Aussie match racer Keith Swinton has been knocking on the door of greatness since he first joined the Alpari World Match Racing Tour in 2012. With a new sponsorship from FX broker Alpari, we catch up with Keith to see if the new funding will give the Aussie team the extra momentum to challenge for the world title this year.
Team Alpari FX with Skipper Keith Swinton (centre)
Keith Swinton and crew are the new Team Alpari FX. Following the move by last year’s Alpari FX skipper Adam Minoprio to the Italian America’s Cup Challenger Luna Rossa (Minoprio could well make an appearance in Francesco Bruni’s Luna Rossa crew on the Tour this year), 28-year-old Swinton from Perth has now taken over as the jockey for title sponsor Alpari.
After finishing fourth and sixth in the previous two seasons of the World Tour, Swinton hopes the extra support from Alpari will give him the momentum to make it on to the podium by the end of 2014.
'In previous years we've been operating on a limited budget, but this season we are really fortunate to have Alpari’s backing,' says Swinton. 'That's going to be a fantastic help for us to do some extra sailing, and also to have the funding to do the campaign properly. Getting Alpari’s support gives us the opportunity to do more events as a team, and not just the World Championship events. For example, we competed at the 50th Congressional Cup last month, which went quite well for us. We are also aiming to do some more training days before events, something we didn't do at all last year. We were simply turning up at events with little training. The extra time as a team is what will make the difference for us on the race course this season.'
The Duchess of Cambridge and Sir Ben Ainslie in front of the America's Cup
With only two weeks away to the Alpari World Match Racing Tour season opener Match Race Germany, Swinton is marking Sweden and Chicago as his favourite venues on the Tour.
'We've done well in Chicago; the first year we went it was a Grade 1 event and we won. We finished second place at a Grade 2 event there, and then finished second last year in a very close final with Taylor Canfield. We enjoy sailing in Chicago, we enjoy the boats and the conditions seem to suit us'
Swinton currently lives with his Swedish girlfriend just down the road from Marstrand, 50kms northwest of Gothenburg. Marstrand is the venue of the renowned Stena Match Cup Sweden, a flagship event of the World Tour and where nearly all of the world’s top match racers have competed including Russell Coutts, Peter Gilmour, Ed Baird, Dean Barker, Magnus Holmberg to name a few.
Swinton won his first Tour event at the 2012 St Moritz Match Race
'Stena Match Cup Sweden is our favourite event' continues Swinton. 'We knocked out Ian Williams last year in the quarter-finals. We've had a bit of time sailing those boats and we’ve got a good understanding of Marstrand and the conditions. Then, obviously I’m spending a fair bit of time in the country, so I've got lots of friends there that are supporting us for the event which is a great help.'
Swinton is most comfortable racing in the smaller, lighter boats, but knows the key to success is being able to adapt to any kind of boat, one of the unique challenges of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. 'We are slowly building confidence in the heavier boats, and we did well in the Catalina 37’s at the Congressional Cup for example, having never sailed the boats before against a lot of guys who have done more time in the boats. So we are certainly improving all the time. It has been a weakness, but we've been working on it hard, so hopefully it's going to become a more of a strength this year.'
Keith Swinton finished second at the Chicago Match Cup in 2013
The other key to success on the Tour is a consistent team. Although he’s sad not to be able to secure the services of former crew man Kyle Langford, wing trimmer on board the Team Oracle USA AC72 in last year’s America’s Cup, Swinton is very happy with his new signing. 'At the beginning of the year we were hoping Kyle would join us for some of the events, but we have signed on a new tactician, Ben Lamb, who will be with us all season.
It’s something that was really important for us was consistency. We had a few options for tacticians; our other tactician, Olaf Lundgren, who sailed with us previously, was available for some events, but we wanted just to have the same team at every event. And someone who could commit to do extra training as well, that's something that we made a high priority and unfortunately Kyle has commitments with the America's Cup, so it was difficult for him to commit. We are going with a fresh face, which is exciting. It doesn't hurt bringing someone new into the team, but importantly will be good to have the same crew for the whole year.'
Keith Swinton (left) and 2013 Tour Champion Taylor Canfield
As for the 2014 competition, Swinton has his own thoughts: 'I think Taylor Canfield is going to be the guy to beat again; there aren’t too many chinks in his armour. But you can’t underestimate Ian Williams either, he has a proven track record and will be up there this year chasing his fifth title. In between those two, it's going to be pretty tough, because there's plenty of other talent. Last year was tough enough but this year is going to be tougher.'
The 2014 championship gets underway at Match Race Germany on 5 June. The Alpari World Match Racing Tour is one of five special events sanctioned under the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) including America's Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race, the Extreme Sailing Series and the PWA World Tour.