British sailor Ian Williams, now a triple ISAF Match Racing World Champion, won the Monsoon Cup in 2007 in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia, the year he won the World Match Racing Tour for the first time.
Today there was quiet determination from the 34 year-old British sailor, looking to repeat his 2007 double.
Before the final he said ‘The Monsoon Cup always throws a lot at you. We actually had it all thrown at us very early on here, when were 0-3. We were up against it. The round robin was really when things got a little bit heated and we very nearly went out - we just scraped through. Since then the team has come together and is now performing much better and we feel more prepared to deal with things like that, that get thrown at us.
‘We have won two world championships here before and in one year (2007) we won the Monsoon Cup and in one we didn’t. When we won the Monsoon Cup we had a much better feeling at the end of the regatta than when we didn’t. Of course we were very pleased to have won the World Match Racing Tout but that’s the reality… you come to sail a regatta and you want to win it and obviously we want to win this one.’
In the first match of the final this afternoon Johnie Berntsson (Berntsson Sailing), already assured of third place on the 2011 Tour, was trapped against the committee boat in the confined pre-start area in front of the marina. Williams completely dominated him and took a long time to clear. Williams headed right into the tidal elevator and was round the top mark three lengths ahead of Berntsson.
Most of the Tour skippers rate Williams' ability to defend a lead amongst the best on the scene so there was a lot of work for Berntsson to do.
Down the run the Swede closed up. Williams gybed, Berntsson followed, then they went back the other way. Williams rounded the bottom mark with Berntsson on his stern. Gasping dirty air and second to the tide, Berntsson fell back. At the top mark Williams was two lengths ahead. Not a good hoist on the trailing boat and Williams extended to take the gun.
Williams’ tactician, Bill Hardesty (USA), the current Etchells World Champion commented 'He had an overlap but we managed to break it just in time to ensure Berntsson did not get the inside track’
In the second match, a three lap windward leeward course, Williams again won the start. He drove over Berntsson, who came in a little early and had to sail slowly around the committee boat. Williams was away to the right with pace and Berntsson was quickly two boat lengths behind.
A two length lead from the top mark by Williams was retained at the bottom of the course. Out on the right he was again first to the current and held his lead and extended it on the second lap and third laps and sailed to a 2-0 lead.
It was sudden death for Berntsson.
In a very aggressive prestart battle, as the clock counted down with just a few seconds to go, Williams did not keep clear when he had to give way As a result Berntsson shunted the committee boat, Williams was red flagged and while he was doing his penalty turn Berntsson escaped up the course and was two lengths ahead at the top mark.
On the second lap Berntsson extended in the heavy rival flow and at the top the lead had extended, but with another lap to go there were still opportunities. However the Swede held on and the ‘blue shirts’ were visibly relieved at the finish.
From his boat Berntsson said ‘At last he made a similar mistake to the one we did in the earlier races. Now we have a good chance.’
But it was not to be. The pressure took its toll and Berntsson was penalised in the prestart and then, just a few seconds after the start, he failed to keep clear. Another penalty and the Swede’s championship chances disappeared. It was just a formality from there.
As the British team crossed the line there was honking horns and jubilation on William’s boat.
William, smiling broadly said ‘Amazing! We had a job to do and we did it. I can’t say enough about these guys. This team, Bill Hardesty, Mal Parker, Gerry Mitchell and Matt Cassidy has won every event it’s done.’
At the Skippers press conference Williams was still smiling. ‘It was a right sided track and as the clock wound down we were very slow, but at the last second we got some traction and Johnie failed to get around our bow. That was the race.
‘We are really looking forward to next year. We want to win a fourth World Match Racing Tour title, to match Peter Gilmour.’
Johnie Berntsson and his crew, Olof Lundgren, Nils Bjerkas, Magnus Lundberg and Anders Dahlsjo, finished second at the Monsoon Cup and third on the 2011 ISAF World Match Racing Tour.
Berntsson said ‘Congratulations to Ian Williams and his great team. They are true champions.
‘Ian was really strong today. In that final start we had some mis-communication - I tacked too early. That was all he needed.
‘Of course we are disappointed but to get into the final is a much better result than we expected. We have a three year plan. This was our first year of doing the whole tour. We have been improving all the time and by tomorrow our disappointment will be behind us and we will be looking forward to 2012.’
‘Our aim was to get on the podium this year, we’ve achieved that so we will aim higher next year.’
World Match Racing Tour website
Monsoon Cup website