Tour-ranked No. 1 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar dispensed with his rival Pierre Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team by a score of 3-0, while Tour No. 3-ranked Taylor Canfield (ISV) Team US One did the same with Chris Steele (NZL) 36 Below Racing, but not without multiple penalties in each match.
Mathieu Richard (FRA), another Semi-Finalist, in action – photo Ian Roman/AWMRT
But it took four matches for Tour No. 2-ranked Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets to defeat Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX on a score of 3-1, and a storm-delayed five matches for Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team to defeat Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing by a score of 3-2. These final four teams represent a diverse range of talent from Europe and the US Virgin Islands, and like Match Cup Sweden in July, this is one of those rare occasions that an Antipodean team has not made it to the Semi-Finals at a World Tour event.
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) earned his Final Four spot in his fifth and final match – photo Ian Roman/AWMRT
But this was not for lack of trying, particularly in the matches between Canfield and Steele, a rivalry that was scheduled as last in the four-match flights, but easily the most fiery. This was in part due to the often strong gusts exceeding 20 knots that were pummeling the course area from the shoreline, driven by an approaching frontal system that had storm clouds on the radar off to the west.
Having spent three years as Sailing Director of the Chicago Match Race Center in the TOM 28's used at this venue, Canfield and team felt comfortable in pushing Steele in the pre-starts to his limits, and sometimes beyond: his aggression earned him not only a penalty in the pre-start of the first match, but then another one on the first run when his spinnaker hit Steele while trying to pass. And even with having to do an immediate penalty turn that placed him several lengths behind at the gate, Canfield played the shifts perfectly on the next beat to not only catch Steele, but position himself between him and the mark to allow him to luff beyond the mark, and in gybing to get back, absolve himself of that original penalty to be all square for the final run and on to score the first point.
The next match was also heated, where it was Steele this time that earned a penalty for getting too aggressive, but could not get it back to win the match, thus putting him into must-win pressure in the third flight.
|Taylor Canfield (ISV) pushing his way into the Final Four – photo Ian Roman/AWMRT|
In this final pre-start the Canfield once again got too aggressive, gybing at Steele while on starboard and to windward, narrowly avoiding major contact but getting the lead back to the start line with less than a minute to go and Steele nearly a length astern.
But the shifty, puffy nature of this course set just east of Belmont Harbor, with the weather mark in the lee of the forested Lincoln Park shoreline just meters away from the rocks, meant that no lead was safe, and Steele managed to get ahead to lead at the end of the first lap by just a length. Now it was time for Canfield to have a replay of their first match, where he caught the Kiwis and by getting between them and the top mark, managed to once again to peel away in a gybe and erase his penalty, take the lead, and keep it to win the match and the Semi-Final berth.
The first-to-three point Semi-Finals will start earlier tomorrow, at 0900 CDT, followed by the first-to-three point Finals and Petit-Finals.
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar, 3-0
Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One, 3-0
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets, 3-1
Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team, 3-2