17 March 2009
Team Shosholoza showed its mettle once more on the weekend, not in America’s Cup racing in the South African-built RSA 83 yacht, but in match-racing at the Marseille International Match Race.
The team’s performances were up and down as skipper Pablo Cian and his crew experienced two days of vastly differing fortunes in the round robin part of the racing. That’s because the conditions were markedly different on the two days.
On the first day, Thursday, the air was light and the emphasis was on timing and speed. On day two, Friday, the breeze got up and the action was fast and furious.
A perfect seven victories
Cian and his crew excelled in the light conditions on Thursday, taking part in seven races and recording a perfect seven victories.
While he and Shosholoza shone, turning in assured performances and dominating victories, the other crews struggled to dominate like Cian and company had done; after the opening day, five teams were tied on six points, occupying from fourth to eighth place.
On Friday, in the stronger winds, Shosholoza struggled, losing all four of her races, but her record of sevens wins and four losses was enough for the South African boat to qualify in second place of the round robin.
American Ed Baird, racing with the America’s Cup-winning crew from Team Alinghi, topped the standings with eight victories and three defeats. His record included wins over Cian, as well as the top seeds, reigning world champion Ian Williams of Great Britain and Frenchman Sebastian Col.
The top eight yachts then qualified for the quarterfinals; the top four finishers had the added advantage of being able to select their opponent in the last eight.
Cian chose to face Damien Iehl of France and his French Match Racing Team, thinking that he had made a safe choice.
Explaining his decision, Cian said: “We had a great day the first day of the event, and a terrible day on Friday when we lost the last four races of the round robin.
“Damien had a terrible first day and a great day yesterday, so we reckon that today will be our turn. And we chose him too because regardless of what happens, we will remain good friends.”
The light air conditions on Saturday looked ideal for Shosholoza, and she drew a penalty on Iehl in the pre-start. However, things didn’t unfold as Cian had hoped, and after three successive wins Iehl had secured a semi-final place.
The quarterfinals weren’t kind to Ed Baird either. He was beaten by New Zealander Adam Minoprio and the ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing Team. Minoprio went on to win the title.
World champion Ian Williams was beaten by Australian Torvar Mirsky, who finished third, with Iehl taking fourth place.
Cian and his crew managed to finish on high note when they won a sail-off against Williams to secure seventh place, with the British star relegated to eight spot.
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