Emirates Team New Zealand win the cup and the World Match Racing Tour

The final event of the World Match Racing Tour was sailed on the Pulau Duyong basin in Kuala Terengganu in Malaysia this week.

On Saturday (5 December) Adam Minoprio and his ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing crew of Tom Powrie, David Swete, Nick Blackman and Dan McLean won the ISAF World Match Racing Championship on the way to the Monsoon Cup finals.

Yesterday – the final itself – the new World Champion sailed against triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie (32) and his mainsheet hand, double Olympic Gold medallist Iain Percy.

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 matchl, 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 penalised 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 ten 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 that “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. He headed right but bailed and flopped left, and was struggling against his young rivals who were now two lengths ahead at the top mark. Minoprio crossed the line to go two up.

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.

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.

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 won the Monsoon Cup.

The 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 through to 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 its 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.”

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

“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 after guard 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.

“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.”

2009 Monsoon Cup Results

1st – Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing
2nd – Ben Ainslie (GBR) TeamOrigin
3rd – Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
4th – Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team ALL4ONE
5th – Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
6th – Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
7th – Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
8th – Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team
9th – Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge
10th – Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Azzurra
11th – Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar
12th – Hazwan Hazim Dermawan (MAS) Taring Pelangi Team

2009 World Match Racing Tour Results

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. Sebastien Col, (FRA) French Match Racing Team 55 Points
8. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 48 Points