British sailor Ian Williams wins group at Allianz Cup match racing event in San Francisco 26/10/06

Ian Williams, the 29-year-old skipper of Team Pindar, won the group with a 5-2 record. He topped a three-way tiebreaker with Peter Holmberg of Alinghi and Ben Ainslie of Emirates Team New Zealand, two syndicates for the America’s Cup, for the win.

Williams defeated both in head-to-head matches for the tiebreaker. Holmberg defeated Ainslie in their Flight 2 match to place second and Ainslie third. Those three advance to Friday’s Quarterfinal Round, a knockout series with the first to 3 points advancing.

Williams came into the event having won his previous start at the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda last week see interview with Williams here , a win that moved him into the lead for the world championship and garnered sponsorship from Pindar, the British print and electronic media company. He kept that momentum going today.

Williams commented: “We come in confident as Team Pindar, with the same tactician and trimmers we had in Bermuda. But it’s a different field, different boats and different venue. It’s a new challenge and we’re really pleased to have got through this round and into the quarterfinals.”

Racing on Day 1 of the Allianz Cup was tricky with the wind on San Francisco Bay blowing between the northeast and northwest. That direction afforded great spectator viewing at the St. Francis Yacht Club, with the starting line just 50 yards off the club, it was perpendicular to the strong currents.

The current played a role in racing, especially in the ebb tide in the afternoon when the northerly died to 4 to 8 knots. On some runs the spinnakers on the boats were hanging limp, but they were swept down the course by the tide.

“It was a constant decision of what you thought was more important, current or wind,” said Holmberg. “I think we made the mistake early on that current was most important. In the conditions we had today – pretty variable with wind, direction and strength – you had to be smart to know when wind was more important than tide. I think wind was most important.”

Ainslie is competing in his first World Tour event since March. He felt his timing was off slightly in the pre-start.

“We were a bit rusty today,” said Ainslie. “Our starts were probably our weak point. I think through the whole thing our boathandling was good and teamwork in general was fantastic. So we need to work on [that] for the future and getting used to these boats as well.”

Chris Dickson, skipper and CEO of BMW ORACLE Racing, placed fourth in the round at 4-3, followed by Johnie Berntsson, 4-3, Staffan Lindberg, 2-5, Chris Perkins, 2-5, and Bjorn Hansen, 1-6. Hansen, however, was penalized 1 point for causing damage in a collision and finished with 0 points.

Dickson, Berntsson and Lindberg advance to the repechage round, where they’ll join the 4th thought 6th place finishers from Group B in a round robin. The two top crews in that round advance to the quarterfinals.

Group B is scheduled to begin its round robin today at 1000

Group A Provisional Standings
(After 7 of 7 flights)
1. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 5-2
(Crew: Bill Hardesty, Gerry Mitchell, Chresten Plinius, Mark Williams)
2. Peter Holmberg (ISV) Alinghi, 5-2
(Crew: Rodney Ardern, Curtis Blewett, Peter Evans, Lorenzo Mazza)
3. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Emirates Team New Zealand, 5-2
(Crew: James Dagg, Terry Hutchinson, Jeremy Lomas, Tony Rae)
4. Chris Dickson (NZL) BMW ORACLE Racing, 4-3
(Crew: Zach Hurst, Jann Neegaard, Kazuhiko Sofuku, Paul Westlake)
5. Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team, 4-3
(Crew: Johan Bäckman, Martin Berntsson, Matthew Gregory, Björn Lundgren)
6. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, 2-5
(Crew: Nils Bjerkås, Magnus Hanson, Martin Krite, Carl-Johan Uckelstam)
7. Chris Perkins (USA) Team St. Francis Yacht Club, 2-5
(Crew: Scott Easom, Steve Marsh, Russ Silvestri, Darren Ward)
8. Björn Hansen (SWE) Team, 1-6
(Crew: Mathias Bredin, Gustaf Tempelman, Johan Quiberg, Magnus Woxen)