- An exhausted but elated ChinaOne Ningbo make it their fourth WMRT win this year after beating Neptune Racing 3-0 in the final
- The team nearly didn’t make the quarter finals but found their rhythm to pull together another outstanding win
- World Champion skipper Phil Robertson and his team remain at the top of the WMRT leaderboard
Monday 7 August 17, St.Petersburg, Russia
“It took us until the final to feel we were sailing smoothly, cleanly and consistently,” says Phil Robertson, skipper of the ChinaOne Ningbo team who have just won the St Petersburg event adding a fourth feather to their World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) 2017 cap after a nail-biting six days of unpredictable racing.
The team finished the finals of the Russia Match Cup 3-0 against 23-year-old Australian Sam Gilmour and his Neptune Racing team; a race in which ChinaOne Ningbo finally found their rhythm again after a week of ups and downs.
“It has been an all-out brawl at times,” Robertson remarked, in his well-known laid-back Kiwi demeanour.
When you meet Robertson, it’s hard to imagine him ever being in a brawl but on the waters of St. Petersburg his gloves were off and he came out fighting.
“St Petersburg is a wild place to sail,” says Robertson of the intense weather conditions that saw 30 knots of wind surging up the River Neva when ChinaOne Ningbo took on RPM Racing in one of the most hard-fought races of the event.
“There’s a lot of buildings everywhere diverting the breeze. You have to be on top of your game here. We had everything this week – big breeze and light airs with current thrown in there too.”
It wasn’t just mother nature making things challenging for the team. ChinaOne Ningbo were up against an ever-improving fleet intent on stopping Robertson and his team win another WMRT event as they seek to defend their World Championship title later this year.
When Robertson says that the competition is improving from race to race, you get the feeling he enjoys it.
“We got pushed to our limits this week and we came under a lot of pressure. The positive outcome from all of this is that we responded well to it and managed to win the hard battles.”
The ChinaOne Ningbo team were seeded seventh after the initial qualifying rounds on Days 1 and 2.
As the teams moved from fleet racing, in which the seeding is established, to match racing where the teams enter the knock out rounds, ChinaOne Ningbo were matched against Australian Steve Thomas and the RPM Racing team.
“The conditions were intense and Steve’s team made it impossible for us to rest easy. When Steve pulled in the first two wins we knew we had a lot of work to do to turn the situation around. One more win from them and it would have been over for us. I’m grateful to the team for digging deep that day – being 0-2 in a knock-out round is not a place you want to be.”
The team responded by doing what they do best, and won the next three races against RPM Racing thus securing their position in the quarter-finals.
But it was the semi-finals on Sunday that Robertson says were the highlight of the event for him in which he battled it out with six-time match racing World Champion Ian Williams and the GAC Pindar team.
“Winning the semi-finals against Ian was the pinnacle of the Russia Match Cup for us, for sure. There was at least one crash per race and it was a toe-to-toe swing fest.”
“This was an all-out scrappy battle in which we were penalised at the start of the second race, hooked a buoy and lost James (Wierzbowski) overboard. It was my fault. I was pushing the boat so hard, trying to get every inch out of it. James didn’t mind cooling off.”
Looking ahead, Robertson and the ChinaOne Ningbo team are still completely focused on the World Championship event in China in November.
“We know we have a lot of gains to make ahead of the World Championship; a lot to improve on, so we are focused on that. We have three months in which to keep working hard at getting better and preparing for that event.”
The next WMRT will be held in the US starting 30 August, details of which are yet to be announced, before the World Championship in China starting 3 November.