World Match Racing Championship - Catching up with Björn Hansen
by Fabian Bengtsson on 18 Apr 2013
World Match Racing Championship - Four months have passed since the Monsoon Cup where Björn Hansen watched Ian Williams win the deciding match of their quarterfinal, the race that secured a forth World Title for Williams’ team. Before they headed back to Sweden, and after receiving their silver medals, Hansen and his crew got together to debrief. Their minds where already set. They all agreed they wanted another shot at the title and show that they have what it takes to become World Champions. Sailing Sweden has talked to Björn Hansen, the reigning Champion of Stena Match Cup Sweden.
What’s your take on last season now that you have some perspective?
Björn Hansen vs. Ian Williams in Stena Match Cup Sweden 2012 - Stena Match Cup Sweden Dan Ljungsvik
'The taste is still bitter as a matter of fact. I often say to people that we did well but the truth is that things didn’t turn out as good as we hoped. Still, that feeling motivates us heading in to this season. I’m not sure it would be the same if we had won the gold last year because in that case the ambition to do better might have left the team completely. Now we are really inspired to go all the way and win the Tour 2013. That will be hard to accomplish and we have to reach higher and improve more than all the others.'
What do you think about the rest of the line-up?
'When you look at the names it might be even stronger than last year and both Adam Minoprio and Taylor Canfield have really strong teams. All the teams are going to be more committed and will be pushing harder this season, and that means we won’t reach the top if we stay on the same level as last year. We have to improve and that is very inspiring. The level of competition has increased a lot on the Tour the last couple of years. A proof of that is Adam Minoprio, the world champion four years ago, who entered three regattas last year and only advanced to the quarterfinals in one event. The tour evolves constantly and if you don’t keep up with the others your results are just going to get worse.'
What can improve this season?
'I think we can all improve, both individually and as a team. We need to step things up in certain situations and that will come naturally if we all get better at our respective positions onboard when we sail. We have the same team this year and have met a couple of times this winter to discuss what we can improve. I am confident that we have a couple of aces up our sleeves to play out when things start to heat up. The margins will be even closer this year and if you have a good week you have a chance of winning, but if you have a bad one you can end up last.'
You and Williams were archrivals at the top last year, will it be the same story in 2013?
'Well, we broke loose at the start of the season but then fell behind some in the second half. We have to do better in the fall this year, and refocus after the summer so we can get better results at the end of the year. It’s impressive how Ian Williams and his team have managed to be so consistent and keep a high level for such a long time. Last year, they only missed the quarterfinals in St. Moritz while where knocked out in the round robin in two events. In the end, there were several teams who had at least a theoretical chance of winning the World Title entering the Monsoon Cup 2012 and it will be the same thing now. Only this year it will be even closer.'
Now that Peter Gilmour has retired from racing, how does it feel being the oldest skipper on the tour?
'It’s inspiring to be the one who is supposed to be the most experienced. Still, I started match racing when I was 30, and both Ian Williams and Johnie Berntsson started at around the same time. I respect Peter Gilmour’s decision to retire because he has been involved with match racing for a very long time. In many ways, he was Mr. Match Racing and he gave the Tour a lot of credibility. Now the rest of us have to pick up the baton and make sure that the Tour continues to grow and stays as competitive as it was when we raced against Peter.'
This weekend you are competing in the GKSS Ice Breaker in Gothenburg, what are your expectations?
'It’s our first event this year and it's a good opportunity for us to train and to get all the pieces of the puzzle right. We need to get more comfortable on the water because we have only done one training session so far. The winter has been to long in Sweden. The training was good even if we felt a bit rusty, but the five of us in the team have sailed a lot together and that shines through.'
How does the buildup look before Match Race Germany?
'We will sail more or less every week until then and we have a lot to prove in Match Race Germany because we have never gotten a good result there. That’s a trend we aim to change.'
After Germany you will face two events of which you are the reigning champions, what's your take on that?
'As I said, the margins are very close but we certainly have a good possibility of winning again, both Korea and Marstrand. We showed that we could defend a title last year in Korea and we have reached the finals two years running at Marstrand. Of course we want to perform well on our home ground and we really look forward to Stena Math Cup Sweden. It isn’t just the highlight for Swedish sailors; it’s simply the best event on the Tour.'
Speaking about highlights, what will be your finest moment this season?
'For us it will be lifting the big trophy in Malaysia. For the Tour there will be many highlights as the scoreboard will be even tighter than last year. Heading for Malaysia it will really be an open book. The best regatta will be at Marstrand because after this freezing Swedish winter the summer just has to be fantastic with 30 degrees and a high-pressure over Marstrand at the start of July. I remember back in 1994, at the first event, which was sailed while the Swedish soccer team was on their way to winning bronze in the World Cup. The weather was unbelievable, the event got of to a perfect start and I think that feeling has stayed with it through the years. This year I think it’s going to be better than 1994 and it’s going to beat just about World Match Racing Tour