Chicago (IL), USA (September 30, 2017) – The Final Four lineup for the Chicago Match Cup was decided today in a gladiatorial spectacle that unfolded on Lake Michigan, as Phil Robertson, Sam Gilmour, Ian Williams, and local favorite, Taylor Canfield, survived elimination.
The marathon of match racing that began at 1000 CST evolved into one of the longest days of match racing ever held in Chicago after nearly eight sustained hours of competition as the fleet completed the Super 16 Stage and Quarter Finals.
Beginning the day, Chris Steele had some unfinished work to do, locking horns with sixteenth-seeded Matt Jerwood in the final match of the Super 16 Stage. What was expected to be a relatively swift match became a forbearer of the battles to come as Jerwood impressively forced the series to a race fifth match point that ultimately saw Steele prevail.
With a much lighter, shiftier breeze than past days arriving in the Windy City, number one-ranked World Match Racing Tour skipper Phil Robertson was the only skipper not to be bruised in his path to the Semis, shutting out David Gilmour early on and taking the rest of the day off before racing continues tomorrow.
The other three skippers did not have it so easy.
Early on, it appeared Yann Guichard would be able to roll through Sam Gilmour as happened to his brother in the other side of the draw, going up 2-0 in the first to three series. However, Sam Gilmour decided he would have something to say about that plan and after beating the Frenchman at the start in race three, he went on to win the next two races to consistently extend any lead he was given, winning in convincing fashion by the end of the series.
Yet, without a doubt, the most thrilling series of the day went to local Taylor Canfield and Sweden’s Nicklas Dackhammar who turned the lakeshore into a boxing ring in their four race series. After rescuing a near-loss in the first race with a come-from-behind victory, Canfield went on to sail dominantly in the second race, coming out screaming from the start and never giving up an inch.
Up two wins, one would think the third race was already decided, however, what ensued was a race that saw more lead changes than any previous race of the competition. Canfield was early to deploy his gennaker at the start with Dackhammar seemingly hesitating, giving the U.S. Virgin Islander a turbo boost down towards the first mark.
However, Dackhammar didn’t let Canfield get away cleanly with his plan, finding the speed to gybe simultaneously and roll over the top of his opponent to gain the advantage.
After both team’s split the bottom mark, Dackhammar looked easily ahead by three boat lengths to the left side of the course when he tacked, only for Canfield to resurrect out of nowhere and cross on starboard.
Leading through the downwind leg, Canfield then was the one shocked when it was his turn to choose the left hand corner, clearly ahead, only to see Dackhammar pull the same move and play the right hand side of the course to his advantage, crossing on starboard and running away with the race.
After a fourth race thriller that again saw multiple lead changes up until the final windward mark rounding where Canfield caught a shift on his final tack to round in front, Canfield was clearly impressed with the series. “We knew we had a tough series on our hand with Nicklas”, said Canfield. “That third race we found ourselves up against the wall needing to make something happen on the course and knew that right hand corner had paid dividends all day. We couldn’t believe it…obviously any lead wasn’t safe today.”
Looking towards tomorrow, Canfield felt reasonably confident after the tough racing today. “We’re here to win and certainly feel this is our home event. That last race with Dackhammar we were able to play the shifts on that final beat and close it out right at the end when we needed to and we’ll look to do more of that tomorrow as the competition gets even tougher.”
Rounding out the day, Williams defeated early favorite Chris Steele in several seemingly classic match races that saw the Brit employ his trademark, “no mistake”, get-ahead-and-cover style.
Surely, Williams and Canfield both will already be remembering their many run-ins here in Chicago dating back to 2012 and wondering if the same may be in store if both progress to the finals tomorrow. Before that, the rivalry that has plagued the modern era of the World Match Racing Tour between Canfield and Robertson must once again play out in the Semi Finals. Kiwi Robertson has been the victor in recent match ups – is this Canfield’s time to shine now on home waters.
The other Semi Final pair up will see young gun Sam Gilmour take on six-time Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams.
Racing resumes Sunday morning at 1000 CST in Chicago. Tune in to wmrt.com or watch the live stream to follow live coverage of all racing.