Top four rise to the occasion and secure semi-final berths
It was rough and very breezy on Day Three of the 2019 Yachting Developments New Zealand Match Racing Championships, providing a superb platform for some tense and tight match racing, allowing our top four teams to rise to the top.
The day begin with the remainder of the round robin racing, with the most notable race a lose-or-go-home match between Celia Willison’s Edge Women’s Match and Niall Malone’s Irish flagged Black Fern Racing. The race was incredibly tight throughout, but as the teams pushed it to the limit on the final downwind, Malone’s team lost control of their kite and wiped out, letting Willison sail away into the quarterfinals.
Our eight Quarterfinalists were then found, with top seed Nick Egnot-Johnson taking on Brian Trubovich, Reuben Corbett up against Celia Willison, Alastair Gifford racing Tom Picot, and Jordan Stevenson versus James Wilson.
Egnot Johnson won the first match against the 79-year-old convincingly but was under the pump in the second pre-start. However just at Trubovich went to tack across and sail over the start-line with a decent lead, the unthinkable happened. Trubovich went flying out of the back of the boat – tiller in hand – straight into the chilly water of the Waitemata Harbour, leaving his three crew members stranded on the boat and allowing Egnot-Johnson to sail the race by himself and notch up a victory. Trubovich then retired from the match, giving the Knots Racing boys an easy spot in the semi-finals.
“It was shame Trubi fell out of the boat because he was looking really good in that second race and it would have been a fun one. I’m just glad he is ok, he did bloody well to make the quarterfinals so he can be proud of how he’s done – I’m not sure I will be able to do what he is doing when I’m seventy-nine! We’re stoked to be in the semifinals, and we will need to be right on our game on Sunday if we’re going to take home the title.”
Corbett and Willison had a really close quarterfinal, even though the score finished at three-nil. Willison and her RNZYS PP Edge Women’s Match Team were right in the fight in all three races but couldn’t quite match the speed of their coach Corbett who showed his tactical savviness and that he still has what it takes to get the job done.
“I’m proud of the girls, it was always going to be tough against Reuben but we put up our best effort and that’s all you can ask for. We didn’t start the regatta very well so to bring it backand make the quarterfinals, it’s a good result for us and we can take some key learnings and confidence heading to China next week for the WIM series event.”
Jordan Stevenson, who also started the regatta slowly, managed to time his run to perfection as he made fairly light work of James Wilson in their Quarterfinal. Stevenson and his RNZYS PP Vento Racing team were no match for Wilson, sailing beautifully downwind in all three matches to build up big leads and book their tickets to Finals Day on Sunday.
“We were much better today, I think we’ve managed to glue together as a team and todays conditions suited us, it was so much fun out there! Really looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow and giving it a good nudge.”
The quarterfinal between Alastair Gifford and New Caledonian Tom Picot was a completely different story and was no doubt the match of the day, with all five matches needed to find the winner. The match was tied at one a piece, but Gifford looked good in the third when he built up a handy lead, he still had a penalty to shake but managed to do it right before the finish and grab the win. However, that was where his form ended, with Picot coming back strong to win the next two matches convincingly and sail straight into the semi’s.
“We just weren’t quite on the ball today unfortunately. The quarterfinal against Tom was a real battle, so many tacking duels that really tired us out. He didn’t let up though and was just a bit better than us out there, he definitely beat us fair and square. A bit of a bugger not to make the top four but fifth is a good result for us so I can go home happy.”
With the forecast looking light on Sunday, Race Officer Harold Bennett was keen to get the semi-finals underway, so that left Egnot-Johnson in the driver’s seat to pick who he wanted to race. He took the smart option and picked Picot who had just raced that very tiring five matcher against Gifford, leaving Corbett and Stevenson to race it out for the second spot in the final.
The two top seeds lived up to their names, with Egnot-Johnson and Corbett both heading to the showers with one-nil leads in their semi-finals, but as we saw today, anything can happen in a best of five match, so it is still very much all on tomorrow.
Andrew Delves – RNZYS PR & Communications Manager
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