Match Cup Sweden - Marstrand
The 2017 edition of the World Match Racing Tour’s championship event delivered exactly as its media hype promised, “the best of the best, all racing in the greatest sailing arena in the world”.
For us, leading into Match Cup Sweden we were excited to do exactly that. Having the opportunity to line up against some of the world’s best match racers of the past decade has been a long-time dream for us and it did not disappoint, with the breeze ranging from 40+knts down to the bare minimum of 2knts.
Day 1 was a bit of a ‘hurry up and wait’ kind of day. With what seemed to be a trying forecast, we were held ashore for 3 hours after the first team briefing at 9am. Came noon and nothing had changed. It was still blowing 30-40knts but the race committee believed it would decrease. Another 2hr postponement was issued.
At 2pm and our third briefing, they issued a further 1.5hr postponement with instructions that if the winds were to decrease only our qualifying fleet would race.
By our fourth briefing at 3:30pm, it was decided that racing was to be abandoned for the day. The winds had decreased to 15-20knts however the sea state was 2-2.5m high, just too much to handle for the first day of racing.
Day 2 was Fleet Race qualifying and it was game on! The boys were really excited and ready to give the day a real crack. Unfortunately, it left us feeling the worst we had felt after a day of sailing on these cats. Nonetheless we learnt a great deal for our first day of fleet racing in the M32’s. Out of the five races held, we struggled with our time on distance and were OCS in three starts. This required us to fall behind the entire fleet on each of these before the first turning mark. In the other 2 starts, we struggled to get off the line with speed and trailed around the course. With such short courses and with narrow boundaries we found very few passing lanes once we turned to head upwind to the top gate.
Price commented at the end of the day’s racing interview, “With such a hard fought day for the boys, we are just looking forward to the match racing tomorrow. We are very comfortable in the pre-starts and produce some high-level boat handling”
Day 3 – Match Race time! 4 wins – 0 loss.
A nice 10knts of wind allowed for superb match racing in Marstrand. The format for the day was for the bottom three teams from the fleet racing to sail off to claim the final super 16 spot and progress further in the competition. First up, we faced Swiss sailor Eric Monin in a first to 2 points match.
In complete contrast to our qualifying racing, we showed no mercy and shut down Monin off both starts, forcing him slow as the gun went and even driving him backwards allowing us to speed off and take the race victories. Jones commented it was “a real testament to the boys, being able to start off really strong and show we are here to make a mark.”
The final sail-off was against Evan Walker’s KA Match, a Miami Match Cup rematch. It was much the same outcome with DownUnder Racing claiming both race wins, but not without some controversial umpire calls in the first pre-start. With 20secs to the start gun, both boats were tight on the pin-end layline. A little right shift allowed us to gain some gauge to windward, but out of nowhere that room diminished as Walker luffed and tacked to port with DownUnder Racing keeping clear to starboard. Protest calls were hailed and the penalty was given to DownUnder Racing. Of course, there are always two sides to every story, however it didn’t seem to phase our team after trailing six out of seven legs, and we ultimately sailed around Walker with some impressive boat handling and strategy.
Day 3 – Super 16 vs Ian Williams
What an opportunity, and what an obstacle we had in front of us. Ian Williams was a six time World Match Racing Champion and we were as confident as ever. A shifty 10knts was waiting for us on the course and with a first to 3 points series, we were in for a real contest of yachting. With live coverage being broadcasted all over the world and over 30,000 spectators on the shore, it certainly was one for us to remember.
After a strong start for us in the first race, we lead off the line and sailed a remarkable race around the short narrow course to take first blood. Unfortunately, this would be our only race win of the Super 16 series. However the score line did not reflect how close the racing was against such a strong and experienced team.
For the next three races, the spectators definitely got their moneys worth. Penalties off the line and countless lead changes created some of the most intense and enjoyable yachting we have ever been apart of. Even after each loss, there was no disappointment from the team. We sailed the best we could. Having said that, after reviewing the coverage of the day, we highlighted a mistake that inevitably cost us progressing to the next stage. We chose to cover and put ourselves out of phase in times where we didn’t need to. At the time, we believed we needed to shut the race down and just consolidate; in hindsight not the best option! Perhpaps we could put it down to just nerves or rushed decisions wanting to claim victory, but we have learnt from this and come next event, make no mistake, we will be there. Watch Price v Williams here.
But enough about our mistakes, and as said before, we were happy and elated after each race. Our boat handling was incredible and the boys put in everything they had to get the boat around the course. We just couldn’t lock it down when it counted.
Nevertheless, Match Cup Sweden was amazing, awesome people, fantastic venue and a great atmosphere all week.
A huge thankyou to our hosts, the Walker family, who opened their home to us and made us feel like their own family. And as always, to our sponsors Musto Australasia and Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.
Stay tuned as we have plenty more in the tank, and even more exciting times ahead as we prepare for the arrival of our 2 brand new M32 catamarans.