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Ainslie battles through after epic Quarter Finals in Bermuda
Hamilton, Bermuda – 9 October 2010 – Having squeezed through the Qualifying Play-Offs, Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN now stands alone as the only skipper within the top five of the World Match Racing Tour to still be in contention of winning stage 8 of the series after a mix of epic battles decided the Quarter-Finals of the Argo Group Gold Cup.
With skippers frequently over-stepping the mark as they pushed for every possible advantage, spectators were treated to another frenetic display of collisions and penalties. A dispute between Taylor Canfield (USA) and Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing set the tone, despite not actually racing each other. With Canfield delayed after a red-flag penalty in his match against Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Racing Team, he became mixed up with the Ainslie vs Minoprio match at their first mark. Ainslie rounded just ahead of the others, with Canfield taking the inside line, however Minoprio didn’t give him enough space and there was contact between the boats resulting a penalty to a seriously disgruntled Minoprio.
Canfield then proved to be the perpetrator in the day’s most spectacular moment – with his spinnaker sheet trailing in the water after a luffing match, Monnin sailed over the top of it as the Swiss skipper was preparing to gybe. The rope remained trapped as the two boats moved apart, pulling the sail between the two boats until it finally ripped apart.
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team initially looked as infallible as he has been all week in his first head-to-head against Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team. However, the tide changed dramatically as the Swede started to conjure up the form that saw him win the Argo Group Gold Cup in 2008. With Mirsky 1-2 down in the first to three points series, the pre-start of their fourth race saw both skippers fighting with all their power. Berntsson emerged from the second of two dial-ups immediately before the start to take control and an early lead but gained a penalty on the first beat. With both boats neck and neck on the approach to the finish, Berntsson executed a classic match racing move in perfect style. From the controlling leeward position, he first sailed Mirsky beyond the line, then luffed hard. When the Australian didn’t respond the penalties were evened, with Berntsson best placed to drop his spinnaker and reach back to the finish and book his ticket to the Semi Final.
The Ainslie vs Minoprio battle went to the wire, with the outcome of their deciding race vitally important not just for this event but also for the overall World Match Racing Tour. The spectators knew it too, resulting in a large flotilla that shadowed the two teams as they attacked the course. In the pre-start Minoprio tried to duck to leeward of Ainslie, but there wasn’t space and he picked up a penalty. Ainslie led away from the start with a one-length lead and a flotilla of TV crews, race officials and spectator craft following in their wake. After crossing tacks a couple of times the pair split tacks, with Minoprio desperately hoping for a big favourable wind shift on the left hand side of the course. He was out of luck and crashed out of the competition in Bermuda and can only increase his overall point’s score on the World Match Racing Tour if he secures 5th place in the 5-8 playoff.
Ainslie’s path to the Semi-Final has been far from smooth and with his next opponent Johnie Berntsson in confident mood he’s under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge ahead. Ainslie commented: “We’re happy to pull through and we know it will be tough against Johnie, however we have a good history here, we’re relaxed and we’re going to enjoy this.” Berntsson retorted: “We’re delighted to be in the semis and, while we’re not taking anything for granted, we feel we’ve been in better form than Ben this week and we think they’re beatable.
Should Ainslie regain the Argo Group Gold Cup, it would catapult him from fifth in the overall World Match Racing Tour standings, to at least third and possibly equal second – just 17 points adrift of Richard. Watch this space.
Quarter Final Results
Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team 3-0
Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Racing Team 3-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 3-1
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN 3-2
Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing 2-3
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team 1-3
Taylor Canfield (USA) 1-3
Reuben Corbett (NZL) Black Sheep Racing 0-3
Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team vs Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Racing Team
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN vs Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team