Kostecki gains, but it wasn't breeze Another Law battle set for semifinals

October 12, 1991|By Peter Baker

Wednesday evening, after losing three straight in the first day of match racing in the Cadillac Columbus Cup, San Francisco skipper John Kostecki said he was a little down, but certainly not out.

Yesterday, through a tie-breaking procedure based on head-to-head competition, Kostecki earned the final berth in the regatta semifinals even though he lost his last race of the round-robin qualifying round to Chris Law of Great Britain.

Law won the round-robin with a 5-2 record and will be matched with Kostecki today.

Jim Brady (4-3) of Annapolis and J.J. Isler (4-3) of San Diego, who finished second and third, respectively, will be matched in the second semifinal.

The winners then will sail a championship series.

The schedule called for the final round-robin races and the start of the semifinal series yesterday. However, light winds forced a postponement of the 11 a.m. start and then heavy wind and rain nearly forced an abandonment. At 4 p.m., the race committee started the only four races of the day.

In the first race, Isler was matched with Paul Thomson of Canada and the race was tight until a close encounter of the sailing kind at the bottom of the second leeward leg.

As Isler and Thomson approached the mark from different sides of the course, it appeared that Thomson, in the trailing boat, might be able to squeeze inside Isler, make the mark and take the lead.

"Basically, we converged, an overlap [right of way] was established right at the two-length circle," Thomson said, "and we didn't give ground and were penalized for it."

The penalty required that Thomson complete a 270-degree turn in his boat while Isler was able to sail on and eventually win the race.

"It was a tough call," said Isler. "The race jury definitely decided our match with their decision."

A penalty also was crucial in the outcome of Brady's race with Antonio Gorostegui of Spain.

After a series of circling maneuvers before the starting gun for their race, Brady and Gorostegui peeled off for the starting line with Brady fighting hard for position upwind.

"Right at about 5 seconds [before the starting gun]," Brady said, "he poked his boat up trying to close the distance between us. When he did that, he stuck his bow over the line. He was a full half-length over early."

While Gorostegui corrected his error, Brady built a lead that never was less than three lengths.

The race between Kostecki and Law was filled with potential. If Law were to lose, Kostecki would have earned the top seed. As it was, he earned the chance to race Law again today.

The two boats came to the start fairly even and exchanged leads going up the first leg, but at the first mark rounding, a sail handling problem allowed Law to break away.

"Coming into the top set, we both had twists because the spinnakers had got so wet in the rain, and as they went up they were very damp and they kept together," Law said. "We were able to free ours and gybe into a new breeze. He couldn't free his and kept going into a lull.

"We set our spinnaker off the bow, and there is very high potential for a twist if you don't trim it right as it goes up -- and it did twist," Kostecki said. "We have been very fortunate this week -- we haven't had any twists. It just happened to happen this time, and Chris filled his spinnaker and sailed away in a puff with a minute-and-a-half lead."

Afterward, Law's strategy was to keep his boat positioned between Kostecki and the race marks to be able to counter any offensive by the trailing boat.

"But that was very tricky because in the rain, it kills the wind and it is very difficult to read [the wind] on the water," Law said. "You can't see [the wind]."

For the semifinals today, the early forecast called for steady northwest winds to 15 knots. Because yesterday's schedule was not completed, the semifinals will be single elimination rather than a best two-of-three series.

"I think that puts us on the line," Law said. "For three consecutive days we led the event. We are now going to sudden death and our efforts give us no advantage."

Brady believes that he and his crew are in an excellent position.

"We beat John [Kostecki] in the first race of the regatta," Brady said. "We beat J.J. [Isler] at the start distinctly and led her at every mark."

In a loss to Law, Brady said, he had to take a penalty turn and after a vicious tacking duel was able to close to within a boat length "before running out of race course."

"We feel we are sailing the boat quite well," Brady said, "and if the conditions steady up for us, we can prevail."

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