There is just over two weeks until the Monsoon Cup, finale of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, gets underway in Malaysia, young Australian skipper Keith Swinton has started to crank up the pressure on the two teams currently standing between him and the coveted ISAF Match Racing World Championship after declaring that the title is theirs to lose.
Swinton hopes that he’ll be able to take advantage of any slip-up by the top two at the Monsoon Cup.
Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing sits just 21 points behind Tour leader Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen sailing Team and 19 points shy of Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar and stands a very real chance of bridging that deficit at the Monsoon Cup where 38 points are on offer for a win compared to 25 at a standard Tour event.
Speaking about his chances, Swinton, said: 'Whether the top two slip up is ultimately out of our control but if they do drop points, we’ll hopefully be right there to take advantage. They need to perform. Right now, we’re just focussed on continuing our good form and if we do, we stand a chance. It’s a good position to be in.'
It would be a remarkable achievement should Swinton leapfrog Williams and Hansen in Malaysia – 2012 is his first full season on the Tour and he is the only new Tour Card Holder to have won an event in 2012. A stirring victory against former World No.1 Mathieu Richard (FRA) Loire Atlantique Sailing Team at the St. Moritz Match Race was followed up by a third place finish at Match Race France.
Swinton feels his team have proven their ability at the highest level and hopes he can maintain that consistency at the Monsoon Cup. He said: 'I came into the Tour looking to gain experience and learn, and over the season we’ve had some good performances. We’ve taken it step by step, not talking too much about overall results. The main thing was to ensure we were always challenging.'
By their own admission, the benchmark for what Swinton’s team deems a successful season has risen given their impressive results. The team are hungry to take another step up and believe their ability to adapt quickly to the pressures of competing on the Tour has been key this season:
'If you’re serious about making it on the Tour, you have to acknowledge that the sport you started as a hobby is now a profession and demands your full commitment. It’s important to still enjoy it but you have to treat it as your career – it’s our team and it’s up to us to run it and make a success of it.'
Should Swinton take the spoils in Malaysia he will replicate Adam Minoprio’s (NZL) Tour Championship victory in his first full season back in 2009. He relishes that challenge as well as that posed by the ever-increasing number of other young teams pushing for a place on the Tour:
'We’ve seen the quality of all the younger guys and the new Tour Card Holders this year. Just look at the likes of Taylor Canfield and Will Tiller. There are plenty of teams wanting to push up and it is good, healthy competition for everyone on the Tour. You have to keep your level up high. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be half as fun.'
A good crop of those young skippers will be in Malaysia hoping to take Swinton’s scalp as will four-time ISAF Match Racing World Champion Peter Gilmour (AUS) Yanmar Racing. He sits right on Swinton’s shoulder in the standings and, although the two go way back, there will be no favours asked out on the water: 'We know when we’re both on the water we’ll be doing what we can to seize the advantage. It’ll be a good battle and we’re actually pretty happy it’s Peter that’s pushing us. Someone of his calibre challenging us proves how far we’ve come already.'
The Monsoon Cup, Malaysia’s second biggest sports event of the year, will take place on 3-8 December at the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina Resort and Spa, Pulau Duyong, Kuala Terengganu.
Monsoon Cup – Competing Teams:
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing
Peter Gilmour (AUS) Yanmar Racing
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team
Laurie Jury (NZL) Kiwi Match Sailing Team
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Alpari Racing Team
Taylor Canfield (USVI) US one
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour
Qualifier from the Malaysian Match Racing Championship
World Match Racing Tour website
Monsoon Cup website