With two consecutive event wins under his belt this season Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat feels he has gone some way to shed his 'nearly ran' tag, but knows that unless his team lifts the ISAF Match Racing World Championship trophy at the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia, he will have failed to silence his harshest critic - himself.
Having made the podium for the past two years in the race for the ISAF Match Racing World Championship title Mirsky knows the bittersweet feeling of being great but not the greatest, "The team won't be happy if we don't win this World Championship. In previous years we've finished second and third - it won't be fun to do that again. Our season won't necessarily be a failure if we don't win, I mean we've given it everything and we've learnt so much within our team and ourselves, and have got our names out there into the sailing world. But, this season is different. We've never wanted this title more."
Mirsky heads to the Championship decider on a roll having won the two previous events - the St. Moritz Match Race and the Argo Group Gold Cup. His success and Williams' relatively poor performances in St. Moritz and Bermuda have made the Australian the key target for his nearest rivals - Tour leader Ian Williams (GBR) recently said his team need to raise their game and match Mirsky's if the Brit was going to capture his third World Title. While Mathieu Richard (FRA) eventually succumbed at last season's finale to the pressure that came from winning events last season, Mirsky, for now, is remaining level headed, by focusing on the task at hand rather than the surrounding hype.
"I don't think having two wins already behind us adds any pressure. Williams is going to be a strong team and will prepare well. The pressure we face is with our preparation, we will struggle with that. Graeme (Spence) and Kyle (Langford) are in San Diego just before which will make training impossible before the Monsoon Cup. That said, we won't be ill prepared - This is our fourth Monsoon Cup so we'll rely on our previous experience from the event and just go when day one hits."
With the top three teams on the Tour - Mirsky, Williams and second placed Francesco Bruni (ITA) - all only just over six points apart, the race for the title is set to be a close one. Mirsky however, is not focused on the points at this stage choosing instead to concentrate on the most immediate challenge at hand. "To be honest I don't really focus on the points now, all I worry about is doing the best I can in the qualifying sessions and then we'll make a calculated decision about what's the best move from there. For the time being we'll take it one step at a time and focus on the first round."
Making calculated decisions can be a crucial part of the game at this final stage. In 2010 Tour winner Ben Ainslie (GBR) chose to take on then leader Richard in the quarter-finals to take him out at the first opportunity, thus limiting the Frenchman's points and increase his chances of winning. It was a risk that paid off and one that Mirksy knows he could well be faced with.
"If we get through to the quarter- finals and picking Williams is the thing required of us to win then yes, we'd do it. Right now though we don't know how it will play out, there are so many different variables and thinking that far ahead isn't a priority."
Taking on Williams in a knock out round could be a challenge for Mirsky - so far this season he has only beaten Williams in 20% of their total races. Previous form though is not important to Mirsky and his crew, "While we have confidence based on our recent event wins, we will be throwing that out of our mind set. On form teams have been knocked out early on in the past so we need to focus on sailing and make sure we do the right thing on the day.
"Williams is very calculated and systematic with his approach to races and will be very prepared so we will have to find something extra to be faster and make better decisions."
While the race for the title may seem to be down to just Mirsky, Williams and Bruni, Mirsky is well aware there are many other teams that stand in-between him and the championship. While the likes of Richard and Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners haven't lived up to their potential this season, they are still on Mirsky's radar.
"I still think Richard and Radich are strong and I've been surprised they haven't been further up the leaderboard but come the Monsoon Cup they will be tough competitors for sure if we don't have our wits about us. It's not just about Williams and Bruni, we need to beat everyone else too.
"Look at (Johnie) Berntsson- he is always a dark horse. He showed that in the Gold Cup final and also when he beat us in Portugal, we've got a lot of respect for him. We will definitely be observing all the teams at the Monsoon Cup when we aren't racing to keep on top of how they are performing."
The 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Championship will be decided at the Monsoon Cup which takes place from the 22-27 November in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.
Overall Championship Standings - after 7 stages:
1. Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar - 106pts
2. Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing - 100pts
3. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat - 99.8pts
4. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing - 78.8pts
5. Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team - 75pts
6. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 74pts
7. Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team - 73.2pts
8. Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners - 71.2pts
9. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 69.6pts
10. Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing - 64.4pts