Thursday, 5 May 2011

WMRT: Robertson Targets Podium Finish in Debut Season on World Match Racing Tour

Phil Robertson (NZL) at the Korea Match Cup 2010. Image copyright Gareth Cooke/Subzero Images.

by WMRT media

Young-gun Kiwi skipper Phil Robertson is confident his WAKA Racing Team can have an instant impact in their debut year as Tour Card Holders on the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) and beat some of the more established opponents to claim a top 3 finish.

“Making top 6 is a realistic goal but recently we’ve upped it to top 3 because in the previous two years we’ve achieved higher than what we’ve set ourselves so we thought we better keep upping it.”

Coping with the Pressure

Even though he’s facing his first year as a Tour Card Holder in the shadow of a long line of successful Kiwi skippers such as Russell Coutts and 2009 Match Racing World Champion Adam Minoprio, Robertson isn’t letting the pressure get to him.

“Obviously getting a Tour Card is huge for the team - it’s spot on what we originally planned which was to enter the Tour at this stage, so everything is going to plan so far and we’re very happy with where we are at.”

“I guess we feel a bit of pressure, Adam and his crew have set the standard pretty high. They had a bit of a dream run and Adam’s really talented, so is the rest of the team, so I guess it will always be on our mind but we try not to let it bother us too much. We have our own plans and our own things we want to achieve.”

The Process of Becoming a Tour Card Holder

Gaining a Tour Card is about more than sailing skills with teams being selected based on everything from their commercial proposition to their media awareness, interaction and pro-active public relations plan. This is why Robertson says his team put just as much work in off the water as they do on it.

“I’d say the business side of it is one of our team’s strengths so we took a lot of time putting our Tour Card application together. We have a bit of support with the business side of things but we’ve put the onus on ourselves to be as professional as possible. We have our team trust and we run everything through the trust so we run it as a proper business.”

“Our previous few years of experience have helped a lot. Since the team was formed we’ve worked hard on the business side of things as well as everything that happens on the water. It’s probably 50/50 in terms of time split.”

Keeping an Eye on the Competition

Robertson has a formidable task ahead of him facing other Tour Card Holders with many more years of experience under their belt.

“(Jesper) Radich is one to watch as looking at his previous performances he’s done really well and he puts together really good teams, so if he’s got the funding and everything behind him he’ll do really well again. He’s got a lot of skill and we haven’t raced him that much so he’ll be on my list to watch.”

Torvar Mirksy (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar and Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team have been named by other skippers as potential leaders of this year’s Tour which is something Robertson agrees with but only to a certain extent.

“They will all be very hard to beat. Torvar and Ian are both doing the Extreme 40’s though so they will have a lot on their plate which means they’ll have to divide their focus a bit compared to their last few years.”

“Whoever puts in the biggest effort will probably come out on the top in the end.”

This year sees two French Match Racing Teams gain Tour Cards, a factor which the French see as an advantage in terms of training however Robertson is inclined to disagree.

“I don’t see it as an advantage at all. It’s good to have but at the end of the day they are still going to be competing against each other to be the best French match racing team so they will have to be pretty open with each other to gain anything. We have our training partners, most teams will.”

International Venues

A huge appeal of the WMRT is the chance to sail in various locations around the world with nine different competition venues in 2011 and plans to expand the calendar to 15 events by 2013.

“I’m really looking forward to St Moritz, the boats look great and they really suit the style of the younger and fitter teams.”

“I’d love to see an event down home – anywhere in New Zealand would be fantastic. Having one in Auckland would be pretty cool because it’s our own town. I’d also love to see more in Asia as well because they put on some fantastic events.”

Heading Into This Year

Despite heading into this season as debut Tour Card Holders Robertson is confident in his team and looking forward to seeing what lies ahead.

“I’m pretty confident going into this year - it’s very exciting the thought of being able to race at that level, at the top level of match racing all year round. It’s very cool and exciting because we haven’t been able to get there yet so we are excited about being able to watch our skill level grow over the Tour.”

Keep up to date with what Robertson and his team are up to on their website, Facebook and Twitter