Ian Williams and Peter Gilmour win tickets to the final of World Match Racing Tour 15/7/06

No 1 seed Ian Williams (GBR), Williams Sail Racing, who gained his status by winning the round robin, advanced to the World Match Racing Tour final with a 3-1 victory over Staffan Lindberg (FIN), Alandia Sailing Team, in the semifinals.

Peter Gilmour (AUS), PST, is the No 2 seed, whose only two losses in the round robin were to Williams. Gilmour, however, admits he’s going to have to lift his game if he hopes of winning his 11th championship of the World Tour.

“I had a shocker,” said Gilmour of his semifinal match with Cameron Dunn (NZL), Mascalzone Latino – Capitalia Team. “I’m sailing so badly it’s beyond belief.”

The Australian skipper advanced to the final after a 3-2 win over Dunn, which left the Kiwi shaking his head in disbelief. “We feel undone by the umpires,” said Dunn. “They came up to us afterwards and apologized.”

Dunn was referring to an incident at the second windward mark of Flight 4. Within 10 lengths of the mark Gilmour tacked to starboard on the layline and Dunn tacked to leeward.

Dunn put himself in a position of strength. He had luffing rights and used them. Gilmour kept his hull clear, but a puff came through and his rig heeled over. His leeward spreader touched Dunn’s windward spreader and the umpires penalized Gilmour for not keeping clear as windward boat.

The pair fell off and then Dunn luffed a second time, but he lost his forward momentum and Gilmour had just enough way on to sail over his bow and get around the windward mark. Although Dunn had asked for another penalty, the incident was green-flagged by the umpires.

As Gilmour was in the process of rounding the mark the umpires were deciding that the penalty should be a red flag, meaning Gilmour would have to do his penalty turn immediately.

Gilmour completed his 270-degree turn as Dunn rounded the mark. Although Gilmour’s crew had trouble setting the spinnaker, the halyard was behind the leeward spreader, they were able to sort it out and get going before Dunn could pass.

By the time both crews were settled into downwind mode Gilmour led by about two boatlengths, which he carried to the finish line to even the score at 2-2.

“That fourth race was critical,” said Dunn. “We got a red flag on Gilly. The idea is that if a boat gains control through an incident, he should get a red flag penalty. But if he does a penalty and stays in control he should get another red.”

“Yes, I did apologize after the race,” said Chief Umpire Shane Borrell, who umpired the match. “I thought maybe I’d made a mistake. But after analyzing it, what we’ve agreed is that the call was correct.

“We had an initial luff, and Gilmour infringed the rules,” Borrell continued. “Cameron bears away and Gilmour keeps speed. Cameron then luffs again but he stalls out and Gilmour is able to get over his bow.”

After the excitement of the fourth race, the decider was relatively tame. Dunn won the first cross, riding port tack across Gilmour and switching to the right side. Moments later at the next cross it was Gilmour who rode port tack clear across. Gilmour rounded the windward mark with roughly an 18-second lead which he largely maintained throughout the match for the 3-2 win.

“We crossed and took the right, which worked 95 percent of the week,” said Dunn. “We’d do the same again. I think we made [Gilmour] out of sorts. He didn’t expect the pressure.”

Gilmour gave full credit to his crew for getting him through the round.

“I had butterflies in my gut,” said Gilmour. “I think I expect to win against the lower ranked guys here, rather than thinking it’s going to be a tough battle. We got off to a bad start and I put my hand up and said, ‘You guys gotta get me through this.'”

The Williams-Lindberg match also had its share of drama, although penalties didn’t play the deciding role.

With the score even at 1-1, Lindberg led Williams up the first leg, with both on port tack. Lindberg was clearly ahead on Williams’ leebow when Williams tacked off to starboard. Lindberg, on a lift, continued on before tacking to starboard.

The puffy westerly wind was so shifty that the daring move paid off for Williams and he rounded the windward mark about 10ft ahead of Lindberg’s bow.

“You don’t normally tack off someone because that gives them the starboard-tack advantage,” said Williams. “He can tack and have control. It was time to dial-up God and see what he’s got for you.”

Lindberg wasn’t done. He attacked on the run and was able to get free of Williams’ control. Two-thirds of the way down the leg both crews gybed to port. As they approached the leeward mark and the crews were taking down the spinnaker another puff hit.

Lindberg’s bowman, Carl-Johan Uckelstam, was dragged overboard. He grabbed the spinnaker sheet as it went by and held on for a moment, but it eventually tore out of his hands. Lindberg wound up withdrawing from the race as he recovered the crewman from the umpire boat, and Williams went up 2-1. The fourth and deciding race was largely one-sided in Williams’ favour.

“I felt like I had the third race,” Lindberg said. “It’s better for us if there’s less wind because we haven’t sailed together as much. I can’t blame the individuals. We just haven’t sailed together enough.”

While Gilmour is aiming for his 11th career Tour victory, Williams is gunning for his first. He’s looking forward to the possibility of finally taking down Gilmour.

“One of these days we’ll knock him out, and I hope it’s tomorrow,” Williams said.