Stena Match Cup: Knocked-out Ian Williams forced to sit by and watch semi-finalists race in Marstrand's sunshine and good winds


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The Independent Online

Ian Williams is not a happy man. The reigning world match race champion and his Team GAC Pindar crashed out of the Stena Match Cup at the quarter-final stage and then had to watch as the semi-finalists enjoyed brilliant, even testing breezes.

First to make one of Saturday’s final berths was Kiwi Phil Robertson, who beat Australia’s Keith Swinton but local hero Bjorn Hansen was pushed hard for his 3-2 win over Italy’s Simone Ferrarese, who managed to pick up the buoy marking a gate and drag it nearly half a mile through the finish of his final race.  

Marstrand is regarded as the Alpari World Match Racing Tour’s equivalent to Monaco on the Formula 1 calendar. While Gothenberg was shut by early morning fog, the little island 40 miles north was bathed in sunshine and the rocks were crowded around what is a brilliant natural amphitheatre.

Over 100,000 extra visitors take the two-minute ferry across from the mainland during the week and the number has not dwindled in what is the 13 year of this regatta. Williams apart, the competitors are happy, the tour organisers are happy, and sponsor Alpari’s global head of marketing, Chantelle Johnson says it is the “flagship” of the events she has seen so far.

Alpari is a foreign exchange online trading platform with a deal running trough to the end of the 2016 season, something which tour ceo James Pleasance says brings stability and endorsement at a time when the sailing world is suffering large doses of being a precariat. Earlier this year the St. Moritz event had to be dropped when the local organiser – the tour is run almost as a franchise – ran into financial difficulties. Johnson would like to see emerging markets as disparate as Latin America – maybe Mexico – and China fill any gaps in the calendar.

Pleasance says there have been unexpected benefits from the partnership, not least that expertise that Alpari brings as an online trading company which exploits the use of what are called social media. Both want to expand their audiences.

At a time when the America’s Cup and its teams have struggled to attract sponsorship – “it’s a tough market out there,” says Pleasance – the tour has survived a transition from being the training ground for America’s Cup crews to being a training ground for young talent as the AC switched to multihulls.

“We pushed on with what we’re good at, we have delivered consistently, and stuck by our business model,” said Pleasance. Malaysian businessman Patrick Lim, who bought the tour, and its president, retired competitor Peter Gilmour, have left the day-to-day running more and more in the hands of Pleasance and his team.

“If the opportunity to expand appears, we will take it,” says Pleasance, who is keeping an eye on the AC, especially if the event reverts to monohulls and a new partnership could be forged with the holder.

Alpari, which also sponsors West Ham football club, thinks that they have moved into sailing at exactly the right time. “Trading volumes have increased significantly this year,” says Johnson, “The recovery is happening.”