New Zealander Adam Minoprio and his team of young new generation sailors on the professional match-racing scene raced coolly and confidently to beat Ben Ainslie (Great Britain) 3-0 in the final of the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia.
Everything fell Minoprio's Team New Zealand Black Match way in the final while everything went wrong for Ainslie's Team Origin. Ainslie on the run to the finish of race 3, trailing 43sec behind Minoprio at the last windward mark, threw down his hat in disgust when his spinnaker fell into the water after its halyard snap shackle let go.
The finals were sailed in the lightest wind of the five-day regatta. After morning calm, a light north-east sea breeze trickled in that filled to only 4-6 knots. With current flow in the Terengganu River still running at a strong 2-3 knots, splitting around the Duyong Island regatta venue, strategic and tactical decisions became even more difficult in the lighter breeze.
The pre-start manoeuvring, slowed by the lighter wind in the current, became more difficult. Ainslie botched his first start, incurring a penalty in the pre-start and then being recalled for being over the start line early. Angrily, he displayed a red protest flag to dispute that decision.
He withdrew that later after discussing the incident with race manager David Tallis. Behind at the start Ainslie headed right towards the current line to the south while Minoprio stood on to the left, lifting in good breeze along the shore into the strong current streak to the north to round the windward mark well ahead and win unchallenged.
Minoprio won the start of race two, again heading left while Ainslie with a “sorry guys” apology to his crew took the right-hand option. Again the left paid, Minoprio led all the way to win by 48sec.
Ainslie won the start of race three, at the pin and heading left while Minoprio took the right-hand option. This time, with new breeze filling in from the right, it paid off. Black Match was able to come back on starboard in good breeze while Ainslie slowed in lighter air along the island shore. Minoprio led by 11sec at the first mark and went on to win by 43sec.
Minoprio said heading right for the decisive third win in the best three-of-five format was not totally a gamble: “We didn't get the start we wanted. The wind had gone right so we were pretty happy whichever side we took as long as we took it properly with speed on the line.”
He said Ainslie had commanded the pre-start with the right-hand entry advantage. His crew took a vote on taking off from the line on port tack. “And the right paid, which was the defining moment of the race for us.”
Ainslie said: “It was obviously a disappointing day, we couldn't do anything right. Wherever we went whatever we did was wrong and the spinnaker coming down on the last run just about capped it off.
“It was unfortunate but full credit to these boys, they sailed really well and we are really pleased at them winning the World Tour and winning the event outright.”
“It's been a fantastic week for us,” said Minoprio. “We didn't sail too well at the start of the week but then the guys did a great job of working on the mistakes. We sailed smart and with some great crew-work.”
Black Match will sail in next year's World Match Tour. Meantime, Minoprio will spend summer relaxing in Auckland. “I have had a hectic two years; match racing is all I have been doing. I haven't been home since February and last summer I was home for only a few weeks. So I am looking forward to the summer in New Zealand for a couple of months, just to relax and enjoy it before the world tour kicks off next year.”
Sailing with Minoprio were Daniel McLean, Tom Powrie, David Swete and Nick Blackman.
This year's Monsoon Cup carried the richest-ever purse of prize money on the World Match Tour, totalling about $454,000. Team New Zealand Black Match will take home US$104,000; Team Origin US$72,000.
Last year's Monsoon Cup winner Peter Gilmour (Australia) beat Sebastien Col (France) in the sail-off for third place to earn US$43,000. Lesser amounts went to teams down the finishing order.
– Bob Ross
2009 Monsoon Cup Results
1st – Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing
2nd – Ben Ainslie (GBR) TeamOrigin
3rd – Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
4th – Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team ALL4ONE
5th – Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
6th – Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
7th – Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
8th – Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team
9th – Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge
10th – Francesco Bruni (ITA) Team Azzurra
11th – Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar
12th – Hazwan Hazim Dermawan (MAS) Taring Pelangi Team
2009 World Match Racing Tour Results
Adam Minoprio – ETNZ BlackMatch Racing – 138 points
Torvar Mirsky – Mirsky Racing Team – 97 points
Ben Ainslie – TeamOrigin – 95 points
Peter Gilmour – YANMAR Racing – 89 points
Mathieu Richard – French Match Racing Team – 89 points
Ian Williams – Team Pindar – 75 points
Sebastien Col – French Match Racing Team ALL4ONE – 59 points
Damien Iehl – French match racing Team – 54 points