Match Racing World Championship skipper Torvar Mirsky is making this year his defining year.
Australian Torvar Mirsky is re-focused and ready to shed Mirsky Racing Team of their ‘nearly ran’ tag by taking the 2011 Match Racing World Championship and making this year his defining year.
A history of consistent finishes yet only one World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) event win to his name, Mirsky is keen to prove that he and his team are worthy of the praise often directed towards them and that they are no longer students but masters of their trade.
'We’ve only won one Tour event but have come second a great number of times. We’ve had consistent great performances but feel this lack of wins has weighed down on us - it’s time to change this. We’re ready to win events and the WMRT.'
While Mirsky is keen to prove he’s no longer the young, up-and-coming face, he realises he needs more wins if he is to remove the more established names such as Peter Gilmour from the limelight and enjoy the status he really desires on Tour.
'I feel like the generations are moving on and Peter is coming to the end of his sailing career and we’re coming into the middle of ours so we feel we’re quite experienced now. Peter’s been a great help getting us up to speed and onto the world stage but now it’s our time to shine and I feel like if we lose to Peter on the Tour we’ll probably get upset with ourselves. We feel like he needs to move on and we need to win.'
If Mirsky comes across as confident and driven, professional sailor and renowned commentator Andy Green is equally as praising in the Australian’s ability, citing him as favourite to win this year’s Tour: 'Torvar is my pick; I think he has a real shot this year if he works on his risk management around the race course and doesn’t eliminate their chances of winning the races early on. Always stay in the game and give yourself a chance.'
Mirsky is determined however that the pressure of being a favourite won’t affect his team.
'It’s nice to think people think we are one of the favourites however we have an inward belief that we can win which is the most important thing. We try to just sail and do what we can step by step to get the best performances.'
Although supremely confident in his team’s abilities, Mirsky is not complacent and under no illusion as to the challenge that lies ahead.
'This year is going to be tough - it’s just going to be about who has stronger and more consistent performances. (Jesper) Radich and (Francesco) Bruni are going to be very strong as will (Mathieu) Richard. Those 3 guys have always been capable of winning and threatening on the Tour and will be the biggest threats.'
'We’re not the young team anymore - it’s great to see Phil (Robertson) joining and Johnie’s (Berntsson) fulltime now so to see these new teams is exciting.'
So is Mirsky introducing anything radically new to step up to the plate this season? While many teams are on strict match racing training schedules, Mirsky and his crew believe their time is best spent sailing other boats in different race formats.
'All sailing is training - we feel we’ve done a lot of practice with match racing so we think we need more experiences in other forms of sailing to help us improve overall.'
'We feel really comfortable with all the boats and we know what to expect at the venues. Some situations are quite unique with the setting, the wind conditions, the close to land sailing – I definitely feel it’s an advantage having raced on them all before.'
'I really trust our team - we have one of the strongest bonds compared to other teams and it pays off with boat handling and speed. We’re one of the fastest around and our style reflects that, we aren’t afraid to get close to another boat and use our speed. We’re not aggressive but when it gets close we’re not afraid to get aggressive.'
The trust Mirsky places in his team is evident by the fact his crew will remain unchanged from last year. The only change that will be introduced this year is a new sponsor, set to be announced soon.
While the majority of sailors on the Tour started sailing with their parents at a tender age, Mirsky took a different route, coming from a family of non-sailors. Every member of his team had to fight to support their ambition and that is what he feels has given them their collective spirit and desire to win.
'We’ve definitely come through the rankings the hard way - I really feel people watching from the outside think it looks simple but it really hasn’t been. For most of our team we’ve done everything off our own backs predominantly without significant financial support from anyone else.
'That’s the way our team started and because of this we’ve grown together and it’s made us stronger as a team. As a kid there were lots of parents who bought their kids the best boats and travelled with them everywhere and really supported them, perhaps too much, and I’d say a lot of those kids when they had to go out on their own wouldn’t have the motivation to do so. Because we’ve had to support ourselves from the beginning we were that one step ahead.'
'We really feel like the work we’ve done to get onto the WMRT has paid off. I love the WMRT, it’s one of the easiest ways for us to compete at a really high level with all the focus on the boat, it’s simply racing to win and I like that about match racing. Everyone is equal, it’s quick, intense racing and we’ve learnt a lot of skills. That keeps us up to date with the skills to race other boats. Plus we haven’t won yet so we have to stay until we do that!' WMRT website