Bringing the train into the station
Published on July 1st, 2019
When a change of ownership for the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) late in 2018 disrupted the schedule, leading to the cancellation of the final planned tour event – 2018 Match Racing World Championship on November 8-12 in China – the mission was to get the train back on the tracks and bring it into the station.
After much delay, the train is now tooting its horn on its approach to the GKSS Match Cup Sweden on July 3-7 in Marstrand, Sweden. This event will double as the WMRT Championship Final to conclude the 2018 WMRT season, with the winner of the event to be crowned the 2018-2019 Match Racing World Champion as sanctioned by World Sailing.
With racing in the M32 carbon fibre multihulls, among the 12 teams are four past Match Racing World Champions: Australia’s Torvar Mirsky, the defending champion; Taylor Canfield of the USA (2013 champion); Phil Robertson of New Zealand (2016 champion); and Great Britain’s Ian Williams, the daddy of modern match racing with six world titles between 2007 and 2015.
Robertson won his world title in these same waters three years ago, the famous ‘million-dollar-day’ which witnessed the debut of the M32 catamaran on the World Match Racing Tour. Mirsky won his title two years ago in a predominantly light-airs finals off the beach in Shenzhen, China. Canfield and Williams won all their world titles in the previous era of keelboat match racing, although neither skipper is exactly off the pace in the high-speed cats.
Canfield (sailing in Sweden under his US One banner) has been stretching his comfort zone as part of the USA crew on the SailGP 50-knot F50 foiling catamarans as well as co-founding the Stars + Stripes USA team for the next America’s Cup in Auckland 2021.
Williams meanwhile has been campaigning the four-person catamaran hard on the competitive fleet racing circuit, the Cetilar M32 European Series. That experience will be vital in Marstrand, whose rocky shores demand excellent close-quarters boat handling and an ability to tack the mainsail-only upwind rig as efficiently as possible without stalling the boat.
There were three events on the 2018 World Tour – GKSS Match Cup Sweden, Match Cup Norway, and Regate de Portugal. Beyond the Finals, the future for the Tour remains unclear as the new organization reviews and rebuilds a new World Match Racing Tour season for 2020.
Due to the recent use of the M32, a result of Swedish company Aston Harald AB having owned both the brand and the Tour, multihull guru Yann Guichard has been knocking on the door of match racing greatness for the past three years. His team Spindrift Racing won in Marstrand last year, which will give the French confidence when they go up against the reigning and former World Champions on these challenging waters.
Sweden’s Nicklas Dackhammar finished third in Marstrand last year and is current top of the WMRT leaderboard having been most consistent across the three events of 2018. Just ahead of the Swede but losing out to Guichard was Williams, the ever persistent, never-to-be-dismissed multiple champion.
The last time Williams won in Marstrand was back in 2011, long before the M32 arrived on the World Tour scene. Perhaps Phil Robertson’s previous form – twice a winner in the M32s in Marstrand – marks the fiery Kiwi out as the favourite, although Williams, Canfield and reigning champion Mirsky will have something to say about that.
Sunshine and strong winds are forecast for the winner-take-all Match Racing World Championship.
Confirmed skippers with World Sailing Ranking*
• Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar – #1
• Harry Price (AUS) Down Under Racing – #2
• Nicklas Dackhammer (SWE) Essiq Racing Team – #6
• Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team – #9
• Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Cetilar Mirsky Racing Team – #13
• Yann Guichard (FRA) Spindrift Racing – #19
• Mans Holmberg (SWE) Stratsys Racing Team – #23
• Taylor Canfield (USA) US One – #27
• Phil Robertson (NZL) China One Ningbo – #33
• Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) Sailing Team NL – #134
• Markus Edegran (USA) Team Torrent – #194
• Daniel Björnholt (DEN) Youth Vikings Denmark – #342
* Ranking as of June 12, 2019
Background: Founded in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) promotes the sport of match racing around the world and is the longest running global professional series in the sport of sailing. The World Tour represents a series of independently organized and officially sanctioned match racing events which are used to award prize money and the Match Racing World Championship title.
Source: World Match Racing Tour, Scuttlebutt