The Alpari World Match Racing Tour has announced the names of the eight professional match racing skippers selected to compete on the 2013 Tour in a bid to be crowned 2013 ISAF Match Racing World Champion.
Four-time Tour Champion and British sailor Ian Williams returns to defend his title for a fifth time under the familiar colours of his GAC Pindar team.
"This year is a quality line up of skippers on the Tour,"
commented Williams. "The list was well oversubscribed and that shows the high level of demand and competition that the Tour attracts. There will be some very close racing this year."
Eager to snatch the title from Williams is 2012 runner-up Bjorn Hansen (SWE) with his Hansen Sailing Team, and 2012 podium finisher Phil Robertson (NZL) sailing with WAKA Racing. Robertson finished 3rd in the final Tour rankings at the end of 2012 following an impressive second place finish at the Tour finale event, the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia.
2009 ISAF Match Racing World Champion Adam Minoprio (NZL) also joins the line up of skippers with his BlackMatch team in a committed return to the Tour for 2013. A seasoned match racer, Minoprio is no stranger to the Tour, which will guarantee close racing between the current and former Tour Champions.
Competing on the Tour for the second year running are young Australian talent Keith Swinton and his Black Swan Racing team and French skipper Pierre-Antoine Morvan, keen to improve on his 2012 performance.
With two Tour event wins in 2012 including an impressive victory at the Tour finale event in Malaysia, Taylor Canfield (ISV), has also blasted his way onto the Tour after finishing 7th overall in 2012 counting just 3 results towards the overall standing. With the option of racing at all 7 events this year, Canfield's prospects look very good to chase the title.
Completing the line up of skippers is Swedish sailor Johnie Berntsson. Sailing under his new sponsor, Stena Sailing Team, Berntsson is looking to re-create the form that brought him victory at the 2008 Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda and a third place finish on the 2011 Tour Championship.
James Pleasance, Executive Director of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, was impressed with the level of interest from teams noting that 17 applications for Tour Cards were received but with only 8 places available the selection process had been very challenging.
"The Tour Card system is a means to provide event promoters with access to a consistent pool of the world's top match racers and this year demand for the Tour Cards has remained very high,"
he explained. "This ensures high quality racing at events but at the same time, a regular group of skippers allows the Tour to build profiles via PR, media messaging and television coverage. The level of interest this year is outstanding, proving that the Tour provides first class competition and exceptional value to sailors and sponsors."
The 2013 season will consist of seven stages and teams will count results from their best five events, including their result at the final event, towards the championship. Invitations to six of the first seven events will be guaranteed for Tour Card Holders and invites to the final event will be taken from the leader board after the penultimate event, adding pressure on the Tour Card skippers to perform. Other non Tour Card skippers will also have the opportunity to compete on the Tour through wild card entries to events or by competing at qualifying events for each of the official Tour stages.
The 2013 Alpari World Match Racing Tour starts in Germany on 16 May on the waters of Lake Constance in Southern Germany.
2013 Alpari World Match Racing Tour Calendar:
Stage 1: May 15 - 20 - Match Race Germany, Langenargen, Germany
Stage 2: May 28 - June 2 - Korea Match Cup, Gyeonggi, South Korea
Stage 3: July 1 - 6 - Stena Match Cup Sweden, Marstrand, Sweden
Stage 4: Aug 6 - 11 - Chicago Match Cup, Chicago, USA
Stage 5: Sep 17 - 21 - Dutch Match Cup, Lelystad, Netherlands
Stage 6: Oct 7 - 13 - Argo Group Gold Cup, Hamilton, Bermuda
Stage 7: Dec 2 - 7 - Monsoon Cup, K.Terengganu, Malaysia
(Provisional dates and may be subjected to changes)
2013 Tour Card Holders:
Johnie Berntsson, Stena Sailing Team - Sweden
Taylor Canfield, USone - US Virgin Islands
Bjorn Hansen, Hansen Sailing Team - Sweden
Adam Minoprio, BlackMatch - New Zealand
Pierre-Antoine Morvan, Vannes Agglo Sailing Team - France
Phil Robertson, WAKA Racing - New Zealand
Keith Swinton, Black Swan Racing - Australia
Ian Williams, GAC Pindar - Great Britain