World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) 2011.
Australian match racing legend Peter Gilmour has issued an ominous warning shot to his younger rivals insisting he still has what it takes to win The World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) and that his YANMAR Racing Team will be attacking this year's Tour with renewed energy and motivation.
Despite it being five years since the last of his four World Titles and only winning once on Tour last year Gilmour is adamant that his team are still serious contenders and points to his team's vast experience which he believes could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of this year's championships:
'We wouldn't be competing if we didn't believe we could win. It's all about the team. A lot is put on the high profile skippers but it's all about the ability to work the team together and three of our members have been sailing together since 1994 so that's 17 years now and there is enormous value in that.'
The 2010 WMRT season saw Gilmour slip below his normal high standards with just one win at Portimao Portugal Match Cup before ending up in 8th place overall in the WMRT rankings. However Gilmour refuses to be disheartened by the bare statistics, pointing to the fact that he's been in the game long enough to know to take the rough with the smooth.
'I've had some seasons where I've had no wins at all; it's really about how the particular conditions are for you throughout that year. Time has taught me that you will have periods of strong performances which are often determined by the conditions that you meet at the various host ports and other times it won't go so well. So last year I wasn't disappointed but I wasn't elated either, it was just one of those years.
'If you look back on our results it's very much a cyclical thing and history has taught me not to get too anxious about times when you are strong or not strong and just to keep going about your business.
'I won't go in thinking about last season, circumstances determine how you will go. We are very motivated and will be approaching it as an important season. Finishing down the order is not something I'm proud of but I accept that so we just have to get on with 2011.
'For all the teams on the WMRT success is obviously in winning the Tour. There can be some minor goal setting on the way in terms of the number of events won but really this is a very competitive game and so I think the ultimate success is to do as best as they possibly can and for us that would be winning once again.'
Having been such a stalwart on the Tour for so many years, Gilmour has heard all the comments and criticisms before and is refusing to be ruffled by claims that he may be past his best.
Professional sailor and renowned commentator Andy Green has indicated that be thinks part of Gilmour's dip in form is down to the fact that the Australian is getting softer as the years go by and that he lacks the ruthlessness that once characterized his style. Green believes this, combined with a lack of practice time is having a serious detrimental effect to Gilmour's results – views not shared by the man himself.
'I'm uncompromising in terms of positioning and how we set ourselves up but I also would like to think of myself as being pretty methodical and doing things in a very structured way certainly onboard the boat yet we try to make sure it's difficult to read.'
'I've always treated sailing at WMRT events as being about arriving at the event and going out and weaving your team magic. Clearly over the last years some teams have put a lot more effort into practicing and have seen the obvious benefits of doing this. That being said in 2005/06 when we won our last world championship it was a particularly busy year where we couldn't do any practice at all. It went right down to the wire and I was extremely distracted and busy and managed to pull it together and focus on the outcome and win. Ben Ainslie had a similarly distracting year last year and was successful'
'I think it's a much more cyclical thing and it's determined by conditions, psyche and how you interact with your team – a whole host of things blend into it. I'm fairly well known as an uncompromising sailor, I haven't changed much in that regard it's just opportunities have opened up for others that haven't really been there for us. You can try and identify things but it's really just been other people's times. Looking at Ben and Team Origin it was obvious to me from early on that they were going to win, they were heading in the right direction and had tremendous skill and energy – it was their time.'
While fellow Tour Card Holders Torvar Mirsky, Jesper Radich, Ian Williams and Mathieu Richard have been grabbing the headlines as potential Champions in the build up to this year's WMRT, Gilmour is happy to be spared the limelight and concentrate on his own team's affairs.
'I don't have any favourites amongst the teams competing, I haven't seen them race this year yet and I don't know where they are at or who they are sailing with. They are all excellent competitors and the level is high. There is a fine line between teams so it will be a long hard season. Last season numerically you could not believe that Richard could lose, but he did. Sport, especially match racing, is all abut the unknown of the outcome so it doesn't do any good thinking about the outcome or end results.'
This season sees a shake up of Tour Card Holders with a mixture of new raw talent such as Phil Robertson ready to take on their more established peers.
'I think it's brilliant, I love seeing them come on with such ambition and ironically also go about making the same old mistakes we made – it's sort of hilarious. These young sailors like (Adam) Minoprio, Mirsky and Robertson are way more skilled at the age they are now than we (Coutts, Dickson, Baird, Isler) were back then.'
While Gilmour has seen many young teams come and go he concedes that there are still many new tricks which the old dog can learn.
'They definitely do things we could learn from. For example the increase in accuracy they bring to the game, the fact they practice a lot and bring coaches to the game – all of them have a method of coaching themselves - also their willingness to do other events and use them for practice, but in a funny sort of way so they should. They need experience because it's not like they are a young Roger Federer and going to peak at 21, sailing is a game of accumulated knowledge.'
One rivalry Gilmour is relishing renewing this season is that with fellow Perth skipper Torvar Mirsky who Gilmour has been something of a mentor to over the last few years. One attribute that seems to have clearly rubbed off on Mirsky is a single minded approach to winning and a disregard for sentimentality.
Mirsky laid down the gauntlet earlier this year by claiming that it could be time for Gilmour to move on, a statement which the four-time Match Racing World Champion is more than happy to answer out on the water.
'When I sit back and realize all they have and will achieve, I am enormously proud and do have great admiration for Torvar's work. I admire them as a team however I am a competitor and we have won the Tour a few times and we are a team he needs to beat before making statements about moving on. You do not achieve this by asking someone to step down..'
While Gilmour may be coming to the twilight of his career there is a very strong chance that the Gilmour name will continue to be seen in the highest echelons of match racing with the emergence of Gilmour's son David as rising star.
'He got very close to winning a qualifying event earlier this year, the Warren Jones Youth Regatta which would have seen him race in a Tour event and would have seen us come up against each other. It's really up to him but like any child he sort of has the view that he's not doing it to follow dad - it's more like 'dad you're in my space get out of the way'. As any young ambitious youth may be he is very keen to get sailing. I wish them all the best as it's great to see the amount of interest in NZ, Australia, US, UK and Europe from youth focusing on wanting to pursue a career in match racing.'
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