MATCH RACING – As the world’s top match racers arrive in Marseille for Match Race France this week, they embark on two crucial events in two weeks, which could transform the Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT) leaderboard ahead of the season-finale Monsoon Cup in December. Pierre-Antoine Morvan believes his Vannes Agglo Sailing Team can be one of the surprise packages.
Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team comes to his home regatta after a podium finish at the recent St. Moritz Match Race and a strong performance at last week’s final warm-up, Internationeaux de France de Match Racing in Pornichet, where he lost in the final to compatriot Mathieu Richard.
Morvan holds a Tour Card for the first time this year but has proved his abilities against the world’s top match racers, establishing joint third position in the overall Tour leaderboard. He now feels that a win at his favourite event of the season can set up an exciting showdown for the Tour title. He said: “We have been looking forward to this event, it will be a great feeling to sail the Alpari World Tour in France. We know the boats as we use the J80’s at home and we know the event from previous years.
“If we win Match Race France, we can start thinking about winning the whole Tour. Coming into our first full season we were targeting a top 5 finish. Now I think we can do a good event here and go to the Monsoon Cup aiming for the podium and challenging for the title hopefully.”
Twenty-five points are available to each the winner of Match Race France and the subsequent Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda (1-7 Oct) and should one team manage to win both, they could transform their season as Johnie Berntsson managed in the 2011 season, taking a podium finish at the last event of the season.
Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team went into last year’s final three events in mid-table but managed to take second place at both the Argo Group Gold Cup and Monsoon Cup, securing a third overall in the premier international sailing series. Having recorded a season-best fifth place at the recent St. Moritz Match Race and currently sitting in eighth position on the leaderboard, he is hoping that he can recreate that late run of results once again. He said: “I’m expecting us to finish strongly again this year, perhaps even more so than last year. It is still wide open this season I think, there are a few teams that could come through to challenge and we’re one of them.
“I think you could say we’ve been a bit unlucky in some of the events this year. We’ve been knocked out three times by the eventual winners in Quarter Finals after performing well in qualifying rounds so there isn’t too much to change.
“We had a three year goal when we started and we did that in our first full year, last year. Now the challenge is to be at the top of the podium and we’ll do as well as we can now [Match Race France] and in Bermuda to put us in the best possible position going into the Monsoon Cup.
“I’m lucky that I have nine guys in this team so my crew will go back to Sweden from here and we have another set-up that will go out to Bermuda before I get there. We’ll be in a good position compared to some of the teams who are competing in both and the guys out in Bermuda will hopefully help me through the jet lag!”
Match Race France sees wildcard entries from local favourite and 2011 event winner, Damien Iehl (FRA) Wind 2 Win, former ISAF Match Racing World Champion Adam Minoprio (NZL) Black Match and recent Women’s Elliot 6m Olympic Champion, Tamara Echegoyen (ESP) Echegoyen Team.
Gold medallist Echegoyen is excited about taking on the world’s top match races and thinks her team can really hone their abilities amongst a world class professional field. She said: “The Olympics was a great experience and something that made me very happy.
“This is the a very different challenge and it’s the first time I’ve entered a men’s event at this level. It’ll definitely be a challenge and one I can really learn a lot from every day. It’ll be really good for our development.
“I am expecting that perhaps the racing will be slightly more aggressive and with the bigger boats, it is likely to be a bit more physical than we are used to. Let’s see how we get on.”
Preparations for Match Race France (24 – 29 September) were put on hold after today’s practice session was cancelled due to strong wind. Eight of the nine Tour Card Holders are competing in the sixth stage of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour and will take to the water tomorrow for Qualifying.