A light offshore breeze on the first day of racing off Aarhus’ Marselisborg Havn marina provided a tricky opening to the regatta. Making the best of the conditions were America’s Cup veteran Peter Gilmour of YANMAR Racing and local Aarhus hero Jes Gram-Hansen, who learned match racing and trained here during the 1990s before joining the Tour and ultimately ended up in the afterguard of the Italian Mascalzone Latino America’s Cup team in Valencia. However the surprise performance was that of Denmark’s 49er Gold medallist from the Beijing Olympic Games, Jonas Warrer, who despite still being new to match racing was claiming scalps, in particular that of the experienced Frenchman Mathieu Richard, whom he was forced to dispatch twice, when their first race was annulled due to a poor course change call.
If conditions were awkward on the opening day, the light offshore breeze simply switched off as it battled with the sea breeze for most of the afternoon of the second day of racing. The race committee were lucky to get three flights completed in quick succession just before it got dark.
After a stellar opening day, Australian match race veteran Peter Gilmour lost three matches including one to Warrer, causing Gram Hansen to take the lead of the round robin on six wins, one ahead of Sweden’s Mattias Rahm and his Stena Bulk Sailing Team.
Saturday, the penultimate day of the Danish Open, was a long one for the 12 competitors as the organisers attempted to recover their race schedule, with the aim of finishing the round robin and at least start the semi-finals. Perhaps due to this tempers were frayed on the water providing a busy time for the on the water umpires. In his match with Dane Peter Wibroe, Peter Gilmour managed to plant three penalties on his young opponent, while a slick Jes Gram Hansen pulled off a stunning manoeuvre in his race with up-and-coming Kiwi match racer Phil Robertson when during one weather mark rounding he received two penalties only to exonerate himself of them in one smooth move AND come out leading.
At the end of the round robin Gilmour was leading ahead of Rahm, Gram Hansen and Australian Torvar Mirsky, who would go on to the semi-finals.
In retrospect Gilmour was perhaps rash in picking Jes Gram Hansen as his semi-final opponent, for sailing with his long term sailing partner Rasmus Kostner, America’s Cup trimmer Pier Luigi de Felice and ex-Ericsson round the world race crewmen ‘big’ Jann Neergaard and Martin Krite, the Danish ace put up a monumental fight to get the better of his senior, earning his place in the final after going 3-1 up.
This left Australian interests in the hands of Torvar Mirsky, who in the other semi-final demolished Mattias Rahm by 3-0. Sadly for Mirsky, Gram Hansen’s game seemed to have been so sharpened after his semi-finals matches with Gilmour, that the Dane was able to score a clean sweep of three wins in the final – this despite having been absent from the World Match Racing Tour for a year.
But there was a significant consolation prize for Mirsky. New Zealand’s Adam Minoprio, winner of the St Moritz Match Race and World Match Racing Tour leader going into the Danish Open, had got off to a slow start and ultimately only managed to salvage a seventh place in Aarhus. As a result on the overall Tour ranking he has dropped to second place, two points adrift of Mirsky. This leaves three boats in close contention for third place, with Peter Gilmour leaping to fourth overall after this third place at the Danish Open, but with just two points separating him, third placed Mathieu Richard and Team Pindar’s Ian Williams, in fifth.
With the ARGO Group Gold Cup in Bermuda and the Monsoon Cup still to go before the completion of the 2009 World Match Racing Tour, there is still all to play for.