Sunday, 21 December 2008

Gilmour's Path to Match Race Success

Gilmour en route to success in the Monsoon Cup 2008. Image copyright Sander van der Borch.

by Tracey Johnstone

Peter Gilmour’s pathway to Monsoon Cup champion in the ninth and final event of the 2008 World Match Racing Tour was littered with distractions and surprising results.

As late as October Gilmour and his TBest event management team were still bedding down the event details. In his role as Race Advisor, Gilmour led the team through two months of frantic preparations ultimately delivering a brilliant event both on the water and on the land.

Taking off his event management cap, Gilmour then put on his match racing cap as he faced down 11 international match racing teams in the deciding event of the 2008 ISAF Match Racing World Championship which carried the extra pressure of a one and half points scoring system.

“Because it’s the final event of the year I think most of the teams get very wrapped up with winning the worlds or positioning themselves for 2009 for a tour invitation card, whereas I was focusing on the event. As the week wears on a lot of their nervous energy and thinking time, goes into that,” Gilmour said.

Gilmour and his Yanmar Racing team had little time to prepare themselves for the Monsoon battle coming together from various parts of the world for the five-day event and they had, unlike many of the other Monsoon Cup teams, previously only competed in two tour events of the 2008 World Match Racing Tour; the Korea Match Cup and Match Cup Sweden.

In the Round Robin stage Gilmour and his Yanmar Racing Team won only five of his matches; against Mathieu Richard, Johnnie Berntsson, Ben Ainslie, Keith Swinton and Nurul Ain bt.Md Isa.

“Ben Ainslie probably surprised me for not getting through. I thought he was going to go well. He had a fairly good team there. It also surprised me that both Adam (Minoprio) and Torvar (Mirsky) did so well. You expect one of them, but for both to go through to the semis and beyond, is exceptional.”

Both Mirsky and Minoprio trained hard before the start of the Monsoon Cup. Mirsky entertained Mathieu Richard and Ian Williams in Perth for a training camp, while Minoprio competed in the New Zealand national match racing championship. Gilmour however continued to spend most of his time on the land managing the Asian and Malaysian Match Racing Championships, and overseeing the final details of the Monsoon Cup preparations.

“One of the things I’ve noticed in match racing is sometimes when you do an event immediately the week before and somebody comes in afresh, more often than not the fresh sailors do better. The thinking, the effort, the work does drain on people. The most dramatic example of this is the America’s Cup!”

Up against four teams, all with five wins each, vying for the remaining three quarter-final stage qualification, Gilmour slipped into the next stage on a count-back. His challenger was world number two, Sebastien Col. Col’s French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge team pushed Gilmour at every point of the matches, but with steely determination and a jury decision going his way, Gilmour came out of this stage up three matches to Col’s two.

The semi-final stage was against another Australian, Torvar Mirsky. By this stage Gilmour and his team seemed to have found their stride leaving behind the distractions of collecting the committee boat anchor chain in previous pre-starts and the dramatic jury technical decision. He won three straight matches to move into the final.

In the final stage, matched against the much-younger New Zealander Adam Minoprio, Gilmour stamped his dominance on the event by using his understanding of the tricky local sailing conditions and ensuring perfect timing in the pre-starts to win three matches against Minoprio’s one.

Gilmour’s success in the Monsoon Cup came from two very important approaches to his program. Firstly there was his crew who “did a great job of working hard to say look, come back and concentrate on the sailing as well” and then there was his ability to mentally and physically focus at the key moments of the event.

“The closer it gets to the finals the greater the capacity there is to take on and take in all the inputs and be very clear in what you need. It’s just an experience thing that really comes to that. I try to be better at the back end than at the front end.

“You just try to think more clearly, to really process the thoughts in a clearer fashion. You can’t get away from the history of what has gone before you at the event, whether it be the umpiring decisions or the little learnings that you might make on the racecourse. So you have to try and compartmentalise all of that and say what’s important, what’s not and think about it from that perspective.”

The Future

Gilmour is already planning his 2009 sailing year. With the assistance of the Team’s new sponsor, Yanmar Corporation, they will be competing in the 2009 World Match Racing Tour. It’s three years since Gilmour participated full-time in the World Tour. “I think that in both 2005 and 2006 I did pretty much the full tour as well. It will be interesting.”

Then there is the organisation of the 2009 Monsoon Cup which Gilmour and his other team will spend the next 11 months planning.

His other focus will be on pushing for more Asian teams to be represented on the World Match Racing Tour. “The Monsoon Cup is at midway point in its life cycle and it’s great to see we had a full field of eight teams doing the Malaysian Championship. It is important to extend that interest into getting some real teams out on the world tour. It will require dedication, a bit of passion and commitment. The example of the (Monsoon Cup) young guns is a good one.”

Gilmour sees the Warren Jones International Youth Regatta as an excellent breeding ground for future World Tour participants. “I think one of the great things of the Warren Jones Regatta in Perth is the fact that the youth age group is extended up to 25 years old. So the event captures those kids when they’re 16, 17 and 18, and nurtures them until they’re well and truly adults. So you see them now with a purpose and direction rather than just sort of crazy teenagers. It’s very exciting.”

It is this sort of youth match racing development program model that could be seen being delivered in the future through yacht clubs in Asia. “There has to be a certain amount of local help and support. It’s an incredibly cost efficient program for youngsters to do, where they can all travel to a place like Perth from Malaysia, go and do a regatta and participate in it and you don’t have to buy any sails, any boats, anything.”

The dates for the 2009 Monsoon Cup are 2nd-6th December.

World Match Racing Tour

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