ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing, the 2009 ISAF Match Racing World Champions and Monsoon Cup winners
New Zealand skipper Adam Minorprio has defeated Britain’s Ben Ainslie in the final to add the Monsoon Cup to the 2009 ISAF Match Racing World Championship title he secured earlier this month. The Monsoon Cup, the final event of the World Match Racing Tour, was sailed on the Pulau Duyong basin in Kuala Terengganu in Malaysia. As well as MYR 1.57 million (approxUS$454,000) in prize money, the Monsoon Cup was also the final act in the battle for the ISAF Match Racing World Championship Trophy, which is awarded annually to the winner of the World Tour.
Adam Minoprio and his ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing crew of Tom Powrie, David Swete, Nick Blackman and Dan McLean won the ISAF Match Racing World Championship on the way to the Monsoon Cup finals. Minoprio is the 11th skipper to win the Match Racing World title since its inaugural edition in 1988. New Zealand dominated the early years of the World Championship, winning six out of the first ten editions thanks to Chris Dickson and Russell Coutts (both three-time winners). However, since then the title has only gone to New Zealand on one other occasion, with Minoprio the first Kiwi winner since Dean Barker took the 2000 edition.

The new World Champion sailed against the legendary Ben Ainslie (GBR), 32 year old British sailor, three-time Olympic gold medallist and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 1998, 2002 and 2008. Ainslie’s mainsheet hand is double Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy and the balance of his crew Matt Cornwell, Christian Kamp and Mike Mottl are considered amongst the best in the world.

The drama started even before the pre-start when the New Zealand skipper Minoprio sailed out of the sailing area and ran aground. Crew member Dave Swete stripped to his shorts and went into the water to check the keel for damage and to clean off any of the river mud that may have stuck.

In the first match of the final, Minoprio entered on port but headed to the starboard end of the box and had the pre-start advantage.

Ainslie was over early and was penalized for failing to keep clear. Minoprio too was over early but was able to duck back while Ainslie almost stalled and was slow to get back.

Minoprio had a massive advantage; he was in the current and steaming around the top mark while Ainslie was 18 seconds behind. In a risky attempt to close the gap, at the bottom of the course Ainslie went right and sailed into softer air.

Minoprio extended on the left and headed for home with a massive 10-boat length lead and crossed the finish line first.

Now all the pressure was on Ainslie and TeamOrigin.

Across the line Minoprio commented, “A good race. We wanted the pin and we got it. We won’t be happy until its 3-0.”

Ainslie could only say, “Adam and his guys sailed a good race. Now we have to try and turn it round.”

But it got worse in the second match as Minoprio timed his start perfectly and headed left, leaving Ainslie staggering.

Ainslie’s summary of the situation, “Sorry guys.” He headed right but bailed and flopped left. The Olympic master was struggling against his young rivals who were now two lengths ahead at the top mark.

As Minoprio crossed the line to go two up in the first to three, he said to his crew “one more.”

Ainslie said “We were on the ropes initially in the pre-start, but we escaped and led on the right. We need to win the next three races; its not going well for us at the moment we have to regroup.”

Regroup was what TeamOrigin certainly needed to do but the young World Champions were not about to help them.

Just seconds before the third race start, Minoprio saw pressure coming in from the right and did not contest the previously favoured left hand side. Ainslie hit the current on the left but it was not enough, Minoprio was around the mark two lengths ahead.

The elation in the voices on the BlackMatch boat could be heard. “Is this a reversal of the last Bermuda?’ “Come on concentrate” replied Minoprio.

Twenty seconds ahead at the bottom mark, the Kiwis headed left and the Brits followed. With breeze up, Minoprio extended his lead.

On the third lap and on the right, Minoprio had private current and the best breeze.

During the week Ainslie either won easily or lost narrowly. So for him the final was a giant turn around.

There was anguish on Ainslie’s boat as a halyard came unclipped and the spinnaker fell down. Ainslie threw his sailing hat down in despair.

Adam Minoprio and his BlackMatch Racing team had won the Monsoon Cup.

