As the first day of sailing at the much-anticipated Monsoon Cup got underway today, Taylor Canfield enjoyed a strong start and reaffirmed his credentials as a future Tour Card Holder with two wins from two in Qualifying Session 1.
After finishing the session without a win, Bjorn Hansen's Mekonomen Sailing Team will need to quickly regroup ahead of tomorrow if they are to overcome their poor start and maintain their Championship challenge at the final event of the 2012 Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT) season.
Having taken victory at the recent Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda and fourth at the Chicago Match Cup this season, Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone is looking to make the permanent step up to the top level of match racing by securing a Tour Card for next season. He did his chances no harm in the first day of Qualifying, finishing with a 100% record, before racing was abandoned in late afternoon, owing to conditions that were too light and variable.
Canfield, said, "We've got two wins, even though we nearly lost out to Jeremy Koo in the very first race of the event. We've been doing well at shifty venues lately and the wind was doing that a bit today, so we're all for it.
"This is a lot different to our last Tour event in Bermuda. Different boats, different venue but we're learning every second we're out there. The guys are ready to go. We'll get some sleep and a good feed tonight and do it again tomorrow."
Referring to his team's primary ambition, Canfield continued, "Getting the wildcard here was really important to us. This event may well determine whether we get a Tour Card next year and there hasn't been a North American team for a long time so we'd love to be competing regularly, representing our region.
"It isn't pressure for us at all though, we're just hoping this is a warm-up for next year, an opportunity to sail against the best and learn from everything we're doing here. We're sitting in 9th overall on the Tour leaderboard after the two events we've competed in and it'd be nice to finish there to collect some of the Tour Bonus."
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team has been a strong starter at all of the previous Tour events this season, progressing to the knockout stages in all seven previous regattas. Finishing the day 2-0, including a morale-boosting victory over current Tour leader, Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team, Morvan has continued in this vein. He said, "We were happy with our preparation coming into this event, having had 5 days in France practicing against Damien Iehl's crew and another three days here on these boats. I think that showed today but there are 11 matches to do so we won't start looking ahead any further than getting the points we need to go through to the knockout rounds."
"Our realistic goal for the season now is to get to the Quarter Final here in Malaysia and challenge for a podium position in the Tour overall, because I think the top two are a bit far out ahead on points. At the beginning of the season, we challenged ourselves to get a top 5 and now we're at that level, we hope to stay there."
Bjorn Hansen has never been closer to an ISAF Match Racing World Championship title and he arrives in Malaysia as the man to beat, sitting top of the AWMRT leaderboard by 2.25 points. Taking no points from his first two matches, Hansen felt that he had lost out on key decisions during his encounter with four-time Tour Champion, Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing. He said, "Unfortunately there were a couple of penalties against us in our first match with Peter [Gilmour]. We had some discussions with the Umpire afterwards and they apologised for the first flag but the margins are small at an event like this."
Hansen stayed positive and maintained that there isn't too much that needs changing for the results to start going their way, saying, "This morning felt ok and the pre-starts were going really well in those lost matches. We're enjoying the racing out there, we just need to get into the winning mode.
"We're not a team that will get too stressed out about losing the two first matches. Everyone here is good enough to make it tough for each other and maybe if we were 7-0 down we'd get a little bit worried but I don't think that will happen. I don't feel any tension in the team or with myself so I'm confident ahead of tomorrow.
"We need to end Qualifying with more matches than we lose and if we can do that we'll be looking pretty good. We've talked to each other about this event and we'll try to treat it as any other regatta, rather than a World Championship decider. We know that if we do a good regatta, we can win here. If we do a bad regatta, we can't. We like to go out there and enjoy it so let's have a fun regatta."
Twenty one year old David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour is the youngest skipper in the competition, and joins the experienced field as a qualifier entry. Gilmour has already managed to get a point on the board in his first ever Tour event as a skipper, beating former Tour Champion, Adam Minoprio (NZL) Alpari Racing Team by catching a wind shift on the final downwind leg against his opponent. Gilmour, said, "The Monsoon Cup is a huge event and that can be a bit overwhelming for a young team, especially as we don't have the experience of some of the guys here.
"We have these boats in Perth so we've had the opportunity to get out on them for some training and hopefully that will help us here in Malaysia."
The Monsoon Cup will continue tomorrow with the event Final taking place on 8 December at the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina Resort & Spa, Pulau Duyong, Kuala Terengganu.
Hear the skippers' thoughts on what will it take to win the Alpari World Match Racing Tour title this year, with comments from reigning Champion Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar and Bjorn Hansen: http://www.youtube.com/user/worldmrt?feature=mhee
Racing is available to watch online from 4 to 8 December throughout the day. Follow it live at http://www.wmrt.com/live.html
Highlight shows from the season's seven previous events are available to watch at http://www.youtube.com/worldmrt
Monsoon Cup action will be broadcast live to TV on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th December at 1500-1700 local time. For listings in your region, visit: http://www.wmrt.com/live/tv-schedule.html
Tour regular Twitter feed: http://www.twitter.com/wmrt
Live event Twitter feed: http://www.twitter.com/wmrt_liverace
Livestream Video: http://new.livestream.com/WorldMRT
Current Tour standings: http://www.wmrt.com/result/leaderboard.html
Monsoon Cup - Qualifying Table, Round 1:
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 2-0
Taylor Canfield (USVI) USone 2-0
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Alpari Racing Team 1-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 1-1
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 1-1
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 1-1
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 0-0
Laurie Jury (NZL) Kiwi Match 0-0
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 0-0
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 0-0
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 0-2
Jeremy Koo (MYS) KFC Malaysia/KRT 0-2