One of the most exciting developments in the Alpari World Match Racing Tour for 2014 is the addition of Sopot Match Race into its roster of events.
This year will be the 11th edition of Sopot Match Race, taking place on the Baltic in the Polish holiday resort close to Gdansk. As a nation Poland is one of the most prolific internationally when it comes to match racing with the annual Polish Match Tour comprising five or six events annually. As a result, according to event organiser and competitor Przemek Tarnacki, his country also has more sailors in the top 100 of the ISAF match race rankings than any other. It is therefore fitting that Poland’s top event for the first time this year should form part of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.
Molo Pier attracts 20,000 people daily in the height of summer holidays. Alpari World Match Racing Tour - Sopot Match Race Poland 2014 - Robert Hajduk
'For us, for the community, for this part of Europe, it is fantastic,' says Tarnacki of his event’s new status. 'Society here will be much more aware of it this year, because for us all the time we are educating, educating sponsors and media, etc about what the event is, what match racing is and what impact the Alpari World Match Racing Tour has on the international sailing scene and its connection with the America’s Cup. In France, Sweden or Germany that is much easier to communicate than it is in Poland.'
Sopot Match Race is centred around the town’s giant 0.5km long pier, Europe’s longest wooden pier, which in the height summer is visited daily by 20,000 people. The start and finish of each race is held immediately off the pier. As Poland’s leading match racer, 2002 World Champion and former America’s Cup helmsman describes it: 'Sopot is one of the best sailing stadiums in the world and all of the racing is run close to the pier, so the spectators have a really close view of the action that is going on the water.'
Jablonski used to sail 470s here when he was studying at the Sports Academy in Gdansk, has competed at Sopot Match Race regularly over the last four years, in addition to his extensive duties helming or acting as tactician on pro-race boats and superyachts around the world.
'Sopot is a holiday town,' Jablonski continues. 'It is very, very crowded in the summer as there are a lot of beaches, plenty of good hotels and restaurants. And it is a great place to do sport, go mountain biking, running, skating and there are a lot of concerts going on in the summer.'
Historically in addition to Sopot Match Race, the venue has played host to the European Match Racing Championship in 2007 and back in the 1990s hosted prestigious events for the One Ton Class and the ILC 40s. Jablonski remembers: 'Pro sailors like Francesco de Angelis and Torben Grael say they’ve never forgotten those events for its great sailing on the water, great parties, great food, great atmosphere and great looking girls!'
Przemyslaw Tarnacki (POL) Tarnacki Yacht Racing won the event in 2013. Alpari World Match Racing Tour - Sopot Match Race Poland 2014 - Robert Hajduk
At Sopot Match Race this year, 12 teams will be taking part. In addition to seven of the eight Alpari world Match Racing Tour card holders (Francesco Bruni is unable to compete due to his Luna Rossa commitments), this includes two from Poland, one led by Jablonski, the other by Tarnacki who until recently was world number eight in the ISAF match race rankings. Also sailing will be Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson, Denmark’s Nicolai Sehested, and Finnish match racer, Staffan Lindberg, the latter two gaining their places through the two qualifying events.
As to how Jablonski expects to do: 'I will be probably very good in the ‘guest category’, if there is one, because I only match race two times a year or so, but it is still the sailing that I like the most: The direct fight with your opponent, you can play the rules and boat speed and I love to test my skills, to see if I have lost my touch, and push people in the pre-start! I like the challenge and even if I am exhausted and sometimes disappointed if it doesn’t always go my way, it is always great fun.'
The event is sailed in 34ft Danish-built Diamond 3000s, an IOR-type design from the late 1980s with long overhangs, a relatively small cockpit and running backstays. 'They are a serious three tonne boat, so good for match racing with quite a tall rig of 14m. They are suitable for our venue because if you used TOM 28s or J/80s, they would be too small for sailing off the pier which is quite big,' says Tarnacki.
Sopot Match Race has a great line up of hospitality events during week - Alpari World Match Racing Tour - Sopot Match Race Poland 2014 - Robert Hajduk
Like other events on the Tour, the event is used as a corporate hospitality vehicle and this year its sponsors include Samsung, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, which is providing all the top class alcohol for the event’s official functions, Albert Riele Swiss watches and Ferrari, which will have 30 cars at the venue, as the event has been chosen as the finish for Ferrari’s rally around Poland.
Racing takes place over four days from Thursday 31st July until Sunday 3rd August and sunshine with a light to moderate sea breeze are to be expected. The format will see a full round of Qualifying, with the winner advancing to the Semi Finals, followed by a six team Quarter Final then Semi Final and Final. Stage 3 Sopot Match Race, Alpari World Match Racing Tour
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing
David Gilmour (ASU) Team Gilmour
Przemyslaw Tarnacki (POL) Tarnacki Yacht Racing
Karol Jablonski (POL) Jablonski Sailing Team
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) Trefor Match Racing
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team
Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour Calendar
Stage 1: 5-9 June Match Race Germany, Langenargen, Germany
Stage 2: 30 June-5 July Stena Match Cup Sweden, Marstrand, Sweden
Stage 3: 31 July-3 August Sopot Match Race, Sopot, Poland
Stage 4: 17-21 September Chicago Match Cup, Chicago, USA
Stage 5: 24 - 28 September Dutch Match Cup, Lelystad, Holland
Stage 6: 21-26 October Argo Group Gold Cup, Hamilton, Bermuda
Stage 7: 25-29 November Monsoon Cup, Malaysia* (to be confirmed) Note: dates denote scheduled race days WMRT website