Match Race France, the first event of the 2010 World Match Racing Tour, set sail in Marseilles today with Australian young gun Torvar Mirsky taking an early lead and the only skipper to be unbeaten in four races.
But the surprise of the day was wildcard entry, Gian Luca Perris from Monaco. Mediterranean style conditions - shifty winds of only 7–10 knots - in the Bay of Marseille dominated the morning's two flights. These proved to the liking of Perris, who surprised not only himself but also the high profile Tour Card Holders, getting off to a strong start going 2 nil up against World Match Racing Tour leader Adam Minoprio and TeamOrigin skipper and quadrupal Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie.
The newest European match racing star and also owner of a successful cosmetics and perfumery company talked through his strong start to Match Race France: “I started sailing J/24s for leisure and my friendship with pro crews who are regulars on the international match racing circuit motivated me into trying to secure a spot to race within the World Match Racing Tour”. This move from amateur sailing into professional racing was only three years ago and judging from today’s results was a good decision. “Today has been the highlight of my sailing career. It has been our dream to compete at a World Match Racing Tour event”.
After two flights the wind dropped and racing was postponed with competitors returning to the shore. It only resumed in the afternoon by which time conditions had taken an unpredicted change as the temperature suddenly dropped, rain clouds rolled in and the wind increased to 15 knots from the northwest. Racing quickly restarted.
Having won his two matches in the morning, Mirsky, continued his winning streak and his consistency, despite the conditions. “I have really dedicated my training over the last year to hone my boat handling skills with my Mirsky Racing Team so we are both effective in light and strong winds," he explained afterwards. "This is our strength at the moment as normally sailors from the southern hemisphere struggle in the Mediterranean-style variable conditions. I feel confident for tomorrow as we are not worried about the forecast which can be a huge psychological barrier for a lot of helms to overcome”.
He added: "We were just glad to actually start racing on the tour again. To have four wins on the first day also feels good. We want to keep improving our team from last year, keep our momentum up. This year we are confident we can mix it with anyone. This is a tricky event - I think these boats and conditions are different from our typical world tour regattas. They are smaller boats, with a powerful spinnaker, and in the sea. Marseille can deliver some rough waves and strong winds, where most of our match racing is generally in larger boats with fewer breezes."
Tomorrow the forecast is for 11 knots from the north for early morning, veering round to the northwest by late afternoon as the wind again moderates to 6 knots. But, as today demonstrated, the regional variables could produce anything.
Day 1: Current Round Robin Standings
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team 4-0
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN 4-1
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team 3-3
Adam Minoprio (NZL) BlackMatch 2-2
Gian Luca Perris (MON) 2-0
Bertrand Pacé (FRA) Aleph Sailing Team 1-1
Philippe Presti (FRA) French Match Racing Team 1-1
Sébastien Col (FRA) ALL4ONE 1-1
Francesco Bruni (ITA) Azzurra Racing 1-2
Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Italia 1-2
Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing 0-3
Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) 0-4
From Gilles Martin-Raget/www.martin-raget.com
From Gilles Morrelle/www.gillesmorelle.com