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Britain's Ian Williams notches up a good week


It’s been a good week for Britain’s Ian Williams and his team, GAC Pindar. He had only to win his quarter final, against the Italian Francesco Bruni, in the World Match Racing Tour Monsoon Cup finale to score enough points to win the 2011 World Match Racing Tour and, as new world champion, take the US$100,000 prize money.

He went on to beat Denmark’s Jesper Radich in the semi-final and guarantee himself $60,000 even if he were the losing finalist. Instead he boosted that to a second US$100,000 cheque by beating Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson and kept for Britain the Monsoon Cup won by Ben Ainslie last year and by Williams himself in 2004. He also became the first to lift a new trophy created by Garrard for the series winner, presented by former prime minister of Malaysia Tun Abdullah Badawi .

He had said earlier: “We are here to win the Monsoon Cup” and so kept the lid on any celebrations until the job was done. The crew, fellow-Brit Gerry Mitchell, two Americans, current Etchells world champion Bill Hardesty and San Diegan Matt Cassidy, plus Tasmanian Mal Parker, has won every event it has contested.

Not always the most demonstrative of winners, even Williams temporarily abandoned the reserve of his lawyer training, hugged his crew, and strode smiling down the dock. From three straight losses at the start of the round robin he had grown in strength and authority.

He had won the first two races of the final comfortably and looked set to pick up the third win he needed when Berntsson attacked late in the pre-start manoeuvres, forcing a penalty. The start box was small and very close to the shore as the crews fought tooth and nail to commandeer the heavily favoured tight hand side of the track.

The crashing and banging continued into the fourth race, but this time it was Berntsson who upset the umpires. Accompanied by strident whistles, up went the flag, down went Berntsson’s last chance.

The third place play off went to Radich over Australia’s Peter Gilmour, who was immediately targeted by Williams. Gilmour, the tour president, has four world match race titles. “We really have to come back next year and try to match that,” said Williams.  

In Cape Town, Spain’s Telefonica, skippered by Olympic gold and silver medallist Iker Martinez, sealed an impressive win on the first leg of the Volvo round the world race from Alicante. The conventional wisdom that whoever wins the first leg will go on to win the whole event will doubtless appeal to Martinez.

But chasing him home, and showing an impressive turn of speed, was the second Spanish entry, Camper, a project managed by Team New Zealand and skippered by an Australian, Chris Nicholson.

Expected on Tuesday is Franck Cammas and Groupama, which took a lonely early decision to plug south along the African coast instead of striking west into the Atlantic in search of the trade winds, which Camper soon decided to do and paid for the bail-out.

But Cammas was let off what could have been an even more painful hook as the other three competing yachts, first Abu Dhabi’s Azzam, skippered by British Olympian Ian Walker, then China’s Sanya, skippered by 2004-05 winner Mike Sanderson, and finally America’s Puma, with Kenny Read at the helm, were hit by major damage and had to retire.