St Moritz Match Race – French duo still capable of victory + Video

Richard will be looking to recreate his success at last year’s St Moritz Match Race - World Match Race Tour 2011
St Moritz Match Race, the sixth stage of the World Match Racing Tour, takes place on Lake St Moritz in the Engadin Valley from 30 August to 4 September 2011.

France can still win its first match racing world title in 17 years, according to the country’s elite performance coach. Marc Bouet, coach to the French Match Racing Team duo of Mathieu Richard and Damien Iehl, said the pair are still capable of victory in the World Match Racing Tour, the world’s premier match racing series.

Both skippers have shown sparks of brilliance on the racecourse this season but have yet to find the consistency needed to take the overall title. Currently languishing in seventh and eighth on the World Match Racing Tour leaderboard with only three events left, the pressure on Richard and Iehl to pull off some big results is ever increasing.

Bouet has admitted his boys, who currently trail overall leader Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing by 28 and 24 points respectively, haven’t been performing well enough on the Tour so far this season – but says they are still capable of a comeback. The last time a French team took the world title was back in 1994 when Bertrand Pace won the ISAF Match Racing World Championship.

'Obviously I am not happy with results so far this season but we have been very close most of the time,' said Bouet, a veteran match racer who skippered the French entry in the America’s Cup in 1987 and 1992 and attended all five Olympic Games between 1980 and 1996. 'No one team is totally dominant this year, the level is very similar. Our teams have not been sailing badly, but they haven’t been good enough. We are hoping for better results from the next two events in the run up to the Monsoon Cup.'

Bouet reckons results from the past few years of the World Match Racing Tour show that if you can win the final of the Monsoon Cup – the culminating stage of the Tour where points count for an extra 50 per cent – then you can snatch the overall title. One man who knows that all too well is Richard. The 35-year-old was dominant last season and led the standings for the majority of the Tour, only to fall foul of Ben Ainslie’s Teamorigin in the final of the Monsoon Cup, the overall Tour victory snatched from him in the dying moments.

As well as concentrating on getting their own campaigns back on track in St Moritz, Richard and Iehl will also have to contend with Tour leader Francesco Bruni and form skipper Ian Williams, both teams looking strong at the top of the Tour leaderboard.

'I hope that Mathieu and Damien can turn it round in the final few events of the Tour,' Bouet added. 'It also depends on how Francesco Bruni and Ian Williams go in the next couple of events because they are both in strong positions. Our goal now is to pick up as many points as possible in the next two events so we can to go to the Monsoon Cup with a good shot.'

Bouet also puts some of the misfortune down to plain bad luck. 'We have had a lack of luck so far this year,' he said, 'and we hope a better balance for the rest of the Tour. For example, in the first race of the Quarter Finals at Match Race Germany both French teams were leading with a huge advantage but then the wind died and they both lost. In Richard’s quarter final match against Bjorn Hansen at the Korea Match Cup four races were abandoned, one of them when Richard was four boat lengths ahead. Then in the deciding race Richard was again ahead when the wind died and Hansen came from nowhere to win.'

Iehl’s 2011 campaign – his first season on the World Match Racing Tour as a Tour Card Holder – got off to a blinding start with a home win at Match Race France, the opening stage of the Tour, but the 36-year-old has failed to make it past the Quarter Final stage at the following four events.

'I have long felt that Iehl’s team are capable of winning the Tour but obviously they are at a slight disadvantage because it is their first year as Tour Card Holders,' Bouet said. 'The knowledge of the boats and venues are the keys to winning if you look at the leaderboard. Differences are really very small and losing or winning is possible for each of the teams.'

The French Match Racing Team crews have been keeping busy during the lead-up to St Moritz Match Race, one of the three stages Richard won last year, with other sailing projects plus some well-earned holiday. Iehl’s bowman Francois Verdier and trimmer Devan Le Bihan, along with Richard’s bowman Christophe Andre, will be taking part in the America’s Cup World Series. When they reform ahead of the sixth stage of the Tour at the end of August Bouet thinks they will have an advantage due to their skill in smaller boats.

'We spend a lot of time training in J80s so we are a lot better in the smaller boats like the BLU26 class raced at St Moritz,' Bouet said. 'The Nordic and New Zealand teams train in bigger boats like the DS37 so they find those events easier. We’re looking for good results in the mountains.'

For all the latest World Match Racing Tour news, features, comment and analysis, visit the WMRT website.

2011 ISAF World Match Racing Tour Standings (After Stage 5):
1 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 81pts
2 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 74pts
3 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar - 71pts
4 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners – 59pts
5 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 59pts
6 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 57pts
7 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 57pts
8 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 53pts
9 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing – 39pts
10 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team - 34pts



St. Moritz Match Race website
World Match Racing Tour website