WMRT Monsoon Cup lives up to its name

Bjorn Hansen and Jesper Radich battle the conditions at the Monsoon Cup - WMRT Monsoon Cup 2011
© Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images
Monsoon Cup 2011, the final stage of the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT), qualifying round was held today, 23 November, in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.

Bjorn Hansen finished the opening Qualifying Session at the top of the standings on a day in which the event dramatically lived up to its name after 40 knots of wind and torrential rain swept across Kuala Terengganu.

If the opening Qualifying Session is about gaining early confidence and momentum then Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team did just that, posting an overnight 3-0 scoreline. After wins against Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners, current Tour leader Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar, Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing, he said: 'It’s a good start for us - having 3 points is always good and great for confidence. We’ve seen everything except the sun today and needed a bit of luck to pull through against Jesper [Radich] where he made a mistake but we’ll happily take it!'

Hansen sits 31 points behind Williams in the overall World Match Racing Tour standings, a gap which is mathematically possible to close and not too different from last year when eventual World Champion Ben Ainslie trailed Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team by 29 points going into the Monsoon Cup. Hansen will have noticed Williams got off to a poor start today too, the Brit losing both his matches.

Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team was the only other skipper to post an undefeated score with two wins from two matches. Fortunately for him, the howling wind and rain had subsided by the time he took to the water: 'We aren’t sailing perfectly but two wins is two wins and every point here is important. The conditions were perfect for us. We’re happy we got to wait until now to race! In the conditions like this morning it’s all about those who like them the most as they’ll be the ones who win.'

One man who relishes such conditions is Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing. He was one of four teams to get a match under their belts in the morning’s treacherous conditions, defeating Williams in what could be a pivotal match in the Championship race. The four-time Match Racing World Champion, who finished the day on 2-1, commented: 'It was damn exciting out there this morning, it was on the edge and it was extreme. It was the first big blast of the Monsoon this year and all the teams out there were at the limit of their capacity to keep the boats going.

'I don’t think today was beyond the limit, I commend the race committee for continuing racing. The umpires kept up with the boats so they didn’t lose sight of anyone and the boats were staying on the right course so I think it was appropriate to keep racing.

'Strong conditions make sailing come alive. Just look at the start of this year’s Volvo Ocean Race and the America’s Cup World Series event in Plymouth.'

The day finished in stark contrast to how it opened, with light winds forcing the abandonment of the final flight. It was, though, a fascinating day in which the testing weather conditions made the teams graft hard with the scoreboard interestingly poised for tomorrow’s racing.

The second Qualifying Session will begin with the World Match Racing Tour Morning Show followed by racing from 10:00 (GMT+8) on Thursday 24 November 2011. Live coverage continues from 15:00 to 17:00 (GMT +8) online.

Results after Qualifying Session One:
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team 3-0
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 2-0
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 2-1
Will Tiller (NZL) Full Metal Jacket Racing 2-1
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing 1-0
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat 1-0
Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners 1-2
Phil Robertson (NZL) Team China powered by WAKA Racing 1-2
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team 0-1
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 0-2
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar 0-2
Jeremy Koo (MAS) Abdullah Chan/KRT 0-3

Overall Championship Standings – after seven stages:
1 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar – 106pts
2 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing – 100pts
3 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat – 99.8pts
4 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing – 78.8pts
5 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team – 75pts
6 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 74pts
7 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team – 73.2pts
8 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners – 71.2pts
9 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team – 69.6pts
10 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing – 64.4pts

Monsoon Cup website
World Match Racing Tour website