The Alpari World Match Racing Tour takes to the water (Practice day) on Lake Michigan tomorrow as Chicago Match Cup, the newest event on the world's premier sailing series, welcomes the sport's top talents to the fourth stage of the season, running from 10 - 15 July.
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team extended his lead at the top of the Tour leaderboard with a win at STENA Match Cup Sweden last week and will now face seven of the other eight Tour Card Holders as he looks to build on his ISAF Match Race World Ranking, which sits at a career-best second position. Hansen, said, "We've got two wins already this season which is very good and we can go into these coming events without too much pressure. We're up at the top on 62 points and the other guys have got to get the results to match us."
Amongst the Tour Card Holders looking to challenge for the season's remaining points are reigning ISAF Match Racing World Champion, Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar and talented young Frenchman Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team, both of whom have shown some early season form during the first three Tour events. Morvan competes in the full Tour for the first time in 2012 and sat joint top with Hansen after two events. He is confident that the smaller TOM 28 class keelboats in Chicago and those in upcoming events will suit his team, "We thought that the first three events on the Tour would be hard for us with bigger boats but the next three [Chicago Match Cup, St. Moritz Match Race, Match Race France] should be good.
"We went to the Chicago event last year and finished second, just losing out to [Keith] Swinton in the Final. We'll be very good with the technique in the boats so I think we can have a good run of results."
Williams, who currently sits third on the leaderboard and is aiming for a record-equalling fourth Tour title this season, lost out to Hansen in the final of the recent STENA Match Cup Sweden. Asked about his Tour title ambitions, he said, "We need some good results now to get close to Bjorn [Hansen] but at the moment they're doing everything they can to make it hard for us.
"The remaining events are an even bigger priority now. We'll do our best and see if we can come back in the second half of the season, starting in Chicago."
In addition to the Tour Card Holders, four qualifiers and wildcards will compete at the event for their share of the $100,000 prize purse, including Taylor Canfield from the US Virgin Islands, Jordan Reece from Australia, Don Wilson from Chicago, and Sally Barkow from Wisconsin. Tod Reynolds, Director at Chicago Match Race Centre, believes that the attending crowds to Lake Michigans Navy Pier are in for some fine sailing action, saying, "We're excited that in only three years we've built the Chicago Match Race Center to where we can comfortably host an event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. This says a lot about the depth of the organization here and all the efforts made by everyone to get to this point. All the fan base we've generated so far and the new fans we will attract this week will be left with a positive impression not only of the skill and mastery shown by the teams in the event this week, but also how Chicago can be a perfect place to display these talents."
Chicago Match Cup practice sessions start on Tuesday 10 July with Qualifying rounds commencing at 10:00 CDT on Wednesday 11 July. The Final is scheduled for 14:00 CDT on Sunday 15 July. Additional information and updates are available at www.wmrt.com
The event is available to watch live online for the final three days of the event from 1400 - 1600 CDT at http://www.wmrt.com/live
and replays of Chicago Match Cup and past events can be viewed at http://new.livestream.com/WorldMRT
Tour regular Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt
Live event Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt_liverace
Overall Championship Standings - after 3 stages:
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team - 62pts
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing - 54pts
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar - 52pts
Phil Robertson (NZ) WAKA Racing - 44pts
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team - 43pts
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing - 29pts
Laurie Jury (NZ) Kiwi Match - 27pts
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Miss Sophie - 20pts
Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team - 19pts
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team - 18pts