WMRT Monsoon Cup – Williams defeats Berntsson in dramatic final

Ian Williams with both the Monsoon Cup and the World Match Racing Tour trophy at the Monsoon Cup 2011.
SubZero Images/Monsoon Cup
WMRT Monsoon Cup, the final of the World Match Racing Tour’s finale event in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia was held today, 27 November, 2011. Ian Williams has added the Monsoon Cup to his third ISAF Match Racing World Champion crown after the British sailor defeated Johnie Berntsson 3-1.

The double is a feat Williams first achieved in 2007 and is the second consecutive year a British sailor has won both the Monsoon Cup and the World Championship after Ben Ainslie in 2010. Speaking after his victory, the British skipper of Team GAC Pindar, said: 'This really tops off a terrific season! We couldn’t let our emotion run too high yesterday because we were so focused on winning today. We came here to win and to take the World Championship yesterday and then this today, it’s just superb.

'The team has done so well, we are a new team who have come together and just got stronger and stronger all year. We won all three regattas on five man boats so I think that just shows the strength of the team.'

Berntsson’s run to the final of the Monsoon Cup capped a strong late season Championship surge for the Swede after sitting near the bottom of the overall standings for the best part of the season. He now finishes in third place in the overall Championship just behind Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing. Berntsson, who skippers Berntsson Sailing Team, said: 'We didn’t push Ian as hard as we wanted today and when you sail the World Champion when he’s at his best it’s always going to be hard! We are really happy with the way we sailed here but obviously are disappointed not to win the final.

'Our three year goal was to make the podium so we’re going to have to throw that out now! We never expected to make the goal in one year! Now we will have to go away, set a new goal and come back next year to do even better.'

The odds were heavily stacked against Berntsson who held only a 22% win rate against Williams this season going into the Monsoon Cup. Such was the preference for the right side of the course, the final became all about winning it. In the first match after Williams had trapped Berntsson against the Race Committee boat, the Brit accelerated ahead up to the first mark leaving Berntsson with no other option than to follow in the Brit’s turbulent air. Williams continued to lead which he extended to make it 1-0.

The next match was almost a carbon copy of the first, Williams with a clean start forcing Berntsson to trail up the right of the course in the Brit’s bad air. Again, a faultless Williams extended his lead around the three lap course to leave himself just one win from winning the Monsoon Cup.

It was do or die for Berntsson and it showed. A frantic re-start ensued, both boats desperate for the right. Berntsson pushed Williams to the line and after both boats tacked to port Williams, as the giveway windward boat, had to keep clear but pushed Berntsson into the Race Committee boat. A red flag was added to his penalty as the umpires ruled the Brit had gained a controlling position. After Williams had taken his immediate penalty, Berntsson had snatched the lead which he maintained to the finish.

Williams wasn’t about to let this one slip. Earlier in the day he said how much better it felt to win his first World Championship in 2007 compared to his second in 2008 when he failed to do the double after Peter Gilmour won the Monsoon Cup. As Berntsson and Williams approached the start line of the next match, the Swede luffed but went too far and fell onto a port tack. As the giveway boat, he needed to keep clear of Williams but instead he smacked into him, landing a penalty. Berntsson then tried to cross Williams’ bow to get to the right but Williams blocked him with an aggressive luff. That forced him back out to the left leaving Williams with the prized right again. Berntsson couldn’t pull it back with Williams extending his lead throughout to win his second Monsoon Cup.

Earlier in the day, the last semi-final between Williams and Radich was wrapped up with a 3-1 win for the Brit, leaving a petit final between Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners and Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing. Gilmour would’ve snatched third place in the Championship with a win however Radich put in two consummate performances to prevail 2-0 leaving the Dane with sixth place and Gilmour with fifth place in the Championship.

Reflecting on the season, Gilmour said: 'It’s been an unusual year as we usually win one event. You can go up and down so fast – in the end, we were within one race of coming third on the Tour. Now we just need to bring our game up to the next level because the level on the Tour is stepping up and up each year. Just look at young guys like William Tiller coming into a competition like this and doing so well - it’s great to see the next generation coming up.'

Meanwhile, Radich offered his take on the season: 'Overall I’m happy with the way the team has sailed. We probably sailed our best as a team at this event and at the first event of the year.

'This season I’ve realised the Tour has reached a professional level and to keep up with that level you have to make it your only focus. If you want to be successful you need to be truly successful and be able to put a solid crew together early on and spend a lot of time practicing together to create a good atmosphere on board. Ian [Williams] has demonstrated how important this is.'

Jim O’Toole, CEO of the World Match Racing Tour, concluded the season, by saying: 'The Monsoon Cup brings one of the closest fought World Match Racing Tour seasons ever to a dramatic close. The event promoters and teams have again raised the standard both on and off the water and deserve a well-earned break while the Tour management is busy planning for next season.'

Final Monsoon Cup Standings
1 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar
2 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
3 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners
4 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
5 Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing
6 Phil Robertson (NZL) Team China powered by WAKA Racing
7 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team
8 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing
9 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat
10 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
11 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team
12 Jeremy Koo (MAS) Abdullah Chan / KRT

Final World Championship Standings
1 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar – 144pts
2 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 112pts
3 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team – 106.2pts
4 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 105.8pts
5 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 102.8pts
6 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners – 99.2pts
7 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 90pts
8 Phil Robertson (NZL) Team China powered by WAKA Racing – 74.4pts
9 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 74pts
10 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 72.6pts

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