With one World Tour Championship already under his belt Denmark’s Jesper Radich is confident he can mark his full time return to the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) after eight years away with a knock-out blow and secure a second Championship.
Jesper Radich (L) tries to have a practice sail in very light winds at Match Race Germany 2010. Langenargen, Germany. 24 May 2010. - ISAF World Match Racing Tour 2010
'Match racing is like a boxing match, a lot of it is about feeling strong and having your opponent think you’re strong. My goal is to win it. I’m realistic in that I’m putting a new team together and so it may take us a little while to get going. We need to spend some time working together but even still I’m very confident and have set my expectations very high,' said Radich.
One of sailing’s most affable and friendly characters away from the water, Radich is one of match racing’s most steely competitors on the water and is looking to make an instant impact on his return. 'We are going to go out there this year knowing what we want to do and going to go for it,' added Radich.
Having blazed to glory in only his second year on the Tour in 2002-3, Radich was catapulted into the sailing spotlight and given the chance to pursue a variety of opportunities. However, while the form of sailing that has kept Radich employed over the last eight years has continued to change, one thing that has remained constant is his love of match racing.
'I have always been interested in different types of sailing but after we won the WMRT I was able to make my transition to fulltime sailing. When we won the Tour it was the first time I’d taken money away from an event and it really put my name in the international headlines.'
'In 2004 I started sailing in events on an 80 footer which was a stepping stone to the America’s Cup. Then in the winter of 2004 I was asked to join the Spanish America’s Cup team so I sailed with them for the next two-and-a-half years.'
'During my time with the 32nd Cup there was a lot of match racing but it’s a very different type. It’s bigger boats and more about managing the boats size and the crew. You need to put a lot more thought into the way you sail. I really received a complete education and learnt lots about the technical side of sailing.'
'All this slowly lead to more jobs and so I decided to stay as a professional sailor but I didn’t leave myself enough time to go match racing and I found myself really starting to miss it. In 2010 I had time to go out match racing and decided to give it a go on the Tour to see what would happen. It went really well and I thought ‘hey this is fun, lets keep going’.'
Last year was more than just a bit of fun for Radich who sent out an ominous message for his rivals with a quite incredible record of three seconds and a third from his four wildcard appearances on the Tour.
'We only sailed 4 events last year, half the amount of the others, so if you take the points and average them we would actually have come out in second place,' said Radich who knows that on his day he has the beating of anyone on the match racing circuit.
While Radich is keen to distance himself from singling out potential rivals, the Dane has been swift to lay down a psychological marker ahead of the season, reminding his 2011 rivals, that 'Mirsky is the only one of this year’s Tour Card Holders that beat us last year, and they only beat us in one event, we beat all the others.'
While Radich has shown that he still has the skills to compete at the very highest level of match racing he is under no illusions that the game has come a long way from when he stood at the top of the sport.
'The WMRT is a bit more polished now and run as a much more professional organisation with really well established events. As they have gained more experience running it over the years the events have gone from strength to strength. The teams are also a lot more organised, even the young teams, there is a more professional approach from them all.'
'The game has certainly lifted over the years and there are now a lot more professional sailors making the competition a lot closer than it was back then. If you look at the results from the Qualifying Round at one of the first competitions of the year, the points score from the team at the top of the round to the team in eighth place is extremely close.'
'I sail very differently now to how I did back then. I’m much more organised, back then I was a little more crash and go. I’m not going to be the way I was when I last won, I’m not going to be the same crazy match racer, I’m going to be a lot more organised and structured.'
'We are still developing as a team but we should have a strong crew for this year’s Tour, we have a good combination of young guys and experienced guys.'
Competing out on the water is just half the job for top international skippers who have to double up as businessmen to be able to put together a competitive team with the finances to race at the highest level.
With the first event of the Tour, Match Race France, taking place on May 10, many teams are beginning to put training plans in place but for Radich there are a few finishing touches that need addressing first. 'At the moment we need to finalise sponsorship of the team which is our main priority, but we have some training camps organised and can’t wait to get out on the water.'
World Match Racing Tour www.wmrt.com