In front of a cheering crowd at Navy Pier, Lake Michigan turned on all the drama for the final day of the Chicago Match Cup as Ian Williams, skipper of GAC Pindar, defeated current Match Racing World Champion Phil Robertson in a tour de force shutout victory.
The win could be a preview of things to come in three weeks’ time in Shenzhen, China where the two skippers meet for the last time this season to decide who will win the overall 2017 Tour and the Match Racing World Championship.
“This is great for the team. Phil’s been dominating all year making us all look a bit silly so it’s nice to knock him off his perch”, said an enthusiastic Williams after just crossing the finish line.
Williams’ roll started early in the Semi Final stage started early with the British skipper knocking off Australian Sam Gilmour three – zero in an enthralling battle which saw penalties galore, but the scoreline told of a dominating victory.
Elsewhere in the Semi Finals, easily the most contestable matchup of the day occurred between current Match Racing World Champion Robertson and former Match Racing World Champion Taylor Canfield in an epic showdown, fought all the way to a fifth race in the first-to-three series.
It was in this series that hometown Chicago favorite Canfield looked to have booked his ticket into the finals after going up two – one. However, the fourth race seemingly foreshadowed Canfield’s fate when after handing a double blue penalty to Robertson at the start and jumping out to a four-boat length lead, he opted to gybe and take the less favored bottom mark allowing Robertson to cross on the next tack and extend for the win.
Moving to the Finals, Williams quickly got on the board early with a win in the first race only to narrowly avoid taking a loss in the second after winning the start.
Leading for the majority of the first three legs, Robertson managed to pull back at the first windward mark from where he mounted attack after attack on the downwind, finally forcing Williams into drawing a boundary penalty after he pinned the China One Ningbo skipper out of the race course resulting in contact between the two teams.
However, clearing the penalty at the bottom gate, Williams hooked into a shift on the right hand side of the course to challenge the Kiwi at the final top mark rounding, barely gaining mark protection and clearing ahead in time to limit Robertson from any chance to mount a luff on the final reach to the finish.
An OCS (on course side) penalty at the start of the third race for Robertson sealed his fate as Williams extended through the course handily, winning the 2017 Chicago Match Cup.
After the conclusion of racing, Robertson reflected on the level of competition. “I think we are seeing the fleet take a big jump forward which is good – everyone is very competitive – even Evan Walker pushed us to the limit”, said the China One Ningbo skipper. “Ian absolutely out sailed us today.”
On being the favorites going into the final event in China in three weeks, Robertson acknowledged he had a target on his back. “No doubt every single team out there wants us to lose. We are trying to ramp up towards then and learn what we can, and take it into the big one. We have a title to defend; and Ian’s just peaked too early so that’s good. So now we’re looking for redemption.”
The World Match Racing Tour now heads to Shenzhen, China running 24-29th October for the sixth and final stop on the 2017 World Match Racing Tour where the battle between Phil Robertson’s China One Ningbo team and Ian William’s Team GAC Pindar will be put to the test once and for all.
Ian Williams (GBR), GAC Pindar 3-0 Sam Gilmour (AUS), Neptune Racing
Phil Robertson (NZL), China One Ningbo 3-2 Taylor Canfield (ISV), US One
Taylor Canfield (ISV), US One 2-0 Sam Gilmour (AUS), Neptune Racing
Ian Williams (GBR), GAC Pindar 3 – 0 Phil Robertson (NZL), China One Ningbo
by Aston Harald