Harken Derm

Taylor Canfield: Match Racing World Champion

Published on June 4th, 2014

He’s 25 years, he grew up in the US Virgin Islands, and graduated with an Economics degree in 2011 from Boston College. Oh yea, and he is the reigning Match Racing World Champion. Taylor Canfield begins his bid to defend his title as the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT) opens this week at Match Race Germany. Here’s an update from this fast rising star…

* How did the interest in match racing take hold?

My first real introduction to match racing that stuck with me was at the age of 13. I was competing in the Jr Gold Cup in Bermuda while fellow St. Thomian, Peter Holmberg, was competing in the Argo Gold Cup. I was hooked after watching several days of the match racing sailed in Hamilton Harbor.

Beginning just before I graduated from high school, I decided to sail some lower level match race events. The ranking slowly began to climb and while coaching at Chicago YC during my summers away from BC, I was introduced to Don Wilson who was actively training in Chicago two nights a week. After three summers in Chicago I was hooked.

* You seem to be a fast learner. What contributed to this near vertical learning curve?

The Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC) had opened and I knew that is where I needed to be if I wanted to continue and take my game to the next level. After college, I worked at CMRC as the sailing director for three seasons (2011-13), training, umpiring, coaching, and running regattas. I worked during the weeks and traveled to events on the weekends.

As the ranking climbed into the top 20 after winning two AWMRT events in 2012, I decided to put in a bid for a tour card for 2013. I finally locked in a core group of guys for the 2012 and 2013 seasons that were strong, dedicated, and willing to put paid jobs aside to sail with me.

In the fall of 2012 Hayden Goodrick and myself started US One Sailing Team. We went on to receive a tour card for the 2013 season, and worked and trained hard. It came down to the final event of that season, with 4 teams fighting for the World Title. We finished 3rd, and with previous event finishes of 5th, 2nd, 11th, 1st, and 3rd (and discarding the 11th), it was enough to capture the world title.

To be honest, it has all happened much quicker than I could have ever imagined. I have always had the goal to be number one in the world, but I knew that I could not do this alone. The US One crew of Hayden Goodrick, Rod Dawson, Mike Rehe, Dan Morris, and Brian Janney were right behind me from the beginning. While it says my name at the top of the ISAF rankings, it is all about the team.

* Entering 2013 as a full-fledged tour team, what were your expectations?

To be honest, we did not have any expectations going into the 2013 season. It is one thing to win a single event as a non-tour card holder, but it is another thing to string together a full season of success. As a first time card holder, there was very little pressure to perform out of the blocks – especially not having sailed 3 out of 6 of the boats on the tour. So we had nothing to lose. But after starting the 2013 season with good results in the first two events, and despite stumbling hard in the third event with our 11th in Sweden, there was never a doubt from anyone on the team that we couldn’t turn it around. And we did.

In Part 2 of this interview, we take a look at the 2014 season…

* As the defending champion, how does that change your preparation?

It definitely will not change our style of going out and winning the next race. The team is all about going and winning an individual race, when you string a couple of race wins together, the results tend to come on their own. We are not going to change much from the previous year. Try to sail a couple match race events that are not a part of the tour, train in the boats that the next event is held in (if the organizers allow us to charter the boats prior to the events), and have a few training sessions with the team at Chicago Match Race Center this summer. Poland will be our biggest hurdle this year, not having sailed the boats or the venue. We will definitely try to arrive at this event early enough to get comfortable in the boats.

* How important are the cash prizes for your 2014 season?

As we are the least funded team on the tour, of course it is about the cash prizes. While our team has been successful over the last two years, a majority of our expenses are coming out of pocket and therefore out of the prize money we receive. Other than a few small donations here and there and a little financial support from a couple small sponsors, each and every crew member pays his own way to each event and for all of their expense along the way. So for the fans who see us with the giant checks and think we are getting rich…think again. This being said, we are actively seeking sponsorship and donations. As most who sail know, it is not a cheap sport.

* How important is blending match race and fleet race skills? Is there a formula to knowing when to match race an opponent and knowing when to focus on the course conditions?

That’s definitely a huge part of the game. Most of the venues on the tour can be puffy/shifty which requires much more than just match racing knowledge. We have two-three guys on our team constantly looking upwind trying to establish the course we would sail in absence of another boat in the race. Then there is a discussion between tactician, Rod Dawson, and myself about what the next move is, to cover or to sail the fastest track and shortest distance around the course. As a trailing boat, I think it is important to sail the best tactical race possible while trying to make the leader make the tough decisions. In general I think our team is good at acknowledging when to sail away and when to go hands on.

* How has your match racing style evolved since you’ve been on the tour?

I would definitely say I am becoming more comfortable with boats/venues as well as racing each individual competitor. We have started to figure out both our strengths and weaknesses along with our competitors. These allow our style to evolve for each individual race…it’s all a matter of the hand that is dealt. We will do what we need to go out and win the next race.

I don’t think we are the most aggressive team on the tour, but there are times when I feel comfortable in a situation that we are able to play a bit more aggressive game. At the same time, I would say there are moments that we have been the least aggressive team. It really comes down to the boats we are in, the situation, and my comfort level.

* What changes do you see occurring with the tour?

I know they are trying very hard to build the tour and introduce new events and get old events back up and going. There are several new events that are on the fence and still trying to develop the idea in their respective cities. The announced addition this week of the Dutch Match Cup is great news. One thing the tour is doing this year to help promote growth is develop a lower level tour series that consists of grade 2 and grade 1 events. These events are not only qualifiers for the grand prix tour events but will have points distributed that count towards the overall tour rankings. Hopefully this will continue to spark more interest in tour events around the world.

* What else is on the calendar for you this year?

Lots of sailing! Have a lot of Etchells sailing in the near future as I prep for the Worlds with Bill Hardesty on the helm. After that, I will be focusing on some J/70, Melges 20, and maybe a few events on a TP52 over here in the US. I plan to try and sail catamarans in any spare time I have…Nacra 17, Marstrom 32s, and any other cats I can get a ride on.

2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour Calendar
Stage 1: 5-9 June, Match Race Germany, Langenargen, Germany
Stage 2: 30 June-5 July, Stena Match Cup Sweden, Marstrand, Sweden
Stage 3: 31 July-3 August, Sopot Match Race, Sopot, Poland
Stage 4: 17-21 September, Chicago Match Cup, Chicago, USA
Stage 5: 24 – 28 September, Dutch Match Cup, Lelystad, Holland
Stage 6: 21-26 October, Argo Group Gold Cup, Hamilton, Bermuda
Stage 7: 25-29 November, Monsoon Cup, Malaysia
Note: dates denote scheduled race days

Tour website: www.wmrt.com

TAYLOR CANFIELD

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