Johan Bäckman, Johnie Berntsson, Daniel Wallberg and Björn Lundgren celebrate winning the King Edward VII Gold Cup with RBYC Commodore Ralph Richardson
The World Match Racing Tour has announced a new invite policy for the 2009 season that rewards skippers and teams with guaranteed entries on the series for next year, “This is an unprecedented change in the way the World Tour provides entries to its events” explained Craig Mitchell, World Tour Director “for the first time, skippers and teams will have a clear path to win the World Championship, and to guarantee to their sponsors a schedule of participation”
An ongoing problem for match race teams is how to get an opportunity to play the game and advance in the rankings, since competition is on an invitation only basis. And invitations have been in the specific control of the organizers and promoters of individual events. The Tour model which supplies boats and allows teams to simply show up and compete has always been compelling for match racers, hence the high demand for invites from all around the world.
For 2009 the World Tour has updated its policy for how invitations are extended to World Tour events. It is hoped that this new policy will be a vast improvement on the prior guidelines given to event organizers, and should both enable teams to better plan their season of competition and also for events to know in advance who will be competing and how best to leverage this for promotion and for sponsor fulfillment purposes.
This policy specifies that based on a 10-event schedule, and a 12-team format in the competition, that 8 invitations will be allocated by the World Tour, 2 invitations to winners of qualifying events, and 2 or more wildcard invites will go to each event promoter based on their format – for example, with a 16 team format the event would have 6 wildcards.
For the allocation of the 8 invitations from the World Tour, a new concept has also been introduced this year called the “World Tour Card” (WTC). The scheme is that 8 WTC’s will be issued to teams which guarantees them an invitation to all but the final event. Teams with WTC’s may compete in but not qualify at Qualifier events, and if invitations are not used they will revert back to the Tour for re-allocation.
Of these 8 WTC’s, the distribution will be made up as follows: four will go to the top four teams from the previous year’s World Tour leader board; two will go to the top two teams on the ISAF Match Race Ranking List, and two will go to the Tour for its choice of teams that will demonstrate a commitment to attend and promote World Tour events.
For teams that don’t get one of the 8 Tour Cards they will still be able to get invites through either an event wildcard or at one of the 18 qualifying events that feed into the World Tour events. “This is a great step forward for both us, our sponsors and the World Tour “ explained Sébastien Col, skipper for the French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge “The World Tour is a critical part of our efforts and training to win the America’s Cup and now we know which events we can plan for in 2009”
Besides the promotional and planning benefits of this new policy, there will be incentive for teams to participate on the Tour since the top four in the World Championships and top 2 ISAF ranked skippers will be guaranteed the issuance of a WTC for the next year’s schedule