Created: 01 Dec 2010 13:07
Updated: 02 Dec 2010 02:20
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah officially flagged off the Monsoon Cup at the Ri-yaz Heritage & Spa Marina in Pulau Duyong here Wednesday.

As the battle begins at the 2010 Monsoon Cup the skippers are very much aware that on the World Match Racing scene there is a very narrow margin between winning and losing.

Whilst in so many other high level sports there is a degree of predictability, in the combative world of match racing anything can happen and frequently does.

Often the tiniest margin is the difference between success and failure. Some crews have struggled in the round robins but gone on to win, while for others it’s been the reverse.

Going into the final event of the 2010 World Match Racing Tour there are five skippers, Mathieu Richard (French Match Racing Team), Adam Minoprio (ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing Team), Ben Ainslie (TEAMORIGIN), Torvar Mirsky (Mirsky Racing Team) and Ian Williams (Team GAC Pindar) who have a mathematical chance of winning the 2010 Tour.

The permutations and combinations of which of the five skippers can win, depending on which other skipper does what in this very tightly contested 2010 World Match Racing Tour, takes half a page.

But let’s look behind the raw numbers …

When Britain’s Ian Williams won the 2006 Monsoon Cup and his second World Match Racing Tour title, he had been well placed on the first day of the round robins but had a horror second half, with a sequence of close umpiring calls going against him.

Williams was within a whisker of being bundled out and obviously distressed, he had to compose himself ahead of the end of day press conference. Compose himself he did and with tenacity and steel Williams went on to win the Monsoon Cup and the Tour Championship.

At last week’s Sunseeker Australia Cup in Perth, Western Australia, World Match Racing Tour leader Mathieu Richard, after winning three events this year, was seemingly relaxed but was defeated by 21st ranked New Zealander Phil Robertson. While Richard did not make the quarterfinals, Robertson went on to win the event.

In the 2009 Korea Match Cup, four times World Match Racing Champion Peter Gilmour (YANMAR Racing) was second in the round robins and looked like a likely winner. ‘Gilly’ chose the lowest ranked quarter finalist, Bjorn Hansen (Hansen Global Team) as his opponent and was beaten.

What happens?

Mathieu Richard commented this morning on his situation.

‘On the 2009 Tour we had many good round robins but we did not convert them into event wins.

‘At our end of year debrief we decided we had been sailing with too much intensity during the round robins and we had tired when it came to the quarters, the semis and the finals.

‘So this year we’ve been trying to relax a little and then step up for the business end of the regatta.

‘So far it’s been working. We have had three event wins; Match Race France, Match Cup Korea and in St. Moritz Switzerland, and we have the series lead.

‘Now our task is to stay relaxed and conserve energy in the early stages of this very important event, the Monsoon Cup, and win the important matches. That will not be so easy, there is a lot at stake and it will be hard not to get caught up in the excitement. But if we do, we can take the World Match Racing title.’

But it’s a different path for the 2009 World Match Racing Champion Adam Minoprio, who is currently second on the Tour and very keen to defend his crown.

With determination in his eyes Minoprio explained. ‘Our plan is very simple. Win the round robin series, choose Richard in the quarter finals and knock him out – that way our destiny is in our hands.’

Sounds easy if you say it fast.

This morning the 12 teams have assembled for the Round Robin.

The initial forecast for the first day of the five days of racing in Terengganu was for light 3-5 knot northerly winds and light rain, with little current in the river. However, its Monsoon season and by 11am this morning, the Monsoon squalls were bringing bucketing rain and winds from every direction. 30 minutes after the scheduled start time the racing is currently still delayed due to the heavy rain.

In the first flight of the day the young guns will fight it out - last year’s championship runner-up Torvar Mirsky (Mirsky Racing Team) and the 2009 World Champion Adam Minoprio (ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing Team).

Ian Williams (Team GAC Pindar), the 2006-2007 and 2008 World Match Racing Champion will sail against the man with most to lose, Mathieu Richard (French Match Racing Team).

Jeremy Koo (Koo Racing Team – Evernew), the Malaysian Match Racing Champion will take on Bjorn Hansen (Hansen Global Team), the Scandinavian Match Racing Champion from Sweden.

Peter Gilmour (YANMAR Racing), twice the Monsoon Cup champion, is pitched against Ben Ainslie and his TEAMORIGIN.

The question is – Which skipper will win the key matches needed to win the Monsoon Cup and secure this year’s ISAF World Match Racing Championship?

Time will tell.