Britain’s Ian Williams has clinched his seventh Match Racing World Championship title with his Chinaone.Ningbo team of Jon Gundersen, Richard Sydenham, and Gerrard Mitchell. His victory in the 2023 WMRT Final sets a new record for the most championship wins in the Tour’s history.
Williams had to work hard to earn his victory, battling Megan Thomson in the semi-finals and Gavin Brady in the final. Thomson, who eliminated round-robin winner Björn Hansen, managed to secure a win against Williams in their semi-final match before he claimed his spot in the final with a score of 3-1.
Today’s conditions presented challenges, characterised by brisk and gusty northeast winds, reminiscent of yesterday’s quarter-finals. Finding a path up the course proved tricky and required close attention to the pressure and shifts. Whichever team connected them the best would gain the advantage, which led to numerous lead changes in each race.
The fight for the championship title was some of the closest match racing of the entire regatta. It was Brady who got the first point on the board.
“We managed to get in close and waited for an opportunity to appear at the top mark. It was the one defining moment in the race,” recalled Brady. “We made a big call at the bottom mark to tack off at the bottom, and that paid off for a right-hand shift.”
The next three races all went to Williams, but not without a tough battle. In a thrilling third race, Brady and Williams were changing leads and crossing tacks, never more than a few boat lengths away from each other. But it was Williams and his team who found the favourable shifts and pulled ahead.
Williams talks about the crew work, “it was about being both smooth and aggressive with the shifts; that’s what we were working on.”
Chinaone.Ningbo found their footing, showing an understanding of wind patterns and boat handling that improved with each race.
“It was all about the shifts and connecting the puffs. We’ve really got in our groove. Amazing that it’s taken this long, but we really felt the last two races we were in our groove and understood the rhythm of the shifts and the way the boat sails. We were really pleased with our performance, particularly in the last race,” says Williams.
“Incredible to finally have got the seventh world title. The last one was back in 2016, nearly eight years. To come with a new team, Chinaone.Ningbo, and come to China and win the world title, it’s amazing. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve battled away. We’ve never stopped trying,” said Williams on the victory.
Gavin Brady (USA) and his True Blue Racing team of Nick Blackman, Tom Powrie, and Dave Swete gave Williams a great battle, but missing out on a few critical shifts saw them finish in second.
“It’s a little disappointing. You don’t get many chances to win a world championship. Is this the last shot you get at it, or do you get another shot at it in the future?” expressed Brady on the second-place finish.
Brady showed a huge level of improvement in terms of aggressiveness in the final against Williams, something Brady’s crew have been pushing him toward all season. His improvement on his instinct to go for a penalty instead of playing it safe has been something he’s been proud of this week. This confidence was evident in the finals as he pushed boundaries, sometimes leading to penalties against him. However, it proves his team’s adaptability against the world’s top match racers.
Reflecting on his season, reaching the final, and competing against Williams, Brady remarked, “I do think we sailed against the best in the world, for sure. The names on the trophy prove it.”
Another remarkable performance was seen from Megan Thomson and her 2.0 Racing team, securing a third-place finish this week. Thomson became the first female skipper to be in the top four of a World Match Racing Tour Final and defeated 2023 Bermuda Cup’s undefeated champion Johni Berntsson (SWE) for the podium spot.
“The result is more than we could have hoped for,” says Thomson after the third place finish. Looking ahead, she added, “we’re hoping to build upon this and come back to the next event stronger.”
Thomson also sails on the Women’s World Match Racing Tour and hopes to see some of that talent on the World Match Racing Tour next year.
“It’d be great to see some more girls here. There is definitely the level out there to have them be at these events and on the open tour,” she says.
This event concludes the 2023 season, and we wish everyone a happy holiday and congratulations on competing on the world stage.
The 2023 World Match Racing Tour was held in Shenzhen, China was jointly hosted by the World Match Racing Tour, China Yachting Association, the Shenzhen Municipal Administration of Culture, Media, Tourism and Sports, and the People’s Government of Bao’an District of Shenzhen.