The day in Johor Bahru started with a light-airs conclusion of the four Quarter Finals, although three of those duels finished sooner than anyone could have reasonably expected. David Gilmour's (AUS) starting just wasn't good enough for the inch-perfect Williams who dispatched the young Aussie 3-0. Canfield was equally dismissive of Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA), the French Wild Card competitor unable to reproduce any of his match-winning form from the first day of the regatta. The biggest shock was the other Wild Card, Eric Monnin's cool assassination of Phil Robertson (NZL), last year's winner of the Monsoon Cup, who normally looks so at home in the Foundation 36 keelboats.
Not that the WAKA Racing crew sailed badly, just that Team Sailbox from Switzerland pounced on any small mistake by the Kiwis. Robertson was characteristically blunt. "We were looking to change the momentum from yesterday, but Eric sailed superbly well. Very disappointed not to defend the title, but it is what it is, and we've gotta suck it up."
The only Quarter-Final that went down to the wire was between Keith Swinton (AUS) and Mathieu Richard, with the French LunaJets team getting the job done on the final run of the fifth and final match.
After a two-hour break for prayers in the middle of the day, the draw for the Semi Final pairings took place, with Williams revealing that he would race Monnin for the right to get to the Final. Considering the Swiss team had just taken their last seven matches, it seemed like a bold choice, but as Williams said, whoever you choose at this end of the competition is going to be tough. "The Semi Finals pick is always difficult, everyone has to have sailed extremely well to get this far," he said. "We felt Eric had less experience, particularly in these boats, although being defeated by him at the most recent event in Bermuda was a good reason not to pick him. But we also thought Mathieu Richard had a good chance against Taylor Canfield, and that was important as well."
The breeze was slightly stronger for the afternoon session, and this also was a factor in Williams' considerations. Whereas every other team is made up for five large guys, Team SailBox races with five smaller guys and one girl to get the Swiss team on maximum crew weight. "Eric is stronger in the light air," said Williams, "but we've got some big strong boys on board, and muscling the boat around probably helps us in the windier conditions." This kind of attention to detail, analysing every possible advantage - no matter how small - is what Williams is known for. He is the most serious skipper on the Tour. So it was a surprise to hear the Brit joking around with his tactician, the Magnum-moustached New Zealander Chris Main, on one of their victorious runs to the finish line. "What score do you give me for that start, Chris?" asked Williams, fishing for a compliment after a precision execution of the start a few minutes earlier. "I dunno, six and a half out of 10?" replied Main, deadpan. "Six and a half? You're killing me..." said Williams, mock shocked at Main's brutal, Simon Cowellesque dismissal.
Williams seems to be enjoying himself more than usual, and asked why that might be, he replied at the press conference after racing: "I don't want to get too emotional about it, but I think having a son 12 weeks ago gives you a different outlook on life. Maybe I have been able to put my racing more into perspective."
A new perspective certainly seems to be working, and it's a new perspective that Canfield is seeking for the final day as he sets out to break Richard's 2-0 momentum. "We've only got to win three in a row," reasoned the US Virgin Islands skipper. "We've done that plenty of times before, so no reason why not again. We sailed well in both races against Mathieu, kept it close both times. So we just need to start even or better, and we stand a good chance tomorrow."
The Semi Finals and Finals continue at 1000 local time (UTC +8) on Saturday and can be watched live via the Tour's Livestream page http://new.livestream.com/WorldMRT/mcm-15-f
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar vs David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 2-0
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets vs Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One 2-0
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar bt David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 3-0
Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One bt Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 3-0
Eric Monnin (SUI) Team SailBox bt Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 3-0
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets vs Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 3-2
Final Results of Qualifying
1 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 10-1
2 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One 10-0
3 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 8 (7.5)-3 (0.5 point deducted for damage)
4 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 7-4
5 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 6-5
6 Eric Monnin (SUI) Team SailBox 6-5
7 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 6 (5)-5 (1 point deducted for damage)
8 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 5-6
9 Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 4-7
10 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 3-8
11 Maximilian Soh (SIN) Team Red Dot 1-10
12 Jeremy Koo (MAS) Sime Darby Foundation / 1 Malaysia Match Racing Team 0 (-0.5)-11 (0.5 point deducted for damage)
Current Leaderboard Standings after Stage 6
1 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 94pts
2 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One 88pts
3 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 76pts
4 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 69pts
5 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 58pts
6 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 56pts
7 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 39pts
8 Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team 32pts