Mathieu Richard believes his chances of winning the 2011 Match Racing World Championship have all but disappeared and is now citing a third 'King of the Mountains' title at the St. Moritz Match Race as the boost he needs to realise his new goal of an overall podium finish.
On the eve of the 2011 St. Moritz Match Race, Richard and his French Match Racing Team find themselves in a very different situation to last season when they entered the sixth stage of the World Match Racing Tour with a commanding Championship lead. A disappointing season so far leaves them languishing in eighth place, forcing them to reassess their goals, "Mathematically it is still possible for us to win but we are realistic about things. Our aim now is to get closer to the leaders to try and achieve a podium finish overall."
It will be a difficult week for Richard with a further seven of the nine Tour Card Holders competing in St. Moritz, a group headed by Tour leader Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing. Richard though is in bullish mood and believes it is Bruni who carries the most pressure, "Last year we were obviously under a lot more pressure than we are now - the leader always feels it more. We are naturally very competitive so I'd prefer to be on top and under the pressure that I know Francesco will be feeling now."
Aside from less pressure, Richard has every reason to be confident. The conditions on Lake St. Moritz are traditionally challenging but it's a venue that he seems to tune into well, "Racing here really suits our team's style, we have won twice and we like it very much. The small boats and shifty conditions are a great challenge and it can make it very tricky with tactics and trimming but that's what we like."
While Richard may feel his chance to win the 2011 Championship has passed, Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners is only 22 points adrift of Bruni and has prepared well for what is not only his St. Moritz debut but also an event that could determine his title chances, "We've had a couple of days to practice and I've also spent two and a half weeks sailing in another light boat to prepare for these [Blu26] boats here."
"We will need to achieve top results at the remaining events to beat the top guys. There are enough points yet to be won and lost. It's really how you end your season that counts, the teams who pick up their game now will be the ones that win."
The first Qualifying Session will kick off tomorrow and feature Tour leader Francesco Bruni and title contenders Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat and Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team in the first flight.
Teams for St. Moritz Match Race 2011
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat
Jepser Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Extreme Team Morbihan
Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team
Jerome Clerc (SUI) Team CER
2011 ISAF World Match Race Tour - ranking after five stages
1 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing - 81pts
2 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing - 74pts
3 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar - 71pts
4 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners - 59pts
5 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat - 59pts
6 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team - 57pts
7 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 57pts
8 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 53pts
9 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing - 39pts
10 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team - 34pts