After three days and 64 races in Newport today, the three remaining berths of 20 were decided for next week’s World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) Newport. The eight-team qualifier series started Thursday and concluded today with the Semi-Finals, Finals and Petit Finals held within yards of the shoreline on the east side of Fort Adams in 8-15 knots of breeze. The fast-paced action gave spectators a good idea of the excitement still to come as Sail Newport hosts the fourth and only American stop in this world series of sailing that features top match racing teams from the U.S. and nine additional countries in high-speed stadium racing from May 30-June 4.
Taking the top two berths by making the Finals were 36 Below, skippered by Chris Steele (Auckland, New Zealand) and 13 Fifty Racing, skippered by Michael Menninger (Newport Beach, Calif.). 36 Below lost only one of its 18 matches in the qualifier series and won the Finals 2-0 over 13 Fifty Racing. The Petit Finals were the most exciting, with Team Gilmour, skippered by David Gilmour (Perth, Australia) having to outmanoeuvre Team Mirsky, skippered by Torvar Mirsky (Pittwater, NSW, Australia) to clinch the third berth with a 2-0 final score.
“It will be an advantage for us, having done the qualifiers and spent more time in the boats so close to the event,” said Steele. “All the teams coming for Monday’s start will be fresh off the plane, while we’re already in sync with time zone, and, we’ve had a look at what the race course is going to be like. It’s awesome where we were racing today, and that’s where it’s going to be on Monday. It’s really cool to have the spectators so close and come Monday there will be a heck of a lot more people watching. The platform is good, and it will be even better with eight boats and 20 teams out on water next week.”
A weather system coming up the east coast is expected to bring high winds on Monday, which could make the Memorial Day kick-off to the World Match Racing Tour Newport all the more fast-paced. According to World Match Racing Tour Card Holder Taylor Canfield (Chicago, Ill./St. Thomas, USVI) who is the top-seeded skipper here, the boats are good to “fly their hulls” in up to 25 knots. “It should be fun!,” he said when told the forecast, for now, calls for 10-15 knots with gusts of 30.
Canfield lent a hand when a group of local Pell Elementary School fourth graders visited Sail Newport yesterday for a marine education field trip. “They were super into it,” said Canfield, who showed them how an M32 catamaran (the boats used for the World Match Racing Tour) works and how they are sailed. The kids also were able to climb onboard the M32 and experience the trampoline on the state-of-the-art race boat. “They asked so many good questions, I didn’t know how to answer half of them,” laughed Canfield.
Two Rhode Island teams – skippered by Malcolm Gefter (Newport,) and Michael Dominguez (Barrington) – were knocked out before the Semi-Finals, but according to Principal Race Officer Mattias Dahlstrom they “weren’t an easy catch and put up a fight against every team they met.”
Hosted by Sail Newport, the World Match Racing Tour Newport is sponsored by WJAR TV Channel 10, Cox Business and Heineken. It runs from Memorial Day, May 30th, until June 4th at Fort Adams State Park and features high-speed stadium-style racing between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day except for Saturday when the finals are expected to end at 4 p.m. Racing is ion the Newport Harbor side of Fort Adams. The event will be live streamed online at www.wmrt.com from Thursday 2 June through Saturday 4 June. The event also features the race boats on display at the public dock, live play-by-play commentary broadcast throughout the shore-side venue as well as music, food, family lawn games, a hospitality tent, and an M32 on shore. The event is open to the public, with no admission fee and free parking.
– Barby MacGowan