The clearly elated Minoprio said, “That last breeze call was the defining moment. It’s been a very intense event for us. We came in thinking that if we focussed on winning the Monsoon Cup, the ISAF World Match Racing Championship result would look after its self.

“We just scraped into the quarter finals, but it went pretty well after that.

“We were always keen to meet Ben and his great crew in the final. We’ve done it twice before in Bermuda. We beat them to win the final of the Bermuda Gold Cup in 2008 and they beat us in the same event in 2009.

“They are a great team and considering how many other sailing events they are involved in, their ability to switch focus to match racing is very impressive.

“Ben and his team don’t generally get caught up in trying to tangle people up in the pre-start. He’s very focussed on getting to the line fast. He doesn’t smash the other guy at the start; he just has a little bit more speed.

“He’s a fast sailor and it’s tricky to counter that and that’s how he got us in Bermuda, so today we concentrated on trying to tie him up at the start and that worked for us.”

Ainslie related, “A pretty disappointing day. Everything we did was wrong and the spinnaker coming down on the last run really capped it off.

“We are pleased for Adam and his boys… they gave us a lesson today. We have more work to do as a team.

“It’s great to make the final in this last Tour event of the year. For us, the focus of the World Match Racing Tour has been around trying to build ourselves up; mainly the relationship between Iain Percy and myself in terms of an afterguard relationship based around the Cup.

“It’s been a little bit frustrating that we haven’t been able to do more World Tour events and we feel we have a good crack at winning the Tour outright and we are keen to do just that in the future. For us it’s been a great opportunity to up our skill level in terms of match racing.

“Kuala Terengganu has provided some really fascinating racing, especially the tactical challenges of the last couple of days with the race course being split [by the river flows].

“In more classic match racing venues generally there aren’t that many passing lanes and it’s relatively easy to defend a four boatlength lead, whereas here even a 10-boat lead isn’t enough at times.

“This has been a great event. We watched the television coverage for the first time last night and we were trying to analyse some of the manoeuvres. I was amazed at the television – it’s fantastic. There is the bow cam and the mast cam and Andy Green cam; it’s really good and I’m really impressed. It’s far better than the coverage of the last America’s Cup and something which should be incorporated in the Cup in the future.”

Monsoon Cup Final Standings

1. Adam Minoprio (NZL) BlackMatch Racing Team
2. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin
3. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
4. Sébastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team/ALL4ONE
5. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
6. Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
7. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
8. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team

Results

Final

Adam Minoprio (NZL) d Ben Ainslie (GBR), 3-0

Petit Final

Peter Gilmour (AUS) d Sébastien Col (FRA), 2-1

Semi Finals

Ben Ainslie (GBR) d Sébastien Col (FRA), 3-2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) d Peter Gilmour (AUS), 3-1

Quarter Finals

Ben Ainslie (GBR) d Damien Iehl (FRA), 3-0
Sébastien Col (FRA) d Phil Robertson (NZL), 3-2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) d Mathieu Richard (FRA), 3-0
Peter Gilmour (AUS) d Torvar Mirsky (AUS), 3-1

Round Robin

1. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin, 8-3
2. Sébastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team and ALL4ONE, 7-4
3. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 7-4
4. Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing Team, 7-4
5. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, 7-4
6. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing, 6-5
7. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 6-5
8. Adam Minoprio (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand and BlackMatch Racing, 5-6
9. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 5-6
10. Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Azzura, 4-7
11. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 4-7
12. Hazwan Hazim Dermawan (MAS) Taring Pelangi Team, 0-11

Read more about the World Match Racing Tour

Match Race Rankings

Newly crowned ISAF Match Racing World Champion Adam Minoprio of New Zealand maintains his hold on the top spot in the latest release of the Open ISAF World Match Race Rankings, as France’s Claire Leroy extends her four and half year unbroken run at #1 in the Women’s Rankings.

Adam Minoprio (NZL) holds on to world #1 spot for the four consecutive release of the Open Rankings, no surprise after the young Kiwi skipper swept to victory at the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia, in the process securing the title of 2009 ISAF Match Racing World Champion. With three World Tour wins this year (the others came in Marseille and St Moritz), the World Championship title and the world #1 ranking, the 24 year old skipper of ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing ends 2009 at the very summit of the match racing world.

