2010 Tour Champion Ben Ainslie takes on fellow Brit Ian Williams PHOTO: Loris von Siebenthal
London, UK – 12 September, 2012: Current Alpari World Match Racing Tour Champion, Ian Williams was one of many keen observers of the Olympic sailing in Weymouth. Although fleet racing was the focus, Williams believes the regatta was a great advert for match racing, with no less than “three of the nine” fleet racing competitions exhibiting tactics more commonly seen on the Tour.
The 2010 ISAF Match Racing World Champion Ben Ainslie took a fourth successive Olympic gold medal by winning the men’s Finn class at London 2012, making him the greatest ever Olympic sailor. It was some feat and while his Olympic successes all fall under the banner of fleet racing, his match racing experience proved invaluable in Weymouth.
The surprise performances of Denmark’s Jonas Hogh-Christensen, who led for much of the regatta, forced Ainslie to attack. Reflecting on the final medal race when he needed a victory over his rival – effectively setting up and head-to-head- showdown – Ainslie said: “My match racing experience helped. It wasn’t quite the same as a clean match race but the skills and mentality of going one-on-one with your opponent certainly came into play.”
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Three-time Alpari World Match Racing Tour Champion, Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar knows what it’s like going head-to-head against fellow Brit Ainslie and is not surprised that he, along with sailors in several other Olympic fleet disciplines with a background in match racing, seized an advantage on the water.
Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar lost out to Ainslie in the 2010 Tour season but has since gone on to challenge for a record fourth Tour title this year. He said: “Aside from the women’s match racing event, three of the nine Olympic medal races had a strong element of match racing in there. Ben Ainslie took a gold in his Finn class whilst the two 470 matches were perhaps the purest examples of match racing amongst the fleet disciplines, as the two top teams already knew they had the silver going into the medal race.”
Jonas Hogh-Christenson was Ainslie’s focus during the Finn class medal race and the Dane was expecting the attention of Brit, saying afterwards: "It was a tough race, I knew he was going to come for me in the start. He did. I got him around the committee boat and put myself in a pretty good spot. I bailed when I wanted to and good a pretty good start.
Williams suggests that match racing experience may also play its part off-water: “In those instances, I think a lot of the advantage gained by sailors with match racing experience comes in the preparation as some of the guys wouldn’t do a great deal of match racing so the prospect of going head-to-head is something they wouldn’t be as familiar with.
“On the water, even if it is complicated by the presence of several other boats that are out there in a fleet race, additional experience is always of benefit. The fundamental techniques that a match racer learns in affecting your opponent, as well as recovering from unusual situations, became vital in the one-on-one encounters. That versatility from an experience across a variety of disciplines can really help.”
Speaking about the place of match racing in the Olympics and its ongoing inclusion, Williams, said:
“Match racing can take place so close to the shore and in view of the spectators, so it really fits with the Olympics as a spectacle. In the future I think it’d make a lot of sense to have a men’s as well as a women’s match racing event.
James Pleasance, Executive Director of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, supports a match racing presence in future Olympics, saying: “The women’s Olympic match racing was a great spectacle in Weymouth and we would really hope that ISAF include this discipline again in future years, as well as considering the men’s equivalent. Its potential is clear to see at every Alpari World Match Racing Tour event, which features some of the most spectator-friendly viewing of all sailing events.”
Ian Williams is now turning his attentions back to the Alpari World Match Racing Tour as he bids to secure his record-equalling fourth ISAF Match Racing World Championship this season. He currently sits second on the leaderboard behind Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team but knows that he can’t afford to drop points on his rival between the upcoming Match Race France and the season-finale, Monsoon Cup in December.
Williams, said: “Bjorn has the advantage going into the last few events and we’ll have to perform better than him in France as well as out in Malaysia at the Monsoon Cup, to take home the title. It’s a challenge but one that I still think we can rise to.
The world’s top match racers will arrive in Marseille shortly to begin preparations for Match Race France (24 – 29 September), where eight of the nine Tour Card Holders will compete alongside wildcard entries Tamara Echegoyen (ESP), Damien Iehl (FRA) Wind 2 Win and 2009 Tour Champion Adam Minoprio (NZL) Black Match, as well as qualifier, William Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing.
For a taster of the upcoming action, visit: http://www.youtube.com/worldmrt
Follow Match Race France action online at http://www.wmrt.com/live.html.
Tour regular Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt
Live event Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt_liverace
Match Race France – Competing Teams:
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
Tamara Echegoyen (ESP)
Simone Ferrarese (ITA) Ferrarese Racing Team
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team
Damien Iehl (FRA) Wind 2 Win
Laurie Jury (NZL) Kiwi Match
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Black Match
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team
Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing
William Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar