Den regerande Alpari World Match racing tour mästaren har målet klart för sig inför finalen i Malaysia. Om han vinner Monsoon Cup, tar han hem sin fjärde världsmästartitel.
Som regerande världsmästare skulle man kunna säga att Ian Williams har ett överläge mot sin största rival Björn Hansen. Dock har svensken gjort sin bästa säsong hittills och när det gäller inbördes möten är det Hansen som har övertaget. Britten Williams säger att hans lag är bättre i år än förra året men faktum kvarstår att de måste slå Hansen för att ta hem touren. Sailing Sweden har pratat med den regerande mästaren om hur han ska försvara titeln!
What's your take on your season so far?
We have obviously been very happy with our season so far. We have finished on the podium at five out of six events and we have been pretty consistent so we are satisfied with how it has gone.
In Match Race France you and Williams Tiller took the last spots for the quarter finals and then went on to face each other in the final. Is that a sign that that the margins have gotten smaller this year?
I think it’s less about this year specifically and more about how match racing events tend to work out. It’s often been the case the last few years that teams that do badly in the round robin quite often come through and then win the regatta. It has to do with the psychology and release of tension you get from getting through to the next round after being right on the edge of getting knocked out. Then you suddenly get a reprieve and often that allows you to sail a lot more freely later on in the regatta.
Many teams have stepped up their game and several young teams have done well this year. Do you feel that the level of competition is higher now?
I think it builds year on year to be honest. The techniques get more and more refined and when new guys come in they have a lot of energy and they learn quickly from the top teams. They use that youthful enthusiasm to step up another notch. When I started, that is certainly they way I felt racing against the top dogs at the time. We spent some time getting to their level and I would like to think that we have managed to move things a step further since then. I’m sure that is exactly what the youngsters are doing now.
Are you better this year than last year?
The key for us is to keep pace with the improvements and I certainly feel we have to be better this year than we were last season if we want to win again. We have stepped up our game but we are in second place so obviously we have to find another gear in Malaysia.
When we talked before the season you said that you would try to reach your top level earlier in the events and before it's do-or-die. Have you managed to do that?
Yes I think we have. Last year it felt like we had a bit of luck at important moments but this year it feels like the opposite has been true. I don’t think that luck has gone our way. Our performance has been a lot more even and solid but perhaps we need to find the edge that gives us more luck and takes us over the line as winners in more events.
One important match was in St. Moritz when Hansen beat you and took the last spot in the quarter finals.
Yes but it turned out not be so important since Björn was knocked out in the quarter final. I think that if he doesn’t win the championship this year he will look back at that as being the biggest missed opportunity. If he had gone on to win the event after beating us he would have had a huge lead at this point. It could have been crucial but luckily for us it wasn’t.
Does it feel like it will be do-or-die from the start in Malaysia?
There is a long list of big names that have gone out in the first round in Malaysia. We have and so has James Spithill, Adam Minoprio, Ben Ainslie, Sebastian Col and last year Torvar Mirsky. It’s important to keep your wits about you and to be focused right from the start.
And your task is more or less to end up ahead of Björn Hansen, do you agree?
Yes absolutely because whomever finishes ahead out of the two of us will more than likely win the World Championship. We will approach the event like we always do and try to win it. If we do win it we will be world champions in the end.
You and Hansen have had a couple of intense races this year. Is there any truth to calling you archrivals?
Well, I think certainly it has been like that this year. From Korea and onwards the rivalry has been very acute because it has been reasonably clear that the Tour would come down to the two of us. We have sailed against each other many times over the years and we have had some really big battles but this year they have taken on a new significance.
Hansen has an advantage in head-to head wins over you this season. If it comes down to a final between you and him, will that matter at all?
No, I think that is very much in the past. Also, if you look at the numbers over our careers I think that we probably have the advantage so it depends on what statistics you are looking at.
The thing about match racing is that the events are in very different venues and very different boats so it’s hard to relate one regatta to another. Statistics are fun to look at but I don’t think they have a huge impact on what actually happens. The different conditions at the events are more important and in Malaysia the tide will play a big part.
Other sailors have at least a theoretical chance of passing you. Are you worried about the sailors behind you on the scoreboard?
We certainly respect all of them. Our goal is to win the event and we have to beat all the others to do so. They have all beaten us at different times throughout the year and we will have to do our best. Still, the equation is pretty simple; if we win the event we win the World Title.
You have been in this situation before. Does it feel different now?
I think it’s quite similar. It always seems to come down to two or three teams every year that have a good chance of winning. Now it’s likely that it will come down to a race between Björn Hansen’s team and us at some point and it always seems to go that way. We are looking forward to it.
Nevertheless, you won the Monsoon Cup last year. Doesn't that give you an advantage?
Again I’m not sure if that is an advantage or not but our team has been in this situation a number of times before and that experience is surely going to help.
What are your other expectations for the final event?
We love the Monsoon Cup. We have been in Malaysia every year since it started in 2005 and we have won it twice. It’s never the same twice and conditions are always slightly different every year so we are really looking forward to getting back and learning what this year is going to give us.
We will head for Malaysia a bit early and do a bit of training against Johnie Berntsson before the regatta starts.
Will we se you back at Marstrand next year?
Yes absolutely, we have always loved Marstrand. Even back when we didn’t do so good a couple of years ago we still enjoyed the event.
Last question, are you going to win the title this year?
We will have to see about that but we will certainly be giving it our best shot.
Intervjuad av Fabian Bengtsson för Sailing Sweden