More recently, Sweden’s home-grown talent has prevailed in Björn Hansen, long dubbed the ‘Master of Marstrand’, who has won his country’s premier match racing event no less than five times, four consecutively over 2012-15. Hansen is one of the few of the ‘old guard’ to return to Marstrand this year, along with fellow Swede Johnnie Berntsson, who although he has never made a Match Cup Sweden final is a two-time winner of the Tour’s equally iconic Bermuda Gold Cup event.
Hansen admits that it has been a while (seven years) since he last competed on a World Match Racing Tour event, but two weeks ago in Finland he competed at the NJK Open Spring Cup match racing event and, reassuringly, won it. So, is it like riding a bike? “Luckily yes, although we have had to learn the new rules,” he says. Nonetheless he is under no illusion of his team’s chances at this years’ GKSS Match Cup Sweden: “We are going there to have fun and meet and compete with old friends. Still, when you get into the starting box you always want to win, and we will be disappointed if we get no points. We hope to do okay!”
While Hansen’s past victories in Marstrand were on board the DS37 monohull, this year tweaky, faster, asymmetric-rigged Fareast 28Rs are being used. Hansen says his team has sailed them a little – first at the Monsoon Cup in 2016 and more recently in Sweden.
Part of the ‘Master of Marstrand’s success here in previous years has also been aided by the encouragement of his fan club. Every year he has competed, a loyal group of fans have perched high on the cliff (or ‘Hansen Hill’ as it was named many) to support the team. “I hope they will be there,” Hansen muses. “We have had some contact with them, and they are ready to cheer us on again.”
However, this year’s GKSS Match Cup Sweden has another favourite. Few have arrived in Sweden better prepared than American Chris Poole and his Riptide Racing team. Currently #1 in the world match racing rankings, Poole finished the Congressional Cup in April unbeaten – no mean feat given the event’s premier status on the World Match Racing Tour. Poole has arrived early in Sweden and has put in two days of training on the Far East 28s. The smallest chink in the Poole armour is that he is lacking two of his regular crew, however when one of the replacements is Kyle Langford, America’s Cup winning crewman and former Volvo Ocean Race sailor, he shouldn’t have too much to fear.
Poole explains why his team is top of the pile currently: “In 2020 we took a different approach as I got more support, and I could get guys with the right mentality and experience who would take my skill set to the next level. Then it was just about having constant focus, which we got from Mal Parker, my primary trimmer who was saying ‘if we are going to do this campaign, we have to treat it like an America’s Cup and there is a mentality you have to have. He has seen a lot and he knows which formula works.”
This will be Poole’s first time match racing in Marstrand. “It will be exciting. It is a tight harbour and there is some decent competition, including some of the old Swedish teams. Marstrand is a natural amphitheatre and an amazing stadium. It’s also midsummer with everyone on holiday so the Island will be busy with spectators.“
Beyond Hansen, Poole reckons his main competition will be Jeppe Borch and Nick Egnot-Johnson. From Denmark, 25-year-old Borch continues his nation’s strong match racing tradition that has included the likes of Jesper Bank, Jes Gram-Hansen and Jesper Radich and while he has yet to win a Grade 1 event, it is just a matter of time, having made the Congressional Cup final in April. Similarly, Nick Egnot-Johnson is flying the match racing flag for New Zealand and as defending World Match Racing Tour champion and having finished third at the Congressional Cup, his Knots Racing team will also be a contender next week.
Another long-term World Match Racing Tour competitor returns in Switzerland’s Eric Monnin, currently ranked #2 in the World behind Poole, after his Capvis Swiss Match Racing Team last week won the OM International Ledro Match Race in Italy. Last year Monnin won the EUROSAF Match Racing Open Grade 1 event in Italy and in 2019 won the Sopot Match Cup in Poland.
One of the joys of GKSS Match Cup Sweden is seeing a new generation of match racers competing and occasionally winning races from the old guard. On Lake Ledro last week, Monnin won the final 3-0 from 26-year-old Italian Rocco Attili, who, ranked #12 in the world, is also in the Marstrand line-up. Like his Danish counterpart Jeppe Borch, Attili is posting increasingly good results with a team that is already nine years old and with European and Italian youth match racing titles to their credit.
Meanwhile from Sweden is 22-year-old Oscar Engström, a former Swedish youth champion who is now working his way up the match racing ladder to ever higher grade events with his Team Liros.
But the youngest competitor next week is the USA’s Jeffrey Petersen, 21, who has already asserted his impressive credentials as the reigning US and World Youth Match Racing Champion and currently ranked #9 in the world. Petersen’s Golden State Match Racing team finished 4th at the OM International Ledro last weekend before heading to Marstrand for their first ever Match Cup Sweden.
Completing the lineup from Estonia is Matti Sepp, who, has been match racing sporadically since 2008 and with his Clean Energy Sailing Team won last year’s Porto Montenegro Match Race. Sepp also runs his own event on the World Match Racing Tour, the Baltic Match Race in Estonia, 20-24 September.
Of GKSS Match Cup Sweden, Project Manager Mattias Rahm, a former winner of the event himself in 2008 added: “We are delighted to be back on the World Match Racing Tour after the pandemic years. Marstrand really is made for match racing with its natural amphitheatre and we are pleased to welcome back a line-up of world class match racers including Chris Poole, world champion Nick Egnot-Johnson and five-time winner Björn Hansen. Björn will definitely give the younger teams a fight. But can young spirit can beat experience?”
We will find out over 4-8 July.
GKSS Match Cup Sweden Entries:
- Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing
- Jeppe Borch (DEN) Team Borch Matchrace
- Eric Monnin (SUI) Capvis Swiss Match Race Team
- Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL) KNOTS racing
- Jefferey Petersen (USA) Golden State Match Racing
- Rocco Attili (ITA) RBYS Match/Team Racing
- Mati Sepp (EST) EESTI MATCH RACE LIIT
- Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team
- Björn Hansen (SWE)
- Oscar Engström (SWE)
WORLD MATCH RACING TOUR
Founded in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) promotes the sport of match racing around the world and is the longest running global professional series in the sport of sailing. The WMRT is awarded ‘Special Event’ status by the sport’s world governing body – World Sailing – and the winner of the WMRT each year is crowned World Sailing Match Racing World Champion. Previous champions include Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR), Taylor Canfield (USA), Peter Gilmour (AUS), Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Peter Holmberg (ISV), Adam Minoprio (NZL), Torvar Mirsky (AUS), Bertrand Pace (FRA), Jesper Radich (DEN), Phil Robertson (NZL) and Ian Williams (GBR). Since 2000, the World Match Racing Tour and its events have awarded over USD23million in prize money to sailors which has helped to contribute to the career pathway of many of today’s professional sailors. www.wmrt.com