Chart showing top five skippers

Behind Minorprio, World Championship silver medallist Torvar Mirsky (AUS) stays in the world #2 spot, whilst 2009 ISAF Nations Cup winner Damien Iehl (FRA) climbs up two places to a career-best ranking at #3. Completing the world top five is another French skipper, former world #1 Mathieu Richard, and 2007 and 2008 World Champion, Ian Williams of Great Britain.

The big mover at the top in this Ranking release is British triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie (GBR). After finishing as runner up in both the Monsoon Cup and Sunseeker Australia Cup (losing the finals to Minoprio and Mirsky respectively), the TeamOrigin skipper climbs 11 places in this Ranking release to enter the world top 10 for the first time at a career-best Match Race Ranking of #8. Just ahead of Ainslie is Bjorn Hansen of Sweden, who stays at #7 after scoring an impressive win at the ISAF Grade 1 Berlin Match Race.

Also on winning form is young Australian Keith Swinton, whose outstanding season continued with victory in Italy at the ISAF Grade 2 Trapani Match Cup. As a result, Swinton climbs five places to break into the world top 20 at #16 in this Ranking release.

At the ISAF Grade 2 Mumbai International Match Race, Mahesh Ramchandran (IND) showed why he’s his country’s top ranked skipper by scoring overall victory ahead of Farokh Tarapore (IND). The win helps Ramchandran climb from #45 to #33 in this Ranking release, putting him just behind Brazilian skipper Henrique Haddad.

Click here for the Open Rankings

Claire Leroy (FRA) was back to winning ways this month and remains top of the Women’s Rankings for the 39th consecutive release, a run that stretches back to 4 May 2005. A third place in Korea at the ISAF Grade 1 Busan Cup in October was followed by victory this week in the US Virgin Islands at the ISAF Grade 1 Carlos Aguilar Match Race, keeping her in the world #1 spot for now.

Chart showing top five skippers

However, for the first time in over two years, Leroy’s world #1 ranking looks to be seriously under threat. ISAF Sailing World Cup winner Lucy Macgregor (GBR) is quickly closing the ground to the ranking leader, with victory in Korea her seventh ISAF Graded event win of a very successful year. Macgregor is looking particularly well-placed for an assault on the world #1 spot at start of next year, as she is counting such a strong series of scores from the Grade W World Cup events.

Another strong contender for Leroy’s crown is the Australian duo of Katie Pellew (nee Spithill) and the current ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Champion, Nicky Souter. In this Ranking release the pair exchange places, with Pellew climbing to #3 and Souter dropping back to #4, but both remain well placed to take on Leroy’s hold of ranking top spot in 2010.

Completing the world top five is European Champion Silke Hahlbrock (GER), winner of the ISAF Grade 2 Ladies Only Match Race held in Berlin at the end of October.

New into the world top 10 this month is Beijing Olympic gold medallist and 2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Anna Tunnicliffe (USA). After rising to the top of the Laser Radial World Rankings and winning Olympic gold at Qingdao, Tunnicliffe has now set her sights on match racing for London 2012. After a year in which she has continually switched between the Radial dinghy and match racing keelboats, the 27 year old US skipper has still managed to end the year at #10 in the Rankings (she was #36 in December 2008). Expect further progress in 2010 now her London 2012 intentions are mapped out.

Chasing hard on Tunnicliffe’s heels for the US 2012 spot already is Genny Tulloch, who got the better of her rival to win the recent US Women’s Match Racing Championship. As a result, Tulloch climbs seven places in this Ranking release to #14.

2009 ISAF Match Racing World Championship – Final Standings
(Top eight teams after Stage 9 of 9 of the World Match Racing Tour)

1. Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing, 138 Points
2. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, 97 Points
3. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin, 95 Points
4. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR, 93 Points
5. Mathieu Richard (FRA), French Match Racing Team Racing, 79 Points
6. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 75 Points
7. Sébastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 55 Points
8. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 48 Points

Read More Sailing News

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