Center stage match-up: Williams vs. Canfield

Published on February 5th, 2015

Twelve of the world’s top match racing teams are readying themselves for competition in the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia, the season finale of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.

Now in its 10th year, and with the event being staged in Johor in the south of Malaysia for the first time, the new venue could shake up the pecking order as the international teams try to get to grips with new conditions with very limited practice time. The racing takes place February 10-14 on the Straits of Johor, situated between Malaysia and Singapore.

For Ian Williams, skipper of GAC Pindar, this is the British sailor’s opportunity to take a record fifth world title after so narrowly missing out at the Monsoon Cup last time round.

“Every title is important, so I don’t think going for a fifth adds extra pressure. I do think defending the title adds extra pressure and it’s been noticeable in the past how when we have defended the title (2008 and 2012), we have not been able to go on and win the Monsoon Cup, whereas when we were new champions, we have (2007 and 2011). I certainly think the release of tension is bigger when you successfully defend the title, but also the disappointment if you fail to defend.”

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Ian Williams ready to win his fifth World Championship at the Monsoon Cup Malaysia © Robert Hajduk / AWMRT

Like almost all the other teams, Williams has no prior experience of Johor, and believes the competition could be closer as a result.

“A change of venue is a big leveller and takes away some of the advantage of having been to the regatta every year. But match racing is all about adapting to different boats and different conditions, and learning as the regatta goes on. I think we are fairly good at analysing these things and learning as events go on, which has played a big part in our success over the years.”

Last year’s world title was won by Taylor Canfield with his team, US One, and they are eager to repeat as champion. “I am always excited to race at the Monsoon Cup. It is usually the tightest racing of the year with the teams laying it all out on the table. We are also in a good position on the overall standings. If we sail the well, the championship could very well be ours for the second year in a row.”

A punchy claim, although Canfield does very well at living up to his own expectations. “We are really looking forward to taking on the new venue. I have always believed our team has been great at adapting. It sounds like the conditions will be light and shifty for much of the regatta. I believe we perform well in these conditions…even when you get a bit of bad luck, our team put their heads down and fight back into races.”

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Taylor Canfield is ready to defend his World Championship title © Robert Hajduk / AWMRT

Realistically the world title is likely to go either to Williams or Canfield, although three other skippers have an outside shot: Mathieu Richard, Bjorn Hansen and Keith Swinton.

Richard, the LunaJets skipper from France, is looking forward to taking the fight to his rivals on uncharted waters. “The Monsoon Cup is the final event where the champion is crowned. We have been very close to win the Championship in 2007 and 2010, when we came to Malaysia at the top of the leaderboard, but unfortunately we missed the title twice. So I feel that Kuala Terengganu didn’t suit us very well, and I am glad that the venue changes this year!”

Hansen from Sweden knows that his shot at the world title is slim, although this gives him the license to be bold. “We know that it will be extremely hard to grab the world title but we will not give up until it is clear that we cannot claim it. We know that we will have to win the regatta to have a chance so that is what we are going for.”

Keith Swinton, skipper of Black Swan Racing from Australia, is looking forward to racing in the Foundation 36 keelboats again. “We like the boats but the old venue didn’t suit us so hopefully Johor will be good for us,” said the Australian sailor, whose best Monsoon Cup result is 6th in 2012. “Our aim is to make the semi-finals. We haven’t done that enough this season. If we make it that far then I think we’ll be red hot.”

The opening ceremony will take place on February 9 followed by a Pro-Am race. The racing will be streamed live each and every day from 1000-1700 with commentary from Simon Shaw and Tucker Thompson, and short daily reviews will be available on the Internet. There will be a two-hour live television broadcast covering the finals on February 14.

From a prize purse of US$500,000 – the largest across the breadth of professional sailing – the World Champion and winner of the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour receives US$100,000, the second placed finisher US$80,000, with prize money on a diminishing scale to all eight Tour Card skippers.

There is also big prize money on offer for the Monsoon Cup itself with a prize purse of MYR 1,475,000 (US$415,000) up for grabs and with the winner receiving MYR 310,000 (US$87,000).

Background: The Monsoon Cup (February 10-15) is the seventh and final stop on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, the leading professional match racing series sanctioned by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). Prize money is awarded for each event, with event points culminating in the crowning of the “ISAF Match Racing World Champion”. Tour website: http://www.wmrt.com

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