The ISAF World Match Racing Tour returns to European waters next week for the Portimão Portugal Match Cup where eight of the current top ten teams in the World Championship race will be in contention.
After three stages and three different winners, just 38 points separate current leader Francesco Bruni
(ITA) Bruni Racing
and tenth-placed Ian Williams
(GBR) Team GAC Pindar.
A repeat of the epic 2010 Final between the two most recent Portugal Match Cup winners, Peter Gilmour
(AUS) YANMAR Racing
and Torvar Mirsky
(AUS) The Wave Muscat
, would add yet more spice to what is shaping up to be a closely fought Championship battle.
Familiar with what it takes to win here, Gilmour is looking forward to racing in the Portuguese waters again and seize the chance to defend his title. "We enjoy the SM40 and as a team are looking forward to this event because the boats are well maintained and the venue is stunning,"
said the four-time Match Racing World Champion. "We aren't too worried about how the other teams are going, instead we will keep our focus on our performance. All the teams are now very talented and it comes down to the small things."
While Gilmour isn't focusing too much on the opposition next week, Mathieu Richard
(FRA) French Match Racing Team
will surely revel at the chance of going head-to-head again with Bjorn Hansen and his Mekonomen Sailing Team to avenge his controversial Korea Match Cup Quarter-Final defeat at the hands of the Swede. Their match was abandoned on four occasions, three of which when the French team held the lead. It was a bitter pill for Richard to swallow. "Korea was definitely very disappointing for us. We'd started so many races and came so close to making the semis but the decisions were out of our hands. It's part of the game but it's tough because we were ahead in a lot of the races. We came 5th which isn't a bad result but it could have been a lot better."
Richard versus Hansen is just one of many subplots to the 2011 Portugal Match Cup. Richard's team mate, Damien Iehl
- who led the Championship after the first two stages - had a Korea Match Cup to forget, finishing with in tenth position with two points. It cost the debut Tour Card Holder the overall lead and so the Frenchman will be looking to take the scalps of both Bruni and Gilmour, the two men who leapfrogged him.
Elsewhere, just 10 ten points separate fourth and tenth place and it's a chasing pack that includes five teams competing in Portugal - Mirsky, Hansen, Richard, Williams and Jesper Radich
(DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners
Just out of reach of the top ten is Johnie Berntsson
(SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
who will be looking to improve on the 9th and 7th place finishes he's landed so far and establish himself on the leaderboard.
Joining the Tour Card Holders is Portugal's own Álvaro Marinho
(Seth Sailing Team
) who not only has the home country advantage but has also has Tour experience having raced this year at Match Race France. Finland's Olli-Pekka Lumijärvi
(Siragusawa Sailing Team
) and New Zealand's Reuben Corbett
(AON Racing Team
) will complete the lineup.
With such stunning scenery and an amazing set up the event is sure to attract many spectators and Portimão Portugal Match Cup President, Justino de Sa Machado, is looking forward to showing people how the event is continuing to grow.
"We are very excited about this year's Portimão Portugal Match Cup. We hosted the event here for the first time in 2010 and learnt a lot so this year will be even bigger and better. The racing will be a lot closer to the shore this year so spectators can see all the action up close, the VIP area has also increased so the event will be truly spectacular."
For those watching from around the globe keep an eye on the WMRT website
for racing coverage as well as daily highlight shows to stay up to date with all the action from Portugal.
2011 ISAF World Match Racing Tour Standings (After Stage 3)
1 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing - 59pts
2 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing - 48pts
3 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 41pts
4 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat - 31pts
5 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners - 28pts
6 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team - 27pts
7 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing - 27pts
8 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 24pts
9 Bertrand Pace (FRA) Aleph Sailing Team - 22pts
10 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar - 21pts