Twelve skippers ranging in talent, age and experience are headed to Yacht Club Pointe Rouge, Southern France this week for the official start of the 2010 World Match Racing Tour (WMRT). Much anticipated by fans and sailors alike, the first of this 10 event global series starts in Marseille and will count towards points for the ultimate prize of becoming the 2010 ISAF World Match Racing Champion. The question on everyone’s lips this April is, who will be the favourite to win “Match Race France”?
With a daunting line up of skippers including seasoned World Champions, Olympic medal holders and adrenalin-fuelled youngsters, any skipper lining up to perform pre-start tactics will have to be confident of their match racing prowess and boat handling abilities onboard the J80 yachts. Tipped to win and “dark horse of the Tour” is new entrant, Francesco Bruni (ITA) who has recently won the Congressional Cup, while competitors should pay note of re-emerging helms such as Bertrand Pacé racing on the waters of his home nation.
All teams including the new wild card entries will be up against the 2010 Tour Card Holders: Adam Minoprio (NZL), Torvar Mirsky (AUS), and Ben Ainslie (GBR) who finished in the top 3 standings during the 2009 Tour and have been actively training with their chosen teams prior to Match Race France.
Italian match racer, Francesco Bruni (ITA) is the newest world-class sailor to the World Match Racing Tour line up and is a favourite to win at Marseille. Having already completed an outstanding dinghy and yacht racing career with Olympic representation in 3 disciplines and podium placing in the Farr 40 and Melges fleets, Bruni is now skipper for Azzurra Team, the Italian America’s Cup team which is making convincing wins at match race events.
Bruni will be up against France’s Bertrand Pacé, a legend in the world of match racing, who has had a break of five years from the WMRT. Pacé is one of the few to receive a 2010 Tour Card so is guaranteed to race in at least 6 of the Tour events this year. Competing skippers will be contending against his illustrious sailing career which won the WMRT Champion in 2000, multiple Tour de France à la Voile victories and an amazing 6 America’s Cup campaigns to date.
Seen as the “sailing hub of Southern France” Marseille offers excellent match racing conditions with excellent spectator opportunities. The J80 will provide a lively model for the skippers to race. A small keelboat launched by J Boats Company, the style works for dinghy sailors as well as big boat racers making tight boat manoeuvring during the pre-start achievable for all skippers. The cockpit is also spacious for the four person crew to perform their jobs to the best of their ability, involving constant alteration of sails, body weight and vantage points to see the competing boat’s next move. The J80’s will be raced asymmetrically for this event so it will be interesting to see if those skippers who have previous asymmetric experience will have an advantage on the downhill legs.
The skipper to win the first event of this leading professional sailing series will come down to an interaction of factors said Peter Gilmour, Acting President of World Match Racing Tour. “Match Race France is a competition that any of the 12 teams could win. We have seen a range of different forms of pre-Tour preparation this year and it will be interesting for the whole sailing community to see if hard training over the winter period with previously selected teams as a strategy wins over those re-freshed by an absence from relentless global regattas”.
Match Race France, Official Skipper Line Up:
Adam Minoprio (NZL) BlackMatch
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Sébastien Col (FRA) ALL4ONE
Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Italia
Philippe Presti (FRA) French Match Racing Team
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Azzurra
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA)
Bertrand Pacé (FRA) Aleph Sailing Team
Gian Luca Perri (MON)