Ben Ainslie (GBR), Emirates Team New Zealand, and Ian Williams (GBR) lead the St Moritz Swedish Match Tour rounds with 2-0 records

The second day of the St Moritz Swedish Match Tour event ended with two of the five flights of Round Robin C complete. The top four finishers in the round advance to the semifinals of Stage 3 of the 2005/6 Swedish Match Tour.

Ben Ainslie (GBR), Emirates Team New Zealand, and Ian Williams (GBR) lead the round with 2-0 records. Mark Mendelblatt (USA), the event’s two-time reigning champion, and Staffan Lindberg (FIN) are both 1-1.

The two most experienced skippers in the group, Peter Gilmour (AUS), of PST, and Ed Baird (USA), of Alinghi, stand 0-2 after the round was suspended late this afternoon due to shifty winds. Gilmour and Baird finished 1-2 in the Swedish Match Tour standings last season.

Williams might be having trouble seeing the shifts yesterday, but he’s still putting forth his best effort in just his fourth tour event. He won the Group A round robin earlier yesterday with a 4-1 record, and followed it up with wins over Gilmour and Lindberg (a come-from-behind performance) to open Round C. Williams, 28, has taken a sabbatical from his job as a lawyer to campaign actively on the Tour. He wants to find out if there’s a future for him in professional sailing, be it the America’s Cup or another arena. He’s competed at three events this calendar year and he’s compiled an 11-19 record with his best finish a 7th at Match Race Germany. He feels a bit more comfortable in the dinghy-like Streamline 7.15 used in St Moritz.

“I feel in the heavier boats it’s harder for me, particularly with the experience the other guys have,” said Williams. “I think these boats negate that advantage for them. I did an Olympic campaign in the Soling in 2000, and these boats seem to have the same turning characteristics. The game is similar in the pre-start, but totally different on the racecourse.”

Williams, who didn’t qualify for the 2000 Gamers, won the Group A round when he defeated Peter Holmberg (ISV), of Alinghi, in the last match of the last flight. Holmberg took a pre-start penalty on Williams for tacking too close, and hung within two to three boathlengths around the two-lap racecourse. “We just couldn’t get enough separation on him to feel comfortable doing our turn,” said Williams. “We lost a bit on the last beat setting ourselves up for the turn, and then bailed out of that plan.” Williams, sailing with crew Steve Mitchell and Mark Nichols, did their turn after rounding the windward mark the last time. They rounded on port tack, bore away and then tacked to starboard, per the rules. Then they pulled off the move of the regatta.

Holmberg came around on port about two lengths behind and set his spinnaker. Williams quickly gybed to port to put himself to leeward of Holmberg, and then luffed hard. Holmberg kept his spinnaker up and went head to wind to avoid Williams. But with the spinnaker flogging a puff pushed Holmberg down on top of Williams to the point of contact. The umpires penalised Holmberg. “A guy luffs you, you go head-to-wind, and he keeps coming at you, then there’s contact,” Holmberg said. “I think he’s got to give me room to keep clear and he didn’t. Once I’m head-to-wind what can I do?”

“He had an opportunity to take his spinnaker down, but didn’t,” said match umpire Wayne Boberg. “If he takes his spinnaker down and it hits the leeward boat the leeward boat gets penalised. When he went head to wind with the spinnaker up it was a serious risk.”

“That’s a move we’ve used in the past, but not this year,” said Williams. “It doesn’t really work in the heavier boats, but it did in these boats. The risk is that he sails over the top of us and into the lead, but it was a strong move.”

Today’s Round Robin D begins at 1300. That is for the six crews that were eliminated in Rounds A and B including Holmberg, Sebastien Col (FRA), K-Challenge, Mark Bradford (AUS), BMW Oracle Racing, Mathieu Richard (FRA), Marcel Walser (SUI) and Eric Monin (SUI). Time permitting Round C will be completed afterwards.

St Moritz Match Race Standings

Group C Round Robin (After 2 of 5 scheduled flights)

1. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Emirates Team New Zealand, 2-0

(Crew: Andy Hemmings, Andy McLean)

equal Ian Williams (GBR) Team Musto, 2-0

(Crew: Steve Mitchell, Mark Nichols)

3. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, 1-1

(Crew: Robert Skarp, Carl-Johan Uckelstam)

4. Mark Mendelblatt (USA), 1-1

(Crew: Dean Slater, Ed Smyth)

5. Ed Baird (USA) Alinghi, 0-2

(Crew: Mike Drummond, Nils Frei)

equal Peter Gilmour (AUS) PST, 0-2

(Crew: Teague Czislowski, David Gilmour)

(Top four advance to semifinals)

St Moritz Match Race Standings

Group A Round Robin (After 5 of 5 scheduled flights)

1. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Musto, 4-1

(Crew: Steve Mitchell, Mark Nichols)

2. Peter Gilmour (AUS) PST, 3-2

(Crew: Teague Czislowski, David Gilmour)

3. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Emirates Team New Zealand, 3-2

(Crew: Andy Hemmings, Andy McLean)

4. Sebastien Col (FRA) K-Challenge, 3-2

(Crew: Christophe André, Teva Plichard)

5. Peter Holmberg (ISV) Alinghi, 2-3

(Crew: Claudio Celon, Matt Mitchell)

6. Mark Bradford (AUS) BMW Oracle Racing, 0-6

(Crew: Rodney Daniel, Nick Partridge)