World Match Racing Tour in Sweden
Published on June 29th, 2023
After getting underway in California, the World Match Racing Tour is in Europe for its second of four world championship graded events at the 29th GKSS Match Cup Sweden July 4-8, held on the tourist island hotspot of Marstrand off Sweden’s west coast.
As a founding event of the circuit, the event is renowned as one of the world’s most iconic match racing venues, drawing large and enthusiastic crowds along the cliffs and shoreline of the Fjord. Hosted by the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club (GKSS), the event in the past has featured many clashes between match racing and America’s Cup titans.
Notably there was seven-time champion Peter Gilmour in his bouts with future America’s Cup winning helmsman Ed Baird; Dean Barker memorably defeated in 2002 his ‘mentor’ Russell Coutts (en route to skippering Team New Zealand in the 31st America’s Cup, when he lost to Coutts); and in turn Coutts’ own two victories in 2001 and 2004. British match racing legends have been victorious several times including Chris Law in 2003, Ben Ainslie in 2010, and six-time WMRT Champion Ian Williams in 2011.
More recently, Sweden’s home-grown talent has prevailed in Björn Hansen, long dubbed the ‘Master of Marstrand’, who has won his country’s premier match racing event no less than five times, four consecutively over 2012-15.
Hansen is one of the few of the ‘old guard’ to return to Marstrand this year, along with fellow Swede Johnnie Berntsson, who although he has never made a Match Cup Sweden final, is a two-time winner of the Tour’s equally iconic Bermuda Gold Cup event.
Hansen admits that it has been a while (seven years) since he last competed on a World Match Racing Tour event, but two weeks ago in Finland he competed at the NJK Open Spring Cup (May 19-21; Finland), reassuringly, won it. So, is it like riding a bike?
“Luckily yes, although we have had to learn the new rules,” he says. Nonetheless he is under no illusion of his team’s chances at this years’ GKSS Match Cup Sweden. “We are going there to have fun and meet and compete with old friends. Still, when you get into the starting box you always want to win, and we will be disappointed if we get no points. We hope to do okay!”
While Hansen’s past victories in Marstrand were on board the DS37 monohull, this year tweaky, faster, asymmetric-rigged Fareast 28Rs are being used. Hansen says his team has sailed them a little – first at the Monsoon Cup in 2016 and more recently in Sweden.
Few have arrived in Sweden better prepared than American Chris Poole and his Riptide Racing team. Currently #1 in the world match racing rankings, Poole finished the Congressional Cup in April unbeaten – no mean feat given the event’s premier status on the World Match Racing Tour.
Poole has arrived early in Sweden and has put in two days of training on the Far East 28s. The smallest chink in the Poole armor is that he is lacking two of his regular crew, though when one of the replacements is Kyle Langford, America’s Cup winning crewman and former Volvo Ocean Race sailor, he shouldn’t have too much to fear.
“In 2020 we took a different approach as I got more support, and I could get guys with the right mentality and experience who would take my skill set to the next level,” said Poole. “Then it was just about having constant focus, which we got from Mal Parker, my primary trimmer who was saying ‘if we are going to do this campaign, we have to treat it like an America’s Cup and there is a mentality you have to have. He has seen a lot and he knows which formula works.”
This will be Poole’s first time match racing in Marstrand. “It will be exciting. It is a tight harbor and there is some decent competition, including some of the old Swedish teams. Marstrand is a natural amphitheatre and an amazing stadium. It’s also midsummer with everyone on holiday so the Island will be busy with spectators.“
Beyond Hansen, Poole reckons his main competition will be Jeppe Borch and Nick Egnot-Johnson.
From Denmark, 25-year-old Borch continues his nation’s strong match racing tradition that has included the likes of Jesper Bank, Jes Gram-Hansen, and Jesper Radich and while he has yet to win a Grade 1 event, it is just a matter of time, having made the Congressional Cup final in April.
Similarly, Nick Egnot-Johnson is flying the match racing flag for New Zealand and as defending World Match Racing Tour champion and having finished third at the Congressional Cup, his Knots Racing team will also be a contender next week.
The youngest competitor is the USA’s Jeffrey Petersen, 21, who has already asserted his impressive credentials as the reigning US and World Youth Match Racing Champion and currently ranked #9 in the world. Petersen’s Golden State Match Racing Team finished 4th at the OM International Ledro (June 22-25; Italy) before heading to Marstrand for their first ever Match Cup Sweden.
GKSS Match Cup Sweden Entries:
• Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing
• Jeppe Borch (DEN) Team Borch Matchrace
• Eric Monnin (SUI) Capvis Swiss Match Race Team
• Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL) KNOTS racing
• Jefferey Petersen (USA) Golden State Match Racing
• Rocco Attili (ITA) RBYS Match/Team Racing
• Mati Sepp (EST) EESTI MATCH RACE LIIT
• Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
• Björn Hansen (SWE)
• Oscar Engström (SWE)
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 winner of the WMRT each year is crowned World Sailing Match Racing World Champion.
Previous champions include Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR), Taylor Canfield (USA), Peter Gilmour (AUS), Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Peter Holmberg (ISV), Adam Minoprio (NZL), Torvar Mirsky (AUS), Bertrand Pace (FRA), Jesper Radich (DEN), Phil Robertson (NZL), and Ian Williams (GBR).
Since inception, the World Match Racing Tour and its events have awarded over USD23million in prize money to sailors which has helped to contribute to the career pathway of many of today’s professional sailors.