An Australian team skippered by Katie Spithill stole the show in a five-match thriller on Day 5 of Match Cup Sweden to claim victory.
Spithill and her crew of Stacey Jackson, Olivia Price, Sam Boyd, Jess Eastwell, and Nicole Douglass emerged victorious after a five-match slug fest with Anna Kjelleberg's (SWE) crew in which the Australians came back from two nil down to snatch victory by less than a metre.
In the Finals flight one, there was a big pre-start scuffle. Spithill got the upper hand by pressing Kjelleberg in the lead up to the start, which resulted in Kjelleberg shooting over the line early. A tack around and a re-start gave Spithill a big lead.
Kjelleberg was not about to give up; she battled back, playing the shifts and showing awesome boat speed. By the first mark, Kjelleberg had worked her way to the right of Spithill and as they came together, Kjelleberg dialed Spithill down and then dived around the mark ahead by half a boat length. From then on, Kjelleberg was never bothered and extended her lead to over 10 lengths. Spithill must have been left thinking “what happened?”
In flight two, it was Kjelleberg's turn to lead the way, crossing the line first and getting a cover onto Spithill from the start. At mark one, it was Kjelleberg ahead, but with Spithill breathing down her neck. Kjelleberg held her nerve to round mark two by a boat length and continued to extend her lead to go to match point.
The third flight started on split tacks, Spithill on the left at pace and Kjelleberg shooting to get around the starboard mark. Spithill pounced on the opportunity to get ahead and led around the track never giving Kjelleberg the chance to get back into the race.
The fourth flight began with a classic dial-up and at the start both boats were over. Spithill was on the right, and after both boats came back together, Kjelleberg received a penalty for tacking too close to Spithill. A close tacking duel ensued upwind with the two boats rounding mark one of the three-lap race overlapped. Downwind, Kjelleberg attacked and got into a rolling position, but Spithill defended well, forcing Kjelleberg wide of the mark and the Aussie retained the lead.
Spithill sailed the shifts on the second beat and run, eking out a three-length lead. The Swede tacked immediately around the fourth mark, but a bad tack by Spithill meant that Kjelleberg was able to wriggle free of Spithill's vice-like grip to claim the power of the right.
Kjelleberg used her advantage well, and after a furious tacking duel, rounded the final mark ahead by a nose. With a penalty outstanding, Kjelleberg's only choice was to slow down to try and offload the penalty by forcing Spithill into an error. Spithill stayed calm however, and when the opportunity arose, dived for the line rolling over the top of Kjelleberg to take it to a fifth race decider – and what a decider it was.
After an even start, it was nip-and-tuck for the first two laps, with both teams fighting hard to press home the advantage. As they came around the last leeward mark, Kjelleberg tacked first and in the ensuing tacking duel up the final beat, Kjelleberg edged back into the race, forcing Spithill off to the left each time. At the top of the beat, the Swede misjudged the layline. Spithill tacked under her lee bow and then extended towards the mark rounding inches ahead. Kjelleberg came back down the run, sailing higher and faster, eating up the gap between them.
The Swede then gybed to starboard, forcing Spithill to gybe. Kjelleberg luffed, but Spithill kept clear in the windward position and started to roll. Kjelleberg held her lane and pushed Spithill across the course before gybing for what she thought was the closest end of the line.
A fumbled gybe onboard Kjelleberg's boat gave Spithill the chance to lunge for the line. Even a desperate gybe back onto starboard by Kjelleberg to force Spithill into an error couldn't stop the Australian from breaking the line with her spinnaker first.
An elated Spithill congratulated her crew of Sam Boyd, Jess Eastwell, Olivia Price, Nicole Douglass and Stacey Jackson. “This is totally unbelievable; it really hasn't sunk in yet. The crew have just done a fantastic job this week. Today was all about how to race the boats – and learning from Anna (Kjelleberg) – who gave us such a beating in the first race we had to work out fast how to match her.”
Following on from Katie Spithill's win in the Match Cup Sweden Women's event, Peter Gilmour dominated the day in the Open event, winning his semi-final, and then the final without dropping a match, casting aside the strong challenges from Damien Iehl and then Mathieu Richard to make it a double victory for Australia.
A westerly wind shift before the finals enabled the Race Committee to make the course longer and drop it to two laps to give the gathering crowds more to see. In first match, the boats were overlapped most of the way around the course. On the second upwind leg, an attempted slam-dunk by Richard resulted in him being penalised, but he still led around the final mark. Unfortunately, he was unable to manoeuvre into a position to offload the penalty, so Gilmour went one up.
The second race was Gilmour all the way, but Richard came back in the third match to lead Gilmour around the course, until the last mark, when the boats went around overlapped with Gilmour to windward. Gilmour slowly rolled over Richard and with a rapid spinnaker hoist was able to inch clear of the attacking Richard. A dummy gybe sent Richard to the right down the run and when the boats re-converged, Gilmour was a length ahead as he barrelled towards the line to take his seventh Match Cup Sweden.
A thrilled Gilmour said: “The team did a great job this week. I think there is never an easy win. Marstrand is a sensational venue, and having been here longer than most, I probably get cheered by default, unless I'm sailing against a Swede! Out there, you can hear everything being shouted, it's just great, we love it. Mathieu and all the French teams have done a great job. All credit to the system they have in place; it's turning into a bit of a talent factory.”
“We tried to do the same to Peter as we did to Sebastien and come back from 2-0 down, but we missed it. Peter sailed very well; we led twice, but both times he overtook. We've had a fantastic event and have had great spectator support. I have now finished sixth, fourth and now second in the results, so maybe next year I can make it number one,” a disappointed Richard said
A positive note for Richard is his rise to the top of the overall World Tour leader board, with 68 points, followed by Adam Minoprio (NZL) in second and Peter Gilmour (AUS) leaping up from eighth to third. The Tour takes a break now for the rest of July and August, but comes back in the first week of September, when the teams head into the mountains of Switzerland for the St Moritz Match Race.
Peter Gilmour v Damien Iehl (FRA) 3-0
Mathieu Richard v Sebastien Col (FRA) 3-2
Sebastien Col (FRA) v Damien Iehl (FRA) 2-1
Peter Gilmour (AUS) v Mathieu Richard (FRA) 3-0
1st – Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
2nd – Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Team
3rd – Sebastien Col (FRA) French Team/K-Challenge
4th – Damien Iehl (FRA) French Team
5th – Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge
6th – Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
7th – Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
8th – Philippe Presti (FRA) French Match Racing Team
9th – Peter Wibroe (DEN) Wibroe Sailing Team
10th – Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch
11th – Ian Williams (GBR) Bahrain Team Pindar
12th – Mattias Rahm (SWE) Stena Bulk Sailing Team
13th – Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Team Onico
14th – Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Joe Fly Match Race
– WMRT Media