Swedish legend Bjorn Hansen © Photo by Brian Carlin / AWMRT
Langenargen, Germany (19 May 2013): Match racing veteran Bjorn Hansen ended Qualifying in fourth place on 7.5 points. The 0.5 came about after his Mekonomen Sailing Team was docked a half point when it was ruled to have been at fault in a pre-start collision with Adam Minoprio’s Team Alpari FX on Friday.
The Stockholm-based Swede reckons this is around his seventh time at Match Race Germany, although he has yet to get to the podium at this event. Why he has yet to crack the annual German round of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour on Lake Constance perplexes Hansen: “We like these conditions normally, but there is something strange here. After last year my usual bowman said ‘never again’, so we have a new bowman here.”
However it looks like Hansen’s bowman may have spoken too soon, with racing up to schedule with the Qualifying completed yesterday and the Quarter Finals already underway with two days of racing to go. For once at this regatta there has been no shortage of breeze, with the wind a very unusual 20+ knots this morning.
Hitting the ground running with the Alpari Match Racing Tour is essential. While some skippers such as Ian Williams and Adam Minoprio competed in the Congressional Cup in California, Hansen and his Mekonomen Sailing Team instead competed in warm-up events in Sweden, Denmark while Hansen has just returned from another event in Thailand.
Given the nature and size of the Bavaria 40Ses used at Match Race Germany, Hansen says that going into this regatta they tried a small rearrangement in their crew. “We felt last year it was a lot of work for the main sheet trimmer to do the tactics at the same time, so we wanted to change and put him further forward in the boat not doing so much in the upwinds. But after the practice day we decided to go back to how we normally do it.”
After trying to convince us that GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams has been on the tour as long as he has, Hansen, 45, finally does admit that following the retirement of Peter Gilmour, he is now the longest serving competitor on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour having first competed in his first event in “2000 or 2001”.
He says that as ever the competition is not getting any easier despite there being one less tour card holder this year. “Just look at Adam [Minoprio] who came back this year – last year did three regattas and felt that the competition is quite strong. He made the quarterfinals in one of the three events and didn’t make the semis in any of them. He feels that the competition is stronger.”
This season Hansen says he is impressed by the form: “It feels like it is a really strong fleet - the tour card holders certainly, I can’t remember being so strong. On the other hand we lost Gillie [Peter Gilmour] who is ‘Mr Match Racing’ in the world. That has also put quite a lot of obligation on the rest of us to try and promote the sport.”
Hansen’s own campaign went to a new level two years ago when he and his crew turned pro. He still is