Brazil And Britain Take Early Leads In ISAF Nations Cup Final

Brazil in the open division and Great Britain in the women's both took an early advantage against their French opponents in the final matches to decide the winner of the 2009 ISAF Nations Cup.

The semi-finals and first match of the best-of-five series final were completed on the fourth day of action at the Grand Final of the 2009 ISAF Nations Cup in Porto Alegre, Brazil. After a series of Regional Finals spanning the globe, entries were narrowed down to the top ten nations in both Open and Women's divisions who qualified for this week's Grand Final. Following the completion of the round robin, repechage and now the semi-finals at Porto Alegre, the 2009 ISAF Nations Cup has come down to its final battle.

In the final of the Open division, Brazil led by Henrique Haddad, take on the defending champions France, with Damien Iehl at the helm. The French also defend their title in the women's final with skipper Claire Leroy leading the same team who won the previous edition of the Nations Cup in 2006. They line up against the team from Great Britain led by Lucy Macgregor.

The first race of the best-of-five series were completed in both finals. Haddad and his Brazilian team thrilled the home supporters by taking the lead in his contest with Iehl. France also trail in the women's final, with Macgregor striking the first blow in her battle against Leroy.

The forecast had been for very light winds on Friday, but by the time the semi-finals were due to start the breeze had built to around 8 knots and it got stronger throughout the day, reaching the mid-teens with gusts of up to 20 knots.

In the semi-finals, Haddad lined up against the Danish team of Mads Ebler whilst Iehl took on Portugal's Alvaro Marinho. At #7 in the world, Iehl is the top ranked skipper competing in the Open division and true to the form book he got the better of his semi-final with Marinho 3-1.

The second semi went right down to the wire. Ebler looked to be on the cusp of the final as he went 2-1 up against Haddad, but the Brazilian skipper, ranked #80 in the world, mounted a thrilling comeback and took the tie 3-2.

In the first match of the final, Iehl, ranked 73 places above his Brazilian opponent, looked to have things under control when he put a penalty on Haddad in the pre-start. But the 22 year old from Rio was unfazed and showed terrific boat speed to get ahead of the French, offload his penalty and then take the gun and the early advantage.

In the women's division, both semi-final matches went right down to the wire. Beijing Olympic gold medallist Anna Tunnicliffe faced off against Leroy in a thrilling tie that swung one way and then the other. Leroy went 1-0, Tunnicliffe came back to win the next two, before Leroy squared things back up. After four fantastic races, the final match of the series proved a bit of an anti-climax as Tunnicliffe and her team were caught over the line early. From their double World Champion Leroy never surrendered her advantage and led around the course to secure her place in the final.

In the second semi, Macgregor lined up against Italian skipper Giulia Conti. Again it was a fiercely fought contest, with Italy taking the first match before the Brits level things up at 1-1. The two teams traded blows again to take the tie to 2-2 and into a fifth-match decider. Macgregor showed why she's considered one of the hottest prospects on the women's match racing circuit by holding her nerve to take the crucial match and earn Great Britain a place in the final.

Macgregor's winning streak continued into the first match of the final as she struck the first blow in her contest against Leroy.

Along with the opening matches of the final, the first races of the petit-finals were also completed. Marinho won the first match in his battle with Ebler, whilst Tunncliffe gained a 1-0 advantage against Conti.

Date Added - 29-Mar-2009

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