It has been a dramatic few days leading into the Monsoon Cup 2011, the final and deciding round of the 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Championship, with heavy monsoon weather bringing flooding rains to the eastern Malaysian coast. The Malaysian Meteorological Department upgraded its severe weather warning for the east coast from yellow to orange, warning Terengganu residents to expect flooding rain until Thursday and strong north easterly winds of up to 25 knots until the end of the weekend.
As the last of the 12 skippers contesting the event flew in from Kuala Lumpur yesterday morning, heavy squalls swept the Pulau Duyong course.
The rain stopped for the spectacular Opening Ceremony yesterday afternoon and there was no shortage of breeze for the Pro-Am conducted in the late afternoon.
This morning we caught up with second ranked skipper Italy’s Francesco Bruni (Bruni Racing) before the Skipper’s briefing.
‘Last year we had some good results but we were not consistent. This year we have put a lot of energy and focus into this Tour and maybe we have been lucky a couple of times, but we obviously are very happy to be in a position where we can win the championship.
‘We are really looking forward to this regatta. We know that it is going to be hard because Ian Williams (Team GAC Pindar) and Torvar Mirsky (The Wave Muscat) are very tough competitors. We are in a good position because we have nothing to lose and I think we are the more relaxed ones and that could play out in our favour.
‘The level of competition is very high. Peter Gilmour (YANMAR Racing) is fourth, Bjorn Hansen (Mekonomen Sailing Team) and Jesper Radich (Adrian Lee & Partners) are also there on the leader board.
‘Mathieu Richard (French Match Racing Team) is ninth and they (his team) are very serious about this, they have a coach and they have the French Federation supporting them. They have to prove they are worthy of this support.
‘My team is very proud to be up near the top but we want more. At this point we cannot just be happy to end up second or third, we want to try and use our position to secure the championship.’
Mathieu Richard is looking for a big improvement on this year’s past performances, as he explained this morning. ‘We have had a tough year, not as good as expected, but this is the final event and we can save our year if we have a good result here in Terengganu. We will try our best to reach the semi-finals and have a good result at the Monsoon Cup and of course improve in the overall rankings as well.
Mathieu Richard keeps an eye on the competition - © Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images
‘This is already shaping up as an interesting event. The three top teams are very close and have very different profiles. Williams already has two world titles so is very experienced. Bruni has a lot of experience also but it is his first season at the top of the leader board and he was the leader in the first part of the season. Mirsky has reached the podium twice in the last two years and really wants to have the championship title and he is looking in good shape for this last event.’
Torvar Mirsky is plainly a man under the pressure of expectations. On the podium for the last two years and coming off a win at the Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda, it surely must be the year for The Wave Muscat.
Mirsky said this morning ‘We haven't had a chance to practice as a team due to our individual commitments, which is not ideal. Other teams have done a lot of practice and at this venue so I guess we are on the back foot going into the regatta. Yes, there is some pressure on us to do better than in previous years but we are going to try and forget that and focus on the task at hand.’
It is down to business for all the teams today – the first day of the Qualifying Rounds of the 2011 Monsoon Cup. Racing is scheduled to commence at 10:00 hours.
Monsoon Cup teams:
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Jeremy Koo (MAS) Abdullah Chan/KRT
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat
Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar
Now in it’s seventh year the Monsoon Cup is being sailed from the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina Resort and Spa, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia from 22-27 November 2011. Racing will be conducted in identical Foundation 36 yachts.
The reigning Monsoon Cup Champion is Ben Ainslie (Team Origin). Past champions include Adam Minoprio (ETNZ/Black Match Racing) 2009, Peter Gilmour (YANMAR Racing) 2008, Ian Williams (Bahrain Team Pindar) 2007, Peter Holmberg (Alinghi) 2006 and Peter Gilmour (PST) in 2005.
Monsoon Cup website www.monsooncup.com.my
Mirsky and The Wave Muscat crew win the Argo Group Gold Cup - World Match Racing Tour 2011 - © Chris Davies/AWMRT