Matthieu Richard has arrived at the Monsoon Cup confident that he can silence his critics and claim his maiden ISAF Match Racing World title. The Frenchman has led the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) from the opening regatta of the season at Match Race France in April and heads into the season ending event in Malaysia with a 15th point advantage over Adam Minoprio.
The pressure has been mounting on Richard in the recent weeks after failing to make it through the qualifying stages of the last event in Bermuda, while people have also questioned the Frenchman’s decision to race in Perth last week with Richard having a poor track record of racing back to back.
Richard remains unfazed by other people’s thoughts and is confident he can stand up to the pressure and win the title saying, “We thought long and hard about going to Perth and chose to go there to purely prepare for the Monsoon Cup. Our goal was to build up to this week and get a good feeling. We wanted to practice our starts against high quality opponents and overall i'm delighted with how we sailed. It would have been nice to beat Robertson but we only lost 3-2 and it gave us some time off to relax and have a break.
“We've come here with the lead on the Tour and its great to have the number one ranking. Adam and Ben are close and with so many points on offer anything can happen. We can't afford to try and calculate where we need to finish, we need to aim to win. At the Monsoon Cup we have had so so results. We reached the final some years ago and lost to Peter Holmberg of Alinghi. We've also had some not so good races like last year when we came fifth. Our results have been so so but we know we can do well here."
Richard is well aware that his is the name everyone will be gunning for and with only eight sailors making it through the qualifying for the quarter finals he will have to be at his very best from the start, "As the leader of the series people will be looking to knock us out in the qualifying and we need to make sure we do well in that. If we don't finish top of qualifying Ben, Adam or the others may pick us for the quarter finals and try and knock us out. We are prepared for that but our goal is to have a good qualifying."
While Richard's opponents have been trying to put the pressure on their rival, the Championship leader remains relaxed adding, "I don't know if there is more or less pressure than before. Three years ago we came here as leader, we had just won the last two races so no-one expected us to be leading and we finished second to Ian Williams. Two years ago we were also fighting for the title, we are used to the pressure and hopefully those experiences will be useful when we fight for the title this year."
Focusing on tactics for the week Richard highlighted the unique nature of the currents as being key to gaining the advantage in the races. "The venue here in Malaysia is a special one. Its on a river and the club and whole complex is on an island with two rivers on either side of the island. That means there are two currents which can get very strong," said Richard.
"The current is the most important of all the conditions to deal with. What makes it difficult is that its not the same across the racing area. We find that the right is much better. The aim is to tack right off the committee boat and get the best position."
While Richard is comfortable heading the rankings, he is also at home in Kuala Terengganu, "I like coming to Malaysia and Kuala Terengganu is a typical Malaysian city. I like going to China Town to eat and love visiting the market which is very exotic and interesting," added Richard.
The Monsoon Cup was given the royal seal of approval today when Malaysia's king, Seri Paduka Baginda Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, His Royal Highness Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Almarhum Al-Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billal Shah competed along with seven other teams in the Coronation Cup ahead of the opening round of qualifying which will get under way tomorrow.