the use of the M32 during the 2016 Tour. Launched in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour is the leading professional match racing series sanctioned by World Sailing.

Source: WMRT

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