While recent news headlines have focused largely on Ian Williams, Francesco Bruni and Torvar Mirsky to win the 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Championship, several skippers including Bjorn Hansen have made clear their intention on the eve of the Monsoon Cup to cause a few upsets and snatch the world title at the final event.
The ceremonial duties have concluded and the talking has finished in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia where four-time Match Racing World Champion Peter Gilmour (AUS) and Bjorn Hansen (SWE), currently fourth and fifth in the Tour standings respectively, lead a pack of teams each looking to beat the top three.
Speaking ahead of his opening match against Jesper Radich, Hansen said, "It's an outside chance to win the Championship but it's still a chance. There's a fine line between winning and losing on the Tour and we're certainly gunning for at least a podium finish. We've beaten all these guys [Williams, Bruni and Mirsky] this season and there would be no better time to do it again than at the Monsoon Cup. It would cap what has been a great season for us."
If Williams, Bruni and Mirsky are looking over their shoulders at the likes of Gilmour and Hansen, they should also be wary of the other teams' intentions. Will Tiller (NZL) can't win the Championship but has singled out third placed Mirsky as the man he'd like to beat in the knock-out stages. "It's awesome to get to the biggest event of the year,"
said the Kiwi. "This is definitely the one you want to be at - for us this has been our goal the whole year to win the Monsoon Cup qualifier and get here. It's our third World Match Racing Tour event so we're looking to try and make an impact this time and have a better result than what we have in the past.
"Our goal is to win as many races as we can and there's no reason why we can't take a few big scalps - we're determined and we're out there to win it really. A lot of the boys in our team would love to race Torvar Mirsky in the quarter. To beat him would be pretty special."
As the winner of the Malaysian Match Racing Championships, Jeremy Koo (MAS) received an invitation to the 2011 Monsoon Cup where he's competed on several occasions. Koo, who was a member of China's America's Cup team in 2007, posted his best performances at the Monsoon Cup in 2006 and 2007 when he mustered one win, a result he hopes to surpass this year. "It's a pleasure to race the top sailors in the world and a real honour to be here but while we respect the other teams, we're also here to beat them."
Asked how he has prepared for this event, Koo added, "We're looking for a couple of wins to call this a successful event. We know we've improved in the last year in terms of our crew work and understanding of each other. We've also been doing a lot of gym work and our weight has improved on last year - we're now 10kgs heavier. Having great sponsors and our yacht club behind us has meant we've been able to get in a lot more training."
All 12 competing skippers attended the Opening Ceremony at the Ri-Yaz Heritage Resort and Spa where Dato Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek - Minister of Youth and sport Malaysia, Dato Wari Hisham Wan Salleh - Vice-President Malaysian Yachting Association, welcomed them and then officially opened the Monsoon Cup.
The opening flight of the First Qualifying Session feature Tour leader Ian Williams and will begin at 11:00 (GMT+8) on Wednesday 23 November 2011 with live coverage from 15:00 to 17:00 (GMT +8) on www.wmrt.com
The Monsoon Cup teams:
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Jeremy Koo (MAS) Abdullah Chan/KRT
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat
Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar
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