by Daniel Smith
Ian Williams (GBR) is one of the finest racers on the scene as a four time ISAF World Match Racing Champion. Williams has been the man to beat on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour and when he raised the Championship title in 2012 he surpassed some of the all-time greats.
Ian Williams seen here on Wednesday racing in Group 2 Qualifying Round Robin of the 2013 Argo Group Gold Cup. He finished Stage 1 at 8-1.
For his efforts the Briton received a nomination for ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, 'It’s obviously a huge honour to be nominated for the ISAF Rolex world Sailor of the Year award,' said Williams.
'I was nominated back in 2008 and that was fantastic and it’s great to be back here.'
Williams held the World number one spot in the Open Rankings from January 2012 to July 2013 and was the man to beat throughout the 2012 Tour.
Victory at Match Race France and third place at the Argo Group Gold Cup put Williams within two points of Bjorn Hansen (SWE) going into the showpiece event in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Hansen got the better of Williams in the Round Robin but things changed afterwards as Williams explained, 'On the Alpari Match racing world tour the winner of the round robin gets to pick their opponent in the quarter finals and the points were such that it was Bjorn’s option to pick us out and try and knock us out early in the regatta.
'Being picked is actually quite a big psychological boost, it really gives you that 'underdog' feeling of 'let’s go out and get them'. It’s a big moment for anybody, it’s a big moment for the picker, a big moment for the person that gets picked – but you know it’s the moment that’s going to matter. The GAC Pindar team did a great job of stepping up to that moment and making it count when it mattered.'
Victory was assured as he came from a point behind to take the title but his achievements are down to a very simple reason, 'One of the keys to being successful on the match racing circuit is to adapt to different types of boats and one of the advantages that our team has is that we don’t have a 'home' boat and therefore our style is very generic.
'It’s designed around sailing different types of boats, as opposed to a lot of the teams that grew up in a particular boat and consequently their style tends to lean towards that type of boat. So, maybe it doesn’t give us one event that we particularly excel at but it does allow us to be consistent over the whole series.'
Compared to his fellow nominees François Gabart (FRA) who raced around the world in 78 knots and Paul Larsen (AUS) who flew down a 500 metre strip in a matter of seconds, Williams’ once again shows the diversity of sailing, 'It’s impossible to compare a guy sailing on his own round the world with me sailing with 4 crew in 15 minute races. They are such a world apart, but at the same time that’s the great thing about the sport. It has diversity, opportunity for people with all sorts of different skills to get involved and find their own niche.'
After the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards Williams ventures to Malaysia for the conclusion of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour and it’s all to play for as he trails leader Taylor Canfield (ISV) by ten points.
'This year’s tour is really interesting,' explained Williams. 'I think there are five teams that could win the Alpari Match Racing Tour. We’ve obviously been in this situation a few times before, the likelihood is that it will come down to the quarter finals or the semi-finals to decide it, but really for us we have to go in there and try and win the regatta. There are four other teams that could beat us overall, so our focus will be as a one off world champion event.'
The 2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year will be announced on Tuesday 12 November at a glittering award ceremony in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
The winners are selected by the ISAF Member National Authorities (MNAs), the national governing bodies for sailing around the world, who vote for the one male and one female nominee who they believe most deserves the Award.