Canfield takes early lead at Polish Tour event
Published on July 31st, 2014
Sopot, Poland (July 31, 2014) – The Alpari World Match Racing Tour’s newest event, Sopot Match Race, set sail today for the 12 professional teams. Eleven flights of Qualifying were sailed in a light to moderate north-westerly wind, with 2013 Tour champion Taylor Canfield (ISV) unbeaten and atop the leaderboard, ahead of Phil Robertson’s WAKA Racing on 5-1 and local Polish legend Karol Jablonski on 4-1.
This is the 11th occasion Sopot Match Cup has been held in the Polish seaside resort, but the first time it has been part of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. There was some relief that an overcast sky prevented yesterday’s scorching 30+⁰C temperatures recurring. Today the offshore breeze proved tricky for the competitors, but was light enough for them to become at ease sailing the 34-foot Diamant 3000 boats.
Phil Robertson suffered his one lost match today to Jablonski; a tight race which saw the lead change twice. Otherwise the Kiwi skipper was pleased with his team’s performance, after they failed to make it through to the Semi Final round at Stena Match Cup Sweden earlier this month. “It’s been a really good start for us,” he said. “We are very happy and we’ve still got plenty to work on which is good. It is our first time here and the list just goes on in terms of what we can do better which is a positive.”
WAKA Racing had a particularly intense race today with Australian David Gilmour. This fired up first when the two boats collided coming out of a dial-up in the pre-start – Gilmour bore away causing his transom overhang to hit Robertson’s boat. Then there were two lead changes on first downwind leg. As Robertson recounts: “We chose the right gate mark and managed to extend from that, but then he caught up and passed us on the last downwind, but we rolled him back on the finish line.”
Part of the challenge for the skippers new to Sopot Match Race was adapting to the Diamant 3000, an IOR-style design from the mid 1990s with long overhangs, large overlapping genoa, relatively small cockpit plus running backstays that are requires crews to adapt their roles on board. “It is the first time we have match raced on a boat with runners,” continued Robertson. “The main sheet trimmer sorts them out, but it is good fun – it adds another element and makes it exciting.”
Another match racer renowned for being a live wire on the race course is Polish hero, former America’s Cup helmsman and ISAF Match Racing World Champion, Karol Jablonski. His 4-1 scoreline should have been 5-0 today had it not been for an oversight, sailing around the wrong weather mark in one race.
“Okay, we messed that up, but that was the only race we lost,” said a beaming Jablonski. “We feel more comfortable now.”
Jablonski rarely match races these days but it is a staunch supporter of Sopot Match Race. Here he is racing with an unfamiliar crew, who normally sail with another Polish match racer, Patryk Zbroja. “It is our first regatta and maybe the crew are trying to over-compensate, but we are getting slowly into the right groove,” said Jablonski. “I am very lucky to have them. They are doing a great job, are learning a lot and it is good to sail with them.
“Today our boat speed and our pre-starts were okay and we were choosing the right side in the shifty conditions so we were sailing quite smart and the result is very good us. I didn’t expect this, but I’ll take it!”
Apart from unfamiliarity with the boats, today was all about picking the shifts correctly. In this respect Jablonski believed he had done well. “It wasn’t one side regularly paying – you had to look two minutes before the start to make the call as to where the first shift will be. That has worked quite well for us and I hope it will continue.”
Team Alpari FX skipper Keith Swinton, who sailed his first ever Grade 1 match race here in 2008, admitted that he had been slow out of the blocks. “We lost the first couple of races, but it was always going to be difficult jumping in these boats and with very difficult conditions as well. We lost a couple of races and then we got on a mini run and won the next three, including some close races.”
In today’s final match against Swede Johnnie Berntsson, Swinton said he had let victory slip through his fingers. “We should have done better. We were well ahead off the line, but the wind is very difficult to read – we basically just got sailed past and there wasn’t much we could do. All in all it was an okay day and we are still in it, which is good.”
Qualifying continues Friday at 1000 local time but with lighter winds forecast it promises to be a challenging day for teams and race officials alike.
Day One Results – Best of 11 Qualifying races
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone 5-0
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing 5-1
Karol Jabłoński (POL) Jablonski Sailing Team 4-1
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 3-2
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 3-2
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 3-3
Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 3-3
David Gilmour (ASU) Team Gilmour 2-3
Przemysław Tarnacki (POL) Tarnacki Yacht Racing 2-4
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) Trefor Match Racing 2-4
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 1-5
Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 0-5
Prize money for Top Eight finishers
First prize – $US 18,000
Second prize – $US 15,000
Third prize – $US 10,500
Fourth prize – $US 9,000
Fifth prize – $US 6,750
Sixth prize – $US 6,000
Seventh prize – $US 5,250
Eighth prize – $US 4,500
Background: Sopot Match Race (July 31-August 3) is the third stop on the seven event Alpari World Match Racing Tour, the leading professional match racing series sanctioned by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Prize money is awarded for each event, with event points culminating in the crowning of the “ISAF Match Racing World Champion”.
Report by tour media. Photo: © Robert Hajduk / AWMRT