Monsoon Cup skippers facing the final event in the World Match Racing Tour in a few weeks will be anxiously looking over their shoulders at two young gun skippers.
Australia's 22-year-old Torvar MIRSKY
and New Zealand's 23-year-old Adam MINOPRIO
will be heading to the cup, to be held from the 3-7 December in Terengganu, Malaysia, as two serious challengers on the World Tour.
They are currently tied for fourth place on the 2008 ISAF Match Racing World Championship
standings and they both have the capacity to knock out any of the other teams as they vie for both the Monsoon Cup and overall championship titles.
The young sailors will be facing 10 other teams including the current three top-ranked match racing skippers; Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR), Sébastien COL
(FRA) and Mathieu RICHARD
MIRSKY and MINOPRIO are products of two highly-regarded youth development programmes. Their progression into the World Match Racing Tour has been very similar.
MIRSKY started sailing when he was 10, blasting his way through the Mirror class to win two national championships and place second in the open World Championship. Time in the Laser, 505, 420 and 49er classes have all contributed to honing his racing skills. Introduced to Match Racing at the tender age of 15, MIRSKY joined the West Australian Yachting Foundation's Youth Programme which annually organizes the prestigious Warren Jones International Youth Regatta. The regatta brings together the best youth match racing skippers and crews from Australia and New Zealand.
This Perth-based youth programme enabled MIRSKY to gain the skills he needed to compete successfully in the Warren Jones event. Ironically, he was coached by Peter GILMOUR
(AUS) and Skip LISSIMAN (AUS), both of whom are involved in the Monsoon Cup.
By 2006 MIRSKY was competing internationally and his dream of becoming the best match racer in the world was launched.
"I came out of school and went to the University of Western Australia to study Mechanical Engineering and Physics, which was quite a handful. I was quite fixated on sailing and so I was concentrating more on sailing than studying. It showed in my studies so I decided to just focus on sailing and really gave it a go.
"I thought if I missed an opportunity with sailing I would really regret it, but if I missed an opportunity with studying, I could go back and do it. I went flat out with sailing just to see what would happen. I paused my studying and went overseas and did it. And here I am now and it's been the best call of my life,"
Since 2006 MIRSKY has achieved podium finishes in key international match racing events. In the Warren Jones International Youth Regatta he became the first Australian to put his name on the trophy for second time by finishing first in 2007 and first again in 2008 edging out MINOPRIO and Laurie JURY
(NZL). In 2006 MIRSKY finished first ahead of Evan WALKER
(AUS) in the RNZYS International Youth Match Racing Championship and second in the Australian Match Racing Championship.
On the World Match Racing Tour this year MIRSKY and his team placed equal fifth at Vitoria Brasil Sailing Cup, eighth at Korea Match Cup, second at Match Cup Sweden, fourth at the Danish Open, tenth at St Moritz Match Race and sixth at Troia Portugal Match Cup. His first time competing at the Monsoon Cup in 2007 saw him finish fifth ahead of MINOPRIO.
MINOPRIO started sailing when he was seven and competed in his first world championship at 12 years old. His early sailing years were spent primarily on single-handed dinghies.
MINOPRIO joined the Royal New Zealand Youth Squadron's Youth Training Academy in 2002. Graduating in 2006 as the program's top helmsman in his final year, he launched himself onto the Australasian match racing circuit.
The last four years he has spent more time on land than on the water as he pursued studies at Auckland University. Now with a Mechanical Engineering degree almost under his belt MINOPRIO has more time to focus on his sailing goals.
"Torvar started off a lot better than us because the last four years I've been at university,"
"This year we were a little off the pace compared to Torvar at the start, but after half the year we raced Torvar in the final of the Blurimini Match Cup and we won 3-0. So after that we felt like we were starting to get on top of our own game more and up to Torvar's team's level, and with recent progress we are feeling like we are pulling ahead."
Since 2006 MINOPRIO has also achieved podium finishes in international match racing events. His best results have been first in the 2007 and 2006 Asian Match Racing Championships, and first in the 2006 Warren Jones International Youth Regatta. On the World Match Racing Tour this year MINOPRIO and his team placed ninth at Vitoria Brasil Sailing Cup, ninth at Match Race Germany, third at Korea Match Cup, seventh at the Danish Open, fourth at St Moritz Match Race, ninth at Troia Portugal Match Cup and second at the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda.
