Ian Williams moved level with Taylor Canfield at the top of the leaderboard after making sense of a brain-frying day 2 of Qualifying at the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia.
Through wildly unpredictable and fickle conditions, the reigning World Champion from Great Britain steered the GAC Pindar team to a scoreline of 5-1 in the Qualifying phase of the concluding event of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. This puts Williams neck and neck with the defending Monsoon Cup champion from the US Virgin Islands.
The tricky conditions were some of the most confusing the 12 professional teams had ever encountered. Ian Williams commented, "It's amazing, I think we've been here eight times now, and we've never had the same conditions. It's really exciting racing, no lead was ever safe today. We had so many lead changes, and I think in only two of our six matches the lead stayed the same throughout the race."
Asked the secret to such consistent success in such wildly inconsistent conditions, Williams said, "Having Bill Hardesty calling tactics! We managed to stay fast today, and then you just hope that you're going fast up the right side of the course."
Taylor Canfield is another skipper who has managing to make sense of the conditions without really knowing why. So far the US Virgin Islander has a perfect record in Malaysia, having sailed away with the Monsoon Cup on his very first visit last year. He's showing all the signs of being able to repeat that feat, bouncing back from some close matches to scrape some valuable wins today. "No match is easy, all the guys that are here, deserve to be here,"
said the USone skipper, whose luck ran out against him in the match against Frenchman Mathieu Richard. "We got a little bit too aggressive in the pre-start against Richard, and it hurt after that. The guys are doing a good job but I'm still working on my pre-starts. They'll get better as the regatta goes on, hopefully."
Even Canfield admits the conditions are very, very difficult to read. "There's no consistency, it's all up in the air. There are certain breeze directions in Kuala Terengganu where it will become a one-sided race course - but we haven't seen that yet. It's kind of all over the place. Really puffy, shifty, a lot of current. The priorities change all the time - trying to figure out where the current relief is, whether that's going to be more important than getting to good breeze. Sometimes you can't see the breeze on the water which isn't always easy. It's making the best of what you have."
Francesco Bruni is racing here on a wild card invitation with Luna Rossa. The America's Cup sailor sits on 4-2 scores. On being asked about his loss to Williams the Italian said, "In the Monsoon Cup you need to look for the split, that's your chance. Ian went left, so we have to go right. That's your best hope when you are behind. It's very tricky here. This is probably the least predictable [of all the Tour venues], and the water is not super clear so the wind doesn't mark the water, which is another reason why it's double tricky."
Bjorn Hansen and the Ework Sailing Team also did well, ending up tied with a number of other teams on a 4-2 scoreline. The Swedish skipper is very aware of Canfield's grip on the overall Tour title for 2013, but is waiting to see how the chips fall in Malaysia. "Taylor is sailing well, but we have seen he can have bad regattas too. He was 11th in Sweden, and we know we have to perform at our best to be able to go all the way. It's good just to focus on winning the regatta and then see what Taylor has managed to do at the end of this week."
Phil Robertson remains upbeat despite being on a 3-3 score at the halfway stage of Qualifying. "We've had a really good day,"
said the WAKA Racing skipper. "It's awfully hard and very shifty, light and puffy. We sailed really well yesterday, even though we lost two and won one. We came off the water thinking we had had a really good day. It just didn't show on the score card. All we can do is sail as best as we can and get more points on the board."
Adam Minoprio's Movember moustache was drooping after a frustrating day for the other Kiwi team here, Team Alpari FX. "Pretty annoyed really. Today against Keith Swinton we had good solid consistent breeze for once, and we smashed him at the start and all around the race course. But in the trickier conditions the win eluded us. We were getting good starts, but in one heat we ran into bad gas from another race - and two tacks in two knots of breeze kills you. Those things happen in yacht racing, but it seems that yesterday and today things haven't gone our way. Hopefully we've started some momentum but then as soon as we do, we have to come off the water again. It's just the way it is, we have to rise above it. If we can't, then we don't deserve to win."
So far 9 of 17 flights of Qualifying have been completed. Tomorrow the aim is to conclude Qualifying, after which the top eight teams will move forward to the Quarter-Finals. The wind is expected to be more reliable than we saw today.
Qualifying Results after 9 flights
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone - 5-1
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar - 5-1
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa - 4-2
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team - 4-2
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team - 4-2
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing - 3-3
Mathieu Richard (FRA) GEFCO Match Racing Team - 3-3
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team - 2-4
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX - 2-4
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour - 2-4
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing - 2-4
Jeremy Koo (MAS) Team KFC - MYA/KRT - 0-6