The world’s top match racers will use every trick in the book to get a boatspeed edge at the first event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.
It’s the start of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour and the time of year when every team wonders if 2014 could be their year. They’re champing at the bit and ready to go. Practice time is a critical part of preparation for teams competing on the Tour, and today the 12 crews from 10 nations were spending their limited hours on Lake Constance to get ready for the start of Match Race Germany tomorrow.
The six teams that were allocated the boats for the morning session on the Lake had lovely sunshine, but barely a breath of wind. They would have happily traded places with the other six who caught some light rain but also benefited from some light to medium winds. By the evening the breeze was blowing hard, showing how quickly things can change here. David Gilmour was part of the morning shift. 'We were lucky to get some training in yesterday in the breeze, otherwise we'd be sailing these boats for the first time in competition,' said the young Australian skipper of Team Gilmour. 'It's different getting used to the boats, but not too difficult, we're getting the hang of it. It’s our first time in Germany and it would be great to make it through to the semi-finals and we'll see if we can go further.'
Kiwi skipper of WAKA Racing, Phil Robertson, revealed the trick to getting a good start if the wind is light in Langenargen: 'The secret is keep your speed on, which includes using your engine before the start, up to the five minute gun. You'll see guys motor around at 10 knots before the start, then you cut the engine and try to keep that momentum. It's quite surprising how long you can keep that momentum going in a big boat. If the breeze is on these boats truck around at about six knots and about 3-4 knots in not much wind, so any speed you can have going into the pre-start is going to help, if you need to wriggle out of a situation with the other boat.'
Robertson should know, having won here two years ago. 'We definitely rate our chances here. We tend to have gone well here in the past. But of course the standard is very good.' Along with Robertson, four-time World Champion Ian Williams starts as one of the favourites, and returns to Langenargen as the defending champion of Match Race Germany. However, the GAC Pindar skipper knows it would be silly to count his chickens. 'It's Match Race Germany! It’s pretty light, pretty tricky. It can go anyway, anyone could win. I think it's important to stay loose, roll with the punches, try to find some wind, try to keep the boat moving and keeping the speed on is important.' As one of the older crews, Williams conceded that maybe they won’t be as strong at muscling the boat around the course, but isn’t too concerned. 'Even if our kinetics aren’t as good, maybe having more experience with the trimming and the setup will help us.'
Francesco Bruni is skipper of another experienced team, Luna Rossa, and also returns to this event as a past winner. 'The last time we were here, we won, and it was in the same boats. I’m trying to remember how I did it, because I have been sailing very different boats in the last three years. We have done some match racing training in Cagliari and we did the Congressional Cup, and now we have Adam Minoprio with us which should help a lot. So we are happy, I feel that we should do well.' Bruni and his crew, which also includes skipper of the Luna Rossa America’s Cup challenge, Max Sirena, has some bed-time reading that could affect his sleep patterns if he’s not careful. It’s the long-awaited Protocol announcing many of the details that will determine the running of the 35th America’s Cup. 'I managed to read part of it, then I fell asleep. But it was quite interesting and actually it kept me awake for a while. But it is early days, and we need to read it properly first before making a further comment.'
Event qualifier Carsten Kemmling is hoping the random factor of light winds will deal him some luck against the more established teams. 'Last year we did the German Championships and we won, and suddenly we found we were qualified for Match Race Germany,' said the Hamburg skipper whose day job is as a sailing journalist. 'I have a really good crew and maybe we have a chance. If we have very light winds, that could be good for us. A few years ago in strong winds we were racing against Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy, and we were just not strong enough. We are lake sailors and if it's patchy wind, it could give us some luck.'
Keith Swinton knows that he has to up his game in Germany. 'The last couple of years we've really struggled in these boats but we've learned a lot and we're sailing slightly different to the way we sailed them previously. We've changed a few things, the body weight and the trimming. Now we’re sailing as Team Alpari FX, so we've got good backing behind us and we're absolutely pumped for a big year.'
Last year was Taylor Canfield’s first time in Germany, and he came fifth. However, the USone skipper improved during the season and went on to win the World Championship in his rookie year. 'This is definitely one of the tougher venues - light airs and heavy boats. If you're not perfect with your execution, it makes things very difficult. We're just going to try to keep the pace on and make progress.' As defending World Champion, some could say the pressure is on Canfield more than before, although he refuses to see it that way. 'Like I always say, we just try and keep it simple, stay in the moment, and if we sail well each race then we'll have some good results at the end.'
Match Race Germany takes place from 5-9 June, beginning with Qualifying at 9am local time on Thursday. Stage 1 Match Race Germany, Alpari World Match Racing Tour
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour
Carsten Kemling (GER) Reporters Match Race sailing team
Eric Monnin (SUI) Sailbox
Karol Jablonski (POL) Jablonski Sailing Team
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) TRE-For Match Racing WMRT website