Current World Match Racing Tour leader Ian Williams is leaning on past experience to keep a cool head as the series heads into the Championship decider, the Monsoon Cup, with just over six points separating the Brit and arch rivals Francesco Bruni and Torvar Mirsky.
After a dominant mid-season catapulted Ian Williams (GBR) to the top of the Tour standings, a recent run of comparative poor form has crept in - he was beaten 3-0 at the first opportunity in the knockout rounds at both the St Moritz Match Race and the Argo Group Gold Cup. Add the fact that Torvar Mirsky (AUS) won both those events together with Williams' indifferent form at the Monsoon Cup over the past three years and he could be forgiven for feeling the pressure as he bids to claim a third world title.
The Brit though is not surprised that it's come down to the last event especially after 2010 saw five teams head to Malaysia each with a legitimate title chance, but believes his experience will only serve to help him, "Looking back over the past years it's always come down to the Monsoon Cup and has often been just three teams vying for the championship title. It's also usually the team that wins the Monsoon Cup that wins the title so while there really is all to play for it's not an unexpected position to be in.
"We are definitely confident heading into the Monsoon Cup. We've been in this position before and it's gone well for us in the past."
While confident, Williams knows he'd be foolish to ignore the growing threat posed by Mirsky and that he needs to at least match the Australian's form if he's going to claim the Monsoon Cup and potentially his third title with it, "Torvar is really on a roll and is the guy on form going into the event so we really need to pick up our game and get our rhythm back."
If his dip and Mirsky's rise give possible cause for concern, Williams will be buoyed by his win rate against his nearest rivals this season - he has won 86% of his races against Francesco Bruni (ITA) and 80% against Mirsky respectively. Small margins often decide match races and these statistics could be telling at an event where 1.5 times more points are on offer than the standard event points.
Williams will back those statistics up with typically meticulous preparation as he believes that if his team can produce their A-game then they can beat anyone including a resurgent Mirsky, "We just focus on our game because when we are sailing well we can beat anyone so we just focus on doing our job as best we can. We've sailed Bruni and Mirsky a lot over the past few years so we know them well and while every team have their traits - the areas they do well in or not so well in that you may look to exploit, the most important thing is that we focus on us."
"We're going to Perth before Malaysia to get some practice in and then will hopefully get another 3-5 days in Kuala Terengganu before the event. It's always good to get there early and prepare so we have time to get the feel of the boats again and come together as a team."
Williams has turned his fortunes on the Tour around this season, something he puts down to being 'a lot more professional', 'doing a few training events before the season' and 'locking down [his] crew early and keeping it consistent'. The last time he won the Monsoon Cup in 2007 he also won the ISAF Match Racing World Championship. Time will tell if he has got his preparations right this season to repeat that double feat.
The 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Championship will be decided at the Monsoon Cup which takes place from 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