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Williams leading way into quarters | The Royal Gazette:Bermuda Sailing

Sean McNeill RBYC Media

Published May 9, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated May 8, 2019 at 10:30 pm)

Close quarters: Johnie Berntsson, left, of Sweden, tussles with Ian Williams, of Britain, in Hamilton Harbour during the second day of the Argo Group Gold Cup yesterday. Williams won the tightly contested match, with both crews advancing to the quarter-finals

(Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Close quarters: Johnie Berntsson, left, of Sweden, tussles with Ian Williams, of Britain, in Hamilton Harbour during the second day of the Argo Group Gold Cup yesterday. Williams won the tightly contested match, with both crews advancing to the quarter-finals (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Ian Williams and his Team GAC Pindar crew from Britain won the initial round-robin stage of the Argo Group Gold Cup and advanced to the quarter-final as the No 1 seed.

Williams’s crew posted a 4-1 record today after Tuesday’s 5-1 mark to advance with the top score of 9 points from 11 races.

After Tuesday’s racing, Williams said it was important for the crew to advance to get some needed rest. After yesterday’s tight racing, the day off will be a welcome respite.

“It was close racing all around, I think we were fighting from behind all day long,” said Williams, who won the Argo Group Gold Cup in 2006.

“You take the small gains when you can and just keep chipping away. It’s good to have tight racing, especially in the round robin.

“You can’t win them all but you take the ones you can and keep going forward.”

Williams is joined in the quarter-finals by Australians Torvar Mirsky and Harry Price and Johnie Berntsson, of Sweden. Mirsky finished the round robin at 8-3, the same record as Price, while Berntsson advanced with a 7-4 record.

Mirsky wound up the No 2 seed because he beat Price in their match yesterday.

“I’m really pleased with how the boys are going,” said Mirsky, 32, who won the 2017 Open match racing world championship.

“Everyone here is trying to find their feet, trying to build up to the final stages. My focus has been about crew work and not results.

“You want to win all of the races, but you also want to work on the team and get better each day. It’s all about building up to the final round and being sharp.”

The conditions today were in contrast to yesterday. Instead of a northwesterly wind blowing across Hamilton Harbour, the wind was out of the east, meaning it was blowing the length of the harbour. There were still shifts of up to 30 degrees but the strength was a bit steadier at 8 to 14 knots.

“Yesterday and today were similar in that the wind was very shifty,” said Mirsky.

“I thought today was harder to pick the shifts. Yesterday [Tuesday] you could see the trends a bit more. But with the boats being quite long and skinny, no matter what you do you end up in situations at mark roundings with the umpires and playing the momentum game and using overlap to get to the next shift.”

The on-water umpires issued 14 penalties yesterday, nine less than yesterday, and while Mirsky mostly excelled he stubbed his toe against Bermudian Kelsey Durham, who defeated Mirsky for his first victory in a professional match-racing regatta. Durham and crew won the start and fended off Mirsky around the first lap, and then extended around the second lap for what turned out to be an easy win.

“It felt great to lead at the start and pull away through the race,” Durham, 25, said.

“Today was a much better day for us. We only had one penalty, as opposed to four yesterday, and just felt much more comfortable. You have to be aggressive in the start and know the rules, and we’re just learning and getting better all the time.”

Durham still has an opportunity to advance to the quarter-finals through the repechage round robin, where he will be joined by Chris Poole of the United States, Eric Monnin of Switzerland, Nicklas Dackhammar of Sweden, Maxime Mesnil of France, Lucy Macgregor of Britain, Pauline Courtois, of France, and Ettore Botticini, of Italy. The top four finishers advance to the quarter-finals.

Like Mirsky, Macgregor advanced to the semi-finals last year after the repechage round. It gives the crews an opportunity to continue honing their crew work and tactics while the four crews that advanced after the opening round robin might lose just enough focus to fall afoul. Many of the crews here have not raced as often as they would like as jobs and family become more important than who has luffing rights.

“We haven’t done a match-racing regatta since last August, so we still have lots to work on,” said Macgregor, the three-times women’s match-racing world champion.

“We had a better day today than yesterday, the boathandling is good, but there are still a number of areas to improve, how we see the racecourse and how we get around it.

“Gone are the days when we were in full campaign mode and sailing all the time. The day job gets in the way nowadays. But the repechage round will be good and tough.”

Racing resumes today at 9.30am with the repechage round.

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