MINOPRIO has one advantage over MIRSKY having previously competed in two Monsoon Cups. In 2006 he finished 10th and seventh in 2007.
The difference between these two young sailors can be seen in their racing styles and in their preparation. MINOPRIO's racing style is more relaxed. With this type of approach MINOPRIO and his team seem to be incurring fewer penalties. "Just keeping it simple and beating them around the track"
is his team's way of keeping his nose clean on the race course and succeeding in the results.
MIRSKY's style is very different. "I feel our boat handling and our team is really solid now. I'm confident in all the situations that we've experienced. I feel I can pull of a lot of different things and intimidate and push the other boat."
Monsoon Cup Preparations
The local Perth fleet of Bakewell-White designed Foundation 36s have proved useful in MIRKSY's team training. As the yacht of choice for the Warren Jones International Youth Regatta and the Monsoon Cup, MIRSKY is again utilizing the easy access to these yachts to prepare for the Monsoon Cup by inviting WILLIAMS and RICHARD to Perth for four days of intensive training.
"I thought it would be very good for our preparation to have some practice with some of the teams before going to Malaysia so that we are really ready. I've got Ian and Mathieu coming down to practice with us."
Perhaps WILLIAMS and RICHARD may not be too happy about meeting each other so close to the start of the final event of the Tour, but at least their time in Perth will acclimatise them in preparation for the conditions in Malaysia.
MINOPRIO on the other hand will use the late-November New Zealand Match Racing Championship to fine tune his team. Racing on Farr MRX's MINOPRIO will be up against some very tough competition from veteran match racers Dean BARKER (NZL), Rod DAVIS (NZL), possibly Gavin BRADY (NZL) and the newly-crowned ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and 2008 Olympic Games Finn class gold medallist, Ben AINSLIE (GBR).
The results of the Malaysian and Asian match race qualifying events, being conducted in Terengganu from 24-29 November, are likely to produce more young talented skippers to challenge the top contenders in the Monsoon Cup.
But with MIRSKY and MINOPRIO fourth on the overall leaderboard, these two skippers are the ones Tour leader WILLIAMS will be watching the closest.
"We are certainly very wary of both those teams. They have sailed at times very, very well. Like everyone on the World Match Racing Tour, the key is consistency. I think that's what comes with experience; more consistent results," said WILLIAMS.
"They are putting a lot of time in, and they are training really hard. Both teams have been pretty much full time match racing this year. They've each done 20 or 25 events and it's made them very strong. They've got a consistent team. They are young, hungry, strong teams.
"In any individual race you've got to go out and obviously sail better than them to beat them. That's the beauty of the World Match Racing Tour events. Because it's in supplied boats, on any day you actually have to out-perform your opponents. You don't go into any race having an inherent advantage of having better equipment; you have to go out and beat them. That's hard to do sometimes."
With their background in dinghy sailing, their involvement in youth development programmes and their podium match racing results, MINOPRIO and MIRSKY are evenly matched on the water.
"This year before Adam hadn't done many events. He had been concentrating on studying and we were competing. So I think we had an edge when we started this season. But we are very close on the water competitively, skill wise, and with our development.
"One event one of us does well. The next event the other guy does well. We both seem to have very similar results overall. We can't seem to get away from each other," MIRSKY said.
MINOPRIO thinks MIRSKY has the jump on his team, but believes they are closing the gap. "We will hopefully [close it further] with this last regatta so we can drive ahead," MINOPRIO said.
WILLIAMS believes there is quite a bit of rivalry between Minoprio and MIRSKY. "Whoever comes out on top between them will make a big difference for them."
World Match Racing Tour Leaderboard
(Top ten teams after Stage 8 of 9)
1. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Pindar, 92 points
2. Sébastien COL (FRA), French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, 88
3. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), French Match Racing Team/ French Team Spirit, 77
4. Adam MINOPRIO (NZL), ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing Team, 53
4. Torvar MIRSKY (AUS), Mirsky Racing Team, 53
6. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), Victory Challenge, 51
7. Mattias RAHM (SWE), Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 46
8. Paolo CIAN (ITA), Team Shosholoza, 43
9. Bjorn HANSEN (SWE), Alandia Sailing Team, 40
9. Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE), Berntsson Sailing Team, 40
ISAF Match Racing World Championship - www.sailing.org/matchworlds