Find out more about the world's top match racers as they prepare for the start of the 2010 World Match Racing Tour season in Marseille next month.
At the forefront of the top international match racer's mind is the goal of competing in an active and sustainable high level tour in order to ensure they have as much global match racing experience as possible throughout the year. The World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is the ultimate series to meet these ongoing requirements for match racing helms and their experienced teams. With the 2010 Tour Card Holders having recently been announced, each of the teams are gearing up for the tough 10 event challenge against the world's top match racing talent.
The current ISAF Match Racing World Champion, Adam Minoprio from New Zealand, has shared his thoughts on retaining his title as well as the new outlook for 2010 and his aims for the world's premier match racing series. With the 2010 Tour starting in less than one month, the BlackMatch Racing Team are planning their training regime, focusing primarily during March and April on specific training for Match Race France in Marseille.
Minoprio is positive that the concentrated periods of on the water training will be more effective in 2010 as the team is even more experienced and confident in their abilities compared to the other highly competitive teams.
It was only four years ago that the BlackMatch Racing Team set themselves the ultimate goal of winning the WMRT. This achievement was cemented during 2009, earlier than originally perceived possible against such an illustrious line up of match racers.
This year will be another year of sticking to "the original plan" of being the overall Tour champion. Minoprio believes that the new 2010 Tour Card System will ensure a more competitive line up of racers as all teams that received a Tour Card have the ability to climb the ladder into top place.
A definite challenger to Minoprio's crown is Australian Torvar Mirsky, who finished second position in 2009 with his Mirsky Racing Team. The team, according to Mirsky, have consistently improved year-on-year, climbing the world rankings and always building their experience to work as a cohesive team. They are happy to put in the work together to reach the top of their game and be highest on the leaderboard.
There will be a lot to ask of his crew during 2010, as the rest of the participating teams are all champions from various sailing backgrounds and racing at a superb level.
Mirsky envisages the 2010 Tour being the most serious yet due to the new ownership and lack of America's Cup match racing scheduled to take place. The Tour is growing in stature as the world's leading professional sailing series and therefore, teams are securing greater funds in order to train more extensively. Mirsky is keen to capitalise on this opportunity.
Ben Ainslie, sailing with TEAMORIGIN from Great Britain, who missed second position on the 2009 Tour by only two points is keen to develop his team's match racing skills and communication during this year's competition. The 10-event tour will provide TEAMORIGIN the chance to learn from a host of race course situations as well as provide valuable insights into developing different team tactics.
Ainslie perceives Bermuda, Sweden and Portugal as the best racing venues and will be aiming to stick to his core group of crew. The BlackMatch Racing Team is the favourite for TEAMORIGIN to beat as they are seen to continue to be a hot contender for the 2010 champions position.
The four-time ISAF Match Racing World Champion is back again, Peter Gilmour and his reliable team of YANMAR Racing are focusing on 2010 like never before. After their average year in 2009 finishing fourth they have set a simple objective of targeting a higher placed outcome in each event. Gilmour is confident his duties as Acting President within the WMRT will decrease and once this occurs his attention goes full-time to racing and achieving the old form should be realistic.
With the addition of Nha Trang, Vietnam and enhancement in other events Gilmour is well aware the Tour can grow significantly, with two more years of support from YANMAR, now is the time to deliver.
The French match race following is prolific, with national competition to win a 2010 Tour Card being extremely high. Mathieu Richard secured a 2010 Tour entry and is hoping to finish with a podium position. A new strategy will see team coach, Benjamin Bonnaud, working together with the current French Match Racing Team coach, Marc Bouet and Richard is confident that the two coaching angles will complement each other and accelerate improvement within the team.
The French Match Racing Team have collectively been working hard on their physical training at the gym this winter as well as incorporating boat handling on the actual models that are used on the Tour involving travelling to international destinations. Richard is optimistic that the WMRT is developing match racing into becoming more popular in terms of organisational excellence. He is a fan of the last event of the Tour - the Monsoon Cup - and is excited to have Vietnam as a newly announced Tour venue for 2010.
Meanwhile, Team Pindar's Ian Williams from Great Britain is aiming to win as many events on the 2010 Tour as possible. After finishing in sixth position last year, Williams holds "team spirit" as his number one weapon for 2010 and sees fellow Brit, Ben Ainslie as his strongest competition. Team Pindar feels that the Asian venues are the lifeblood of the Tour as a result of live television coverage and inflated prize money.
Sweden's Björn Hansen is aiming for a more consistent crew who are committed to all events, which means some of the more seasoned crew members will have to leave the team. All of the nine Tour Card Holders have the ability to secure first position and the most consistent crew will win. As a sailing commentator, Hansen believes that match racing is the only racing discipline that can be followed via live television and sees this as taking the Tour forward to appeal to a greater audience.
Francesco Bruni, skipper of the Italian team Azzura, is planning to undertake a lot of training and focus on a top three finish for the end of the Tour with his exact same team from last year. Bruni enjoys the events where there is a big public following including Malaysia, Sweden and Korea. He is also looking forward to the new Vietnam venue as it is always nice to get to travel to a different country. All of the Tour Card Holders are seen by Bruni as having the ability to be overall champion and he feels that match racing is progressing and becoming a far more popular sport.
Betrand Pacé's Aleph Sailing Team from France are planning to win an event as well as securing a Top 3 overall position for 2010. A legendary match racer, Pacé is very positive about the sport becoming increasing popular through the easy-to-understand short courses and close boat-on-boat racing making it exciting for the public to follow either at the venue or on television.
The 2010 WMRT Card Holders collectively see the circuit growing in value, size and return and are actively supporting WMRT in raising the profile of global match racing. Ben Ainslie said, "I think it is great that the World Match Racing Tour are pushing hard to raise the level and profile of match racing".
2010 Tour Card Holders
(NZL) BlackMatch - 2009 ISAF Match Racing World Champion
(AUS) Mirsky Racing Team - finished second in 2009
(GBR) Team Origin - finished third in 2009
(ITA) Team Azzura
(AUS) YANMAR Racing
(SWE) Hansen Global Team
(FRA) Aleph Sailing Team
(FRA) French Match Racing Team
(GBR) Team Pindar
2009 ISAF Match Racing World Championship - Final Standings
(Top eight teams after Stage 9 of 9 of the World Match Racing Tour)
1. Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing, 138 Points
2. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, 97 Points
3. Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin, 95 Points
4. Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR, 93 Points
5. Mathieu Richard (FRA), French Match Racing Team Racing, 79 Points
6. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 75 Points
7. Sébastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 55 Points
8. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 48 Points
The winner of the annual World Match Racing Tour is crowned as ISAF Match Racing World Champion. Find out more at www.sailing.org/matchworlds.