Source: World Match Racing Tour
In one year the Monsoon Cup will conclude the 2006-’07 World Match Racing Tour schedule. But it’ll be hard-pressed to deliver a more exciting final than today’s series between Peter Holmberg and Mathieu Richard.
Holmberg (ISV), the 46-year-old helmsman candidate for America’s Cup defense syndicate Alinghi, defeated Richard, the 30-year-old French surgical match-racer, 3-2 to win the 2nd annual Monsoon Cup.
The series was a sea-saw affair, with each crew landing and absorbing repeated blows. Holmberg, however, pulled out the championship despite being on the verge of elimination just 36 hours earlier.
“The team has to do it, not just me,” said Holmberg, who captured his fifth career victory on the World Tour. “It’s really shifty and tricky here. The team that figures it out, that’s what gets them on the right track.”
Holmberg’s Alinghi crew included Rodney Ardern, Lorenzo Mazza, Piet Van Nieuwenhuyzen and Dean Phipps. They finished with a 14-9 record and won MYR250,000 (approx. $69,500) of the MYR 1 million (approx. $278,000) prize purse.
“Dean and I got in synch and started reading the pressure better,” Holmberg said. “The crew, I had Rodney on main, Piet on bow, Lorenzo trimming … you couldn’t find a better workhorse than that trio.”
Richard sailed with regulars Thierry Briend, Greg Evrard, Olivier Herledant and Yannick Simon. The Saba Sailing Team finished with a 14-10 record and won MYR150,000 (approx. $41,700).
“It was very exciting and very close,” said Richard. “Maybe I would say we are disappointed because it was so close. But generally speaking, I am very happy with the event. It was a fantastic event. It was a great result for my team and me.”
Holmberg and Richard got to the final by beating Peter Gilmour (AUS), PST, and Ian Williams (GBR), Team Pindar, respectively. Each match was decided by 2-1 scores.
In the Petite Final, Williams solidified his position atop the Match Racing World Championship standings when he defeated Gilmour 2-1. Williams now leads the series with 62 points, 12 points ahead of Richard who leaped into second with his runner-up finish.
Richard opened the final by winning the first race. He started to the right of Holmberg, worked the right side of the beat and rounded the first windward mark with a lead of about 8 seconds. From there he covered for a 1-0 lead.
Holmberg rebounded, however, and took a 2-1 lead. He won the second race by playing the right side of the racecourse. He won the third race by virtue of a penalty on Richard. The Frenchman was penalized on the second beat when he tacked to port to cover Holmberg, who had just taken his transom. The umpires deemed that Richard, now the windward boat, didn’t keep clear.
Still, Richard led to the finish of the race where he tried to pull off his penalty turn. His crew doused the spinnaker, hardened up on port and then tacked to starboard. But as they completed their tack Holmberg charged down on port jibe. Richard didn’t bear away soon enough to complete his turn before Holmberg had to crash jibe, his boom draping all over Richard’s headstay. The umpires penalized Richard again because he had no rights as an exonerating boat, and Holmberg won the race.
Richard evened the series 2-2 in the fourth flight, despite carrying another penalty. This time he was penalized for failing to avoid contact after Holmberg asked for room to tack from an obstruction. Richard told him to tack and when Holmberg did there was contact and the umpires determined Richard failed to keep clear. This time, however, Richard performed his penalty turn around the pin end and got his bow across the finish line a scant 2 seconds ahead of Holmberg.
That set up a final race, winner-take-all showdown in Flight 5. Holmberg started to the right of Richard, and it paid off. Halfway up the beat Holmberg rode starboard tack across Richard by about one boatlength. He rounded the windward mark about 8 seconds in the lead, extended that to about 11 seconds at the leeward mark, and then covered relentlessly for the win.
In retrospect, the right side of the racecourse was a key to the racing.
“If I don’t take that right every time,” Holmberg said, somewhat exasperated. “Every time we gave it up, the guy got ahead of us.” Holmberg, a noted user of the rules, also felt his experience played a part in the penalties against the younger Richard. “Age has its virtues. I’ve seen and done a few more than him. He did fall in a few traps I set for him, so I was happy with that,” Holmberg said. “The guys’ good. He’s calm, cool, fast and knows what he’s doing. He’s a nice, clean guy to sail against. I enjoyed it.”