Taylor Canfield has won the Alpari Match Racing World Tour after a dramatic final day at the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia. Canfield has Phil Robertson to thank for his Tour victory after the WAKA Racing skipper swept to a 3-0 win over Ian Williams to take the Monsoon Cup.
After a week of frustratingly light winds, overnight some strong breeze hit Kuala Terengganu, even ripping big advertising hoardings out of their concrete mountings and strewing them across the road. Fortunately the strongest wind had abated by race time, ready for the Semi Finals to begin.
With the wind blowing from the north east, principal race officer Dave Tallis set the start line up just 100 metres away from the sailing centre, the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina Resort & Spa, setting up a perfect scenario for the spectators who had come to watch the final four teams do battle. In fact it was so close that in the Semi Final between Ian Williams and Mathieu Richard, the British and French skippers took their battle so close to the pontoons that Richard crashed his boat into the jetty, scarring the starboard side of his Foundation 36 keelboat. Four-time World Champion Williams sailed on to a straightforward 3-1 victory over the GEFCO Match Racing Team.
In the other Semi-Final, all Taylor Canfield had to do was dispatch Phil Robertson, book his place in the final of the Monsoon Cup and the World title would be his, regardless of whether or not he was beaten by Williams. After the way Canfield and USone have sailed this week - dominated every stage of the competition and returning as defending Monsoon Cup champions - most observers expected the US Virgin Islander to sail past the New Zealand team in the Semi Finals.
But Robertson saw things differently. "We've got nothing to lose, these guys have the pressure of a World Championship on the shoulders." The WAKA Racing skipper made the most of his opportunity and outmanoeuvred Canfield at the starts, winning 3-1. In the deciding match, Robertson crossed the line just 15cm, 0.1 seconds, ahead of the US team.
For the first time this week, Canfield's destiny was out of his hands. His enemy in the Semi Finals would now become his friend as he went up to the Alpari lounge on the top floor of the sailing centre for a grandstand view of the Final. Robertson's biggest cheerleaders were the team Robertson had just defeated as Canfield's crew willed the Kiwis to complete the same hatchet job on GAC Pindar that had just been done to them.
Things got off to a promising start in the first match when an aggressive luff by Williams at the leeward gate resulted in a penalty against GAC Pindar. Williams led Robertson down the final run but flapped his spinnaker and oversheeted the mainsail in a bid to slow down the contest and wrong-foot the Kiwis into a penalty before the finish. But Robertson refused to be suckered and snuck past Williams for the win.
In match two, Williams won the favoured right-hand side of the start and headed out to the paying side. But Robertson sensed something good might yet come from the shore side on the left and gambled on a big split. When they came back together near the windward mark, Robertson had made ground and went to bear away behind Williams' transom as GAC Pindar went into a dial-down. In the ensuing luffing match, the penalty went against Williams again, and Robertson held on for another win. Match point to the Kiwis.
In the third match, Robertson secured a penalty against Williams in the pre-start and although the British led around the three-lap course, the gap was never big enough to shake off the penalty. Again Williams resorted to the big slow-down, but again Robertson avoided the trap and won the race - and the Monsoon Cup.
Kiwi celebrations on the water were more than matched by USone's celebrations in the Alpari lounge. When Robertson came ashore, it was USone who raised the Kiwi skipper aloft on their shoulders, grateful that he could finish the job for them. In his first full year on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, the 24-year-old Canfield won at his first attempt. "It was our first year on the Tour, and we came in all fists swinging, hoping to put up a fight, and we did! Thanks go to my amazing team, they're the real force here. Hopefully we'll have many more years on the Tour."
Winning the Monsoon Cup lifted Phil Robertson to third overall in the Tour behind Canfield and Williams. "We're stoked," said the 26-year-old. "It's been a real long time time coming. The boys put in a massive effort in the bigger breeze, and everything went our way today. That's what you need to happen in finals when the pressure's on."
Williams was clearly hurting from his defeat, missing out on an opportunity to win a record fifth world title. "The penalties killed us today. We normally try sail to keep the umpires out of it completely, but we didn't manage to do that. In the heat of the moment we thought they [the penalty calls] were all wrong. One or two I would maybe still dispute - but we weren't really getting it right today. This is the first time we have come with a real shot at winning and not closed it out. Disappointing not to do so, but credit to these guys. The Tour has never been decided in the Finals of the final event before, and I think it shows how tight the Tour is. We need to look at ourselves. The previous two years we've won in the Quarter Finals, this year we had to win the Finals, but these guys have caught us up. This shows we're going to have to step up our game to win it again."
It has been a phenomenal 12 months for Canfield, who has struck up a winning partnership with New Zealand tactician Rod Dawson. "We share the same birthday, 5 February, except Rod's 20 years older," said Canfield. "And this is Rod's fourth world title, same as Williams." Dawson won a hat trick with Peter Gilmour in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Next year Dawson will go into battle against Williams to see who can become the first sailor to win five match racing world titles.
It was a big payday for the top teams, with Phil Robertson winning US$100,000 for his Monsoon Cup victory plus a Tour bonus of $70,000 for his 3rd overall. Williams won $65,000 as runner-up in Malaysia, plus $80,000 as runner-up in the Tour. Canfield won $48,000 for 3rd at the Monsoon Cup and a $100,000 Tour victory bonus.
James Pleasance, Executive Director of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour commented: "We couldn't have seen a better finish to the Tour than what we witnessed today at the Monsoon Cup. There was so much at stake today, and although it was a pity for Ian Williams that he couldn't take out his fifth world title, it's been a great day for the new generation of match racers with Phil winning the Monsoon Cup and Taylor winning the Tour at his first attempt. We have seen six different winners from six events this year. It bodes well for a great season in 2014."
To watch the highlights of the day's action click here
Final Results for the Monsoon Cup 2013
1 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
2 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
3 Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone
4 Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team
5 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team
6 Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX
7 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa
8 Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing
9 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team
10 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team
11 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour
12 Jeremy Koo (MAS) Team KFC - MYA/KRT
For full results - click here
Alpari World Match Racing Tour Results 2013
1. Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone
2. Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
3. Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
4. Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team
5. Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX
6. Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing
7. Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team
8. Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team
For full results - click here