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By MarEx 2017-09-30 23:30:12 Read more “Floating Engine Room Squeezed Through Kiel Canal Locks” →
Chicago, USA With Lake Michigan waves pouring over the harbor break wall, the Super 16 Stage of the 2017 Chicago Match Cup kicked off today, serving up epic match race action with bitterly contested matchups throughout the fleet of competitors. Conditions along the lakeshore built overnight to see a fresh 18-22 knots of breeze at the start of racing – wind speeds that were sustained throughout the day kicking up big waves offshore.
With the Chicago sailing stadium off Navy Pier protected, the venue lived up to its reputation with some of the best sailing seen yet on the 2017 World Match Racing Tour.
The morning – and perhaps the day – was defined by the second pairing between 15th seeded Evan Walker going up against regatta favorite and defending Match Racing World Champion, Phil Robertson.
Robertson was quick to draw first blood but Walker responded, coming back to win the next race in dramatic fashion after clearly holding a boat speed advantage.
Race three between the pairing saw Walker pin out the veteran Robertson at the start – so much so that he was leading by eleven seconds at the first downwind gate, going on to win the race, moving to within match-point.
However, in some of the closest racing of the day, Race four was rescued by Robertson despite Walker leading the entire race after the Kiwi was able to barely roll over the top of Walker at the final top mark.
It was all then down to the fifth and final sudden death race to decide the pairing when déjà vu saw the last mark rounding again deciding the match. Walker wasn't able to win a mark protection protest after a desperation tack seeing Robertson cleanly around first.
A snagged mark by the Aussie allowed Robertson to breath easily, sailing through the finish and narrowly advancing through to the next round. "Credit to Evan who is sailing out of his skin right now", said Robertson. "It was pretty cool racing, the lead swapped at least three to four times but, hey, we brought it back."
Robertson continued, "There's sixteen teams out here and anyone can go through. Evan was 15th ranked and he pushed us to the wire so I don't think there's ever going to be an easy match at this level. It's good for the sport that's for sure."
The adrenaline continued throughout the day with surely the highlight of the day coming in the first match between twelfth seed Heart of America skippered by Andrew Campbell and Sam Gilmour of Neptune Racing.
America's Cup sailor Campbell has been a welcome surprise in Chicago, improving throughout his first WMRT event racing the M32 catamaran and cleanly finished ahead of the Australian.
Despite Campbell's great form in that match, the experience of Gilmour in these boats trumped and took him on to win the following three matches.
Gilmour commented, "We are happy to make it to the quarters; the guys I'm sailing with – Adam Negri, Mark Spearman and Justin Wong – did a really good job. We're really hoping we can make it past the quarters; we'll be racing Yann Guichard who we've come up against in the last three events. We won the last one but he won the two before that. If we can get through this, then we know we can beat anybody after. So we need to keep pushing and not get ahead of ourselves."
Newcomer to the World Match Racing Tour, Frenchman Quentin Delapierre, looked dominant in his opening race against seasoned M32 sailor Nicklas Dackhammar.
The Swede has been fleet racing the M32 since 2014, but only joined the Tour last season, and so it was surprising to see him fall behind. Delapierre's vast multihull sailing talent has clearly been transferrable to the M32 and he has shown ballsy moves so far in this competition.
After leading around the course in the opening match of this pairing, the French team got caught out at the final mark when Dackhammar caught up and took the lead which he held to the finish.
Taking one more each, Dackhammar was down to match point.
Delapierre threw everything he had at the match, aggressively luffing coming into the final mark. The umpires considered it too aggressive and gave the penalty to Delapierre, but at this late stage in the race, there was no opportunity for the French to get back into the race, handing the win and the ticket to the Quarter Final stage to Dackhammar's Essiq Racing Team.
Team Magenta 32's Sally Barkow took the early lead in the local battle against US Virgin Islander Taylor Canfield (Canfield was previously quoted stating Chicago as a "home away from home"). As the pair looked evenly balanced around the course, Barkow's efforts were cut short by hour-glassing the gennaker and struggling to furl. Canfield went on to take the pairing 3-1.
Looking towards the rest of the fleet, Ian Williams also took a 3-1 victory over Denmark's Jonas Warrer whilst David Gilmour and Yann Guichard wiped a 3-0 scoreline over Pieter-Jan Postma and Nevin Snow respectively.
Local hopes now fall solely on the shoulders of Taylor Canfield and his US One team as they prepare for tomorrow's match against Nicklas Dackhammar.
Racing continues tomorrow morning with Quarter Finals beginning immediately following the conclusion of the Super 16 Round as Matt Jerwood and Chris Steele are the final pair to sail.
Tune in to Facebook and wmrt.com for live video and all the action as we will see our final four of the competition.
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