Fresh westerly winds made for spectacular racing on the opening day of the Swedish Match Cup Open regatta off Marstrand yesterday

The Open Regatta at the Swedish Match Cup commenced yesterday, and four of the eight skippers in Group A opened the event by posting 3-1 records on a sparkling day of racing.

With westerly winds blowing 18-24 knots, Karol Jablonski, Mattias Rahm, Gavin Brady and Magnus Holmberg won three of four races and stand tied atop the leaderboard. Chris Law and Jesper Bank are one win behind at 2-2. Michael Dunstan and Johnie Berntsson are 0-4.

“You couldn’t get more perfect conditions than today,” said Law, the event’s defending champion who celebrated his 52nd birthday yesterday. “I’m thrilled to be here racing at 52.”

Law’s match against Rahm was one of the day’s highlights. The two were never separated by more than one boatlength, and Rahm eked out the narrow victory by a half length. “I mistimed the start, we lost a winch handle overboard and we only lost by half a length,” said Law.

Rahm was pleased with his 3-1 mark on the day. He’s competing at the Swedish Match Cup for the third straight year, and last year won the round robin. “I’m used to sailing these boats,” Rahm said. “I know where to be when the wind is coming from certain directions. And you don’t know how critical that can be on this racecourse.”

The Brady-Holmberg match also provided thrills and highlights for the some 500 spectators watching the racing from the rocky shoreline. The two skippers are separated by 6 points on the Swedish Match Tour leaderboard. That’s a difference of $15,000 in the final standings.

Holmberg and his SeaLife Rangers crew won the start and led Brady’s crew from the BMW Oracle Racing America’s Cup syndicate around the first lap. Holmberg protected the right side up the second beat, but Brady made gains to the left. They converged at the windward mark on opposite tacks, with Holmberg holding the starboard advantage. “We wanted to protect the right, but maybe he was tacking a little better,” said Holmberg, a founder of the Swedish Match Cup 11 years ago.

“We were approaching each other on opposite tacks,” Holmberg continued. “I tried slowing down to block him from rounding, but he saw me slow down and slowed down too.”

Holmberg luffed head to wind attempting to block Brady, but Brady ducked around Holmberg’s transom and then jammed his boat in between Holmberg and the mark. Holmberg not only gave up the lead, but he also received a penalty from the on-water umpires. “They deemed I went past head to wind,” Holmberg said. “I don’t think that was the right call.”

Brady was now to the right of Holmberg, and preventing him from bearing away to begin the run to the finish. Then Holmberg received another penalty. “I bore off slightly to begin a tack,” Holmberg said, “and he luffed at the same time. I was penalized for not keeping clear. It was probably a better call than the first.”

The Swedish Match Cup features 16 teams competing in the Open Regatta. The crews have been split into two groups of eight. There’s also a Women’s Regatta being run concurrently.

The Open Regatta schedule has Group A finishing its first round robin by noon today. Group B is scheduled to begin racing Thursday.

Group B skippers feature Ed Baird (USA), Russell Coutts (NZL), Peter Gilmour (AUS), Bjorn Hansen (SWE), Peter Holmberg (ISV), Staffan Lindberg (FIN), Lars Nordbjerg (SWE) and Luc Pillot (FRA).

Open Regatta Standings

Group A 1st equal Karol Jablonski/POL, Toscana Challenge 3-1 Crew: Tom Baranowski, Piotr Przybylski, Markus Wieser, Jacek Wysocki

1st equal Mattias Rahm/SWE, Team Stena Bulk 3-1 Crew: Johan Barne, Nikas Carlzon, Claes Dahlberg, Pontus Meijer

1st equal Gavin Brady/NZL, BMW Oracle Racing 3-1 Crew: Dirk de Ridder, Ross Halcrow, John Kostecki, Brad Webb 1st equal Magnus Holmberg/SWE, SeaLife Rangers 3-1

Crew: Martin Krite, Lars Linger, Oskar Ljung, Stefan Rahm

5th equal Chris Law/GBR, The Outlaws 2-2 Crew: Oscar Angervall, Daniel Bjorndahl, Anders Dahlsjo, Henrik Valderyd

5th equal Jesper Bank/DEN 2-2 Crew: Thomas Jacobsen, Time Nielsen, Morten Halkier, Henrik Blakskjaer

7th Michael Dunstan/AUS 0-4 Crew: Glen Atrill, Wade Morgan, Ben Morrison, Nick Partridge

7th equal Johnie Berntsson/SWE 0-4 Crew: Henrik Hansson, Nils Bjerleas, Martin Berntsson, Robert Skarp