After narrowly losing the world title at the end of last season's Alpari World Match Racing Tour, Ian Williams threw down the gauntlet today at the start of Match Race Germany.
In very light and shifty conditions, the GAC Pindar skipper somehow navigated his way through the pitholes and hidden traps to win all five of his matches on the first day of Qualifying.
"It's classic Match Race Germany conditions,"
said the four-time World Champion from Great Britain after coming ashore from a long day on Lake Constance. "We were a bit lucky to be in the right place at the right time and managed to sniggle round ahead of the other guys."
Williams was quick to credit his crew with putting him in the right place at the ever-critical start time, particularly his bowman Matt Cornwell and tactician Bill Hardesty. "Catflap and Bill have been running good timing into the start. If you have called the pressure correctly and get your timing back to the line right, then it's pretty hard for the other boat to put pressure on you."
Williams was the only one to keep his nose clean today. Bjorn Hansen and Keith Swinton were next best, each on 3-1 scores. The Team Alpari FX skipper was pleased to have beaten reigning World Champion Taylor Canfield. "That was our best one, against Taylor,"
said Swinton. "He led us around the top mark but we did a really nice pass downwind. We got a bit more pressure on the inside of them and I think they got a bit nervous and gybed early. Once you get ahead, it's hard to be passed in these boats so we capitalised on that and sailed away."
Francesco Bruni and Mathieu Richard are both fancied to do well on this year's Tour, but today was not the best start to their 2014 campaigns, with the Italian and French crews only winning two of their five matches. Richard slipped up against the Polish sailor Karol Jablonski who won the World Championships more than a decade ago but does very little match racing these days. The Polish former America's Cup helmsman is loving his opportunity to compete against the full-timers, some of whom are less than half his age. "I just love match racing and I like to compete against the best guys and see how much I have lost of my sharpness, and how much I have improved."
As for being more than twice the age of Canfield, the reigning World Champion, Jablonski is not so concerned. "You are as old as you feel, and I feel quite young, I feel quite fit. I don't believe that I am 52. I go on the water with the same enthusiasm that I did 20 or 30 years ago. I have a lot of experience, I can analyse a lot of situations in a good way, in a cooler and quieter way. Taylor is a great sailor and he is doing a lot of things right. I wouldn't say that age has an advantage or disadvantage. But Taylor is match racing at many events every year and I am doing just two or three, so this makes a difference. We shouldn't forget that in match racing, it's not the helmsman who wins the races, it's the crew. And here the advantage is with Taylor because he sails with the same team for a few years. I sail with a great team as well, but we sail only one or two events a year together, we don't practise too much. Still we have a chance to beat everyone here. Last year we beat Williams and Minoprio, so let's see what we can do."
Stage 1 Match Race Germany, Alpari World Match Racing Tour
Results after Flight 9
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 5-0
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 3-1
Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 3-1
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing 3-2
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 3-2
Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone 2-2
Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team 2-3
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa 2-3
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 2-3
Carsten Kemling (GER) SegelReporter 1-3
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) TRE-For Match Racing 1-3
Karol Jablonski (POL) Jablonski Sailing Team 1-4