Written by Rule69.blog (19 May, 2022)

Cards on the table. I’m a fan of the World Match Racing Tour. If you didn’t enjoy the Congressional Cup this year over in Long Beach then there’s not much more this beautiful, relevant, fiendishly difficult discipline can do for you.

It was quite simply a brilliant week of top drawer racing and it provides the perfect antidote to the wham, bam of SailGP where often the racing can become so mesmerising and the high octane narratives around the players so engrossing, that it morphs into a cafuddle. What the World Match Racing Tour does is go back to our sailing roots and sing to the heartlands of tactics, precision, crew-work, boat-handling, sail changes and nuances that you and I as racing sailors can thoroughly appreciate. Phew…

©Womens International Match Racing Series

I understand the circling before the start. I get the lee bows. I appreciate covering as closely as fine Egyptian cotton bedding. I simply can’t get enough of Ken Read or Gary Jobson doing the commentary.

In short, if I’m honest with myself, the World Match Racing Tour gives me more excitement than just about anything in our sport. Yes I love the foilers of all shades, yes the Olympic circuit is super-special, yes the furniture racing, sorry the Maxis, are interesting, one-design has its appeal in Stars and 5.5 metres at the apex and everything beneath it and yes, I admire, appreciate and salivate at the Vendee or IMOCA sailors taking on the planet as their playground. But match-racing, when it’s done well, is something super-special.

©Womens International Match Racing Series

What we saw in Long Beach was other-worldly. Ian Williams and Taylor Canfield at each other like ferrets in a sack. The onboard coverage gave us all an insight into what good looks like. We all know how to sail like that (or at least we think we do), the problem is that we rarely do. Occasionally we pull that level out from goodness knows where but when you see the very best in action, it’s a treat for the senses and totally relatable…

But the World Match Racing Tour, under the expert guidance of James Pleasance and operating under the vast umbrella of World Sailing, has more to offer us and I honestly skipped a beat when I saw the news about the resurrection of a Women’s Tour that they’ve been secretly and determinedly working on, announced.

This is brilliant news. Megatastic. And with four events announced in France, Denmark, Greece and Auckland, wow that’s just cool. Getting the top female athletes turned on to Match Racing is vital to grow the sport and as yet another pathway opens aside from the Olympic Games, it’s a runway to the America’s Cup and SailGP. Certainly as the mono-hull and multihull foilers get closer in terms of performance, and they are, a key determinant of success will be tactical and where better to hone your match racing skills than on the World Match Racing Tour.

©Womens International Match Racing Series

As the press release states: “The Women’s World Match Racing Tour has been created with the support of WIMRA (Women’s International Match Racing Association) to continue the legacy of the long-running WIM Series founded by WIMRA in 2013 following the success of women’s match racing at the London 2012 Olympics. There are currently over 200 female match racing sailors on the World Sailing global ranking.

“We are delighted to support the launch of the Women’s World Match Racing Tour” said WIMRA Executive Director Liz Baylis. “The Tour is a fantastic opportunity for women sailors and will continue build on the success of the WIM Series. We look forward to working closely with the team at WMRT to help expand the Tour for the future.”

©Felix Diemer for SailGP

This is potentially gold-dust. The explosion in profile, and about time too, of female athletes in our sport is so key to the global appeal of sailing in all its forms. We have magnificent ambassadors for female participation right across the sport and the events are catching up and recognising this.

I’ve argued long for mandates at the very top, often into an echo chamber of vitriol, but we’re getting there. The SailGP circuit is massively enhanced by the participation of female athletes and you can see that the progression is real – CJ Perez steering through gybes and key manoeuvres on Team USA is just the start – and at the summit we now have a Women’s America’s Cup.

©Womens International Match Racing Series

I’ll argue to the cows (Cowes?) come home that we can and must go even further. It will happen. I can feel it and see it everywhere I look. At the grass roots there’s a parity and that needs to translate all the way up the pyramid. The Olympics has done a terrific job on this front, particularly in sailing, and the future is just getting brighter and brighter. We must keep the pressure on. Diversity, in all its forms, is vital. It’s all we’ve got.

Congratulations to the World Match Racing Tour on getting this one resurrected. Covid killed off, understandably, the first iteration for a couple of years but now it’s back and I, for one, will be watching intently. The next superstars of our sport are being found on a daily basis and they’re cooler than we ever were. That’s the truth.

Great news for sailing. Great news for female sport.