Monsoon Cup: Watch out for little-known Kiwi Phil Robertson

Double Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie has been steadily advancing his match racing skills and on day two of the Monsoon Cup emerged at the top of the scoreboard with four wins in his five matches in tricky tidal and wind conditions in the estuary of the Terengganu River on Malaysia's east coast.

With the round-robin elimination series to finish today with the last four flights in a total 17, Ainslie (Great Britain) leads with a 7-2 win-loss record from Matthieu Richard (France) and Phil Robertson (New Zealand), both on 6-3.

Then follow: Torvar Mirsky (Australia), Sebastien Col (France), and Magnus Holmberg (Sweden) all with five wins; Adam Minoprio (New Zealand), Peter Gilmour (Australia) and Damien Iehl (France) four wins.

Struggling for a quarter finals place with three wins is the current World Match Race Tour world champion Ian Williams (Great Britain).

The stellar performance on day two came from the Kiwi “unknown”, Phil Robertson, who won five of his six matches, bouncing back from a dismal first day when he won only one match. His team came out with all guns blazing on day two with aggression that won them four starts in conditions of tidal current flow and wind direction that had the starts usually deciding the outcome of the match.

Their crew-work was slick and tactics cool.

Robertson (22) and his young crew of Adam Martin, Sam Bell, Garth Ellingham and James Williamson are relative newcomers, struggling to break into the professional match-racing scene. They set up their Team New Zealand Waka Racing a year ago and have spent the last six months racing in Europe and the USA.

After a morale- boosting win in Chicago following a tough time in Europe, they secured a wild card entry to the Monsoon Cup, the circuit's richest event with prize money totalling around US$450,000, by winning the Asian match racing championship at Terengganu in November. They won every race and beat Australian Michael Dunstan's team in the final.

Robertson, overjoyed at the end of day two's racing said: “We have stuck it out this year. We had a hard start, a little bit tough, just going over there; not much money, nowhere to live and you start losing as well, you sail terribly.

“But at least we got better as the year went on. The Chicago regatta win was a big boost for us. That was about mid season.”

He added: “Yesterday was a tough day; we made two big errors in two races which cost us the race so yesterday's score could have been a lot different. Today's score was perfect really because everything was working.

“We probably just upped the aggression a little in the starts today because you had to get right and if you don't win the start it's not even worth the bother.”

All skippers agree that starting over the past two days been critical to success. The first boat into the escalator ride offered by the monsoonal rain-swollen flow in the Terengganu River has gained an enormous early advantage.

– Bob Ross

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