World Match Racing Tour action will continue with Stena Match Cup Sweden with the event scheduled to take place from 2-7 July in Marstand. Last year’s winner and reigning Alpari World Match Racing Tour Champion, Ian Williams, will line up at this year’s event against a full complement of Tour Card Holders, including Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson and Bjorn Hansen, who will be desperate to take his title on their home soil.
Williams takes victory against Hansen at the 2011 Stena Match Cup Sweden
Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar has competed in only one of the first two events of the Tour season, recording a second place finish in Korea to leave him trailing Hansen, who sits top of the overall standings after stage 2. With Stena Match Cup Sweden preceding the Chicago Match Cup (10 – 15 July) just a few days later, Williams is expecting to be pushed all the way if he is to retain the title for a second consecutive year: 'I’ve always really enjoyed the Stena Match Cup Sweden event. The public come out in force and they love and are educated about the sport.
'I don’t know if the DS’s [DS 37] totally suit our team, they’re quite heavy with big keels but they turn very quickly with their 90 degree rudders. We have won in them in the past so we know we can sail in them, even if we haven’t had as much time to practice as some other skippers like Peter Gilmour and the Swedish guys.'
'We have to sail everybody so it’s hard to focus on specific teams but Bjorn [Hansen] pushed us all the way to the final last year and was probably sailing better than us – just our starts keeping us in it. I think you’d have to look at his team as favourites for this regatta and looking at the Tour, if he won here after already taking the Korea Match Cup, he’d be a very strong contender for the overall.
'Johnie [Berntsson] is another with the home advantage but whilst he has some events that he is very strong at like Bermuda and the Monsoon Cup, I’m not sure how well he has done in at Stena Match Cup Sweden in the last few years but we’ll see tomorrow.'
Johnie Berntsson’s (SWE)Berntsson Sailing Team were voted ‘Swedish Sailors of the Year’ in 2012 and having missed the season opener Match Race Germany and taking a disappointing 10th at the Korea Match Cup, Berntsson feels that now is the time to mount a challenge and return to the form which saw them finish third at last year’s Tour, placing second at the final two events in 2011 – the Argo Gold Cup and Monsoon Cup. He said: 'We will take a lot of confidence into Stena Match Cup Sweden and it would really be something extra if we could get a result in front of our friends, fans and sponsors who attend.
'Korea was a bit disappointing in terms of scoring. There were a lot of teams that were very tight during qualifying and a lot of good teams got knocked out before the Quarter Finals. We finished last year strongly and I’m expecting a return to that sort of form.
'We are familiar with these boats but I think it is much more about being a good team than about any advantage from knowing the boats. The team that is strongest going into the races will be the one that wins in Sweden.'
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team has been upbeat about his chances of cementing top spot on the leaderboard when he takes to the water tomorrow, recently suggesting that 'with the support of our Swedish fans, and a really good week of sailing by our Mekonomen Sailing Team, we can definitely put some pressure on the other teams chasing top spot on the Tour leaderboard with a good result in Sweden.'
Stena Match Cup Sweden Qualifying Round 1 begins at 1300 CEST on Monday 2nd July with the Semi Final and Final scheduled for Saturday 7th July.
Overall Championship Standings – after two stages:
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team - 31pts
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team – 31pts
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar - 28pts
Laurie Jury (NZ) Kiwi Match – 27pts
Peter Gilmour (AUS) Yanmar Racing – 26pts
Phil Robertson (NZ) Waka Racing – 24pts
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Team Korea - 20pts
Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team – 19pts
World Match Racing Tour website