by Ian Williams
The World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) starts this week at Match Race France in Marseille and Team GAC Pindar are the best prepared that we have been since 2008.
Ian Williams (GB) vs Mathieu Richard (FRA) Qualifying session 1 at Monsoon Cup 2010. World Match Racing Tour, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.
By securing the funding and committing to the Tour before the start of the year, we have been able to plan effectively and I feel confident that we can give a good account of ourselves this year. We have done two warm up regattas, the Congressional Cup in March and last week’s Open de Espana.
Both were grade 1 events (the level directly below WMRT) and we have won both. In fact, we have not been beaten in a race in the final rounds of either regatta, with 10 wins from 10 races. So we deserve to feel confident. Of course, one of the hardest things about the WMRT is that every event is so different. We have been successful in Catalina 37s and Tom 28s but now the question is whether we can continue that success in J80s. The J80 is probably the hardest boat for us on the Tour as we tend to favour the bigger, more tactical, boats. The smaller boats are much faster to manouevre and the kinetics around the boat are more critical which tends to favour the younger teams and those with a stronger dinghy sailing background. That aspect can be a great leveller and we are expecting a tough challenge from any of the other 11 teams in the Event. Round robin racing starts on Wednesday.
This past week the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) has been meeting in St. Petersburg for their mid-year meetings. The governing body of sailing has a huge job in governing such a diverse sport and makes decisions on wide ranging aspects of the sport but the decisions that everybody seems to focus on is its choice of Olympic Events. I have some bitter experiences with this decision making process, having been all set to campaign a Soling for the 2004 Olympics before it was dropped only 3 1/2 years before the Athens Games.
The reality of Olympic campaigning is that you rarely make it to the Olympics on your first attempt so really it is an 8 year commitment just to go to the Olympics. And if you build up your skill level in one class or discipline, it is very difficult to change. Four years ago, ISAF voted multihulls out of the Olympics. That decision made them look pretty silly as the rest of the sailing world began to embrace the multihull, most notably with the introduction of the AC72 for the America’s Cup. This time around, the multihull is back (as a 'mixed' event) and the keelboats are out. I have to say I really feel for the sailors who have committed a great deal of time and resources to Olympic keelboat sailing as their skills are no longer relevant to the Olympics. I think that many of the top Star sailors will find another outlet in professional sailing however, rightly or wrongly, professional sailing is predominantly a man’s world so the top female keelboat sailors will be extremely frustrated by this twist.
Ian Williams website