In a thrilling series, New Zealand's Phil Robertson and his WAKA Racing Team beat Australian Michael Dunstan and his SLAM Racing Team, to win the Asian Match Racing Championship this afternoon. As a result Robertson will be sailing in the final round of the 2009 World Match Racing Tour, the Monsoon Cup to be held in Terengganu, Malaysia from December 1st to 6th 2009.
On what is now truly the home of Asian Match Racing, the Pulau Duyong Basin in the Terengganu River, teams from New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong progressed to the semi-finals this afternoon after the completion of two full round robins.
Phil Robertson and his WAKA Racing crew; tactician Garth Ellingham, trimmer James Williamson, muscleman Sam Bell and Australian bowman Adam Martin cruised into the semi-finals with an impressive 11-1 record.
Michael Dunstan and his SLAM Racing team kept improving throughout the event to place second on the ladder with a 9-3 result, ahead of Team J.F.P (JYMA) skippered by Kan Yamada, 8-4 and Team Hong Kong (Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club), skippered by Martin Kaye, 6-6.
Local Terengganu team Taring Pelangi (TESA) skippered by Hazwan Hazim finished the round robins with a 5-7 result, while Team 'EM' (Royal Varuna Yacht Club) skippered by Morten Jakobsen recorded a 2-10 result. MAF 1 skippered by Mohammad Razali Mansor completed the event at 1-11.
Robertson went into the semi-finals without tactician Garth Ellingham who was not able to race due to heat stroke. David Gilmour replaced Ellingham.
For WAKA Racing, it was a 3-0 result against the Hong Kong team of Martin Kaye. In the final match Kaye was pushing hard trying to get back into the race but when he collected two penalties it was all over.
Yamada proved a tougher opponent for Dunstan. Dunstan won the first two matches well; the first by eight lengths and the second by three, then in the third match Yamada crossed just a bow length ahead of the Australian team. In the fourth match Dunstan cleared away and finished the semi-finals with a 3-1 result.
The Petit Final, between Kan Yamada and Martin Kaye, was very close producing some of the most exciting racing in the whole event. Yamada won 2-1, but not without a fierce battle.
Yamada commented 'Our starts were good, but we need more match racing all year round. We will be back next year, stronger and very keen to win.'
In the Finals of the Asian Match Racing Championship, Robertson showed that the last six months on the match racing tour circuit has raised his team to a new level. Wins against Peter Gilmour, Sebastien Col and other senior Tour stalwarts, has boosted the team's confidence level and they performed strongly to take the title with a 3-0 result.
Dockside, a rueful smile from the four times Australian Match Racing Champion Michael Dunstan. We were out sailed by Phil and his team; the whole Asian circuit standard has lifted and Phil's time on the World Tour had certainly battle hardened him.
'I think Phil was just a little faster than us. He won the first two starts and put penalties on us and then we got a penalty at the top mark in the third race, and that was the championship.
'I want to thank my crew, Adam Hawkins from our early campaign days, Yasper Warren from Perth, Mike Leigh, who is a Canadian Laser Olympic representative and Tony McKenzie from Melbourne.'
Robertson commented 'Overall it was awesome racing. We did have some dramas behind the scenes as Garth had heatstroke. He hit the wall last night, but we took him out today for the last of the round robins, which in hindsight was a mistake. We had to forfeit the last match, he was suffering. Garth came in dehydrated and slept for a couple of hours, but we had him back for the finals.'
Robertson was clearly pleased with his Team's performance. 'This is an awesome venue; we've sailed in some tough places and this is definitely one of the most challenging. It's really important to keep a tight cover.
'Early in the series we did not and we were nearly caught out a few times. Then we realised there were a lot of passing lanes and we had to stay right on top of our opponents.
'We are certainly pleased to have won here; as Adam Minoprio has shown a win here can be a key to the World Match Racing Tour door.
'We will be in Perth from the 26th-29th November where we will be racing against, I think, eight of the Monsoon Cup teams in the Australia Cup, then we will be back here in Terengganu for the 2009 Monsoon Cup' concluded the victorious skipper.
More information at www.monsooncup.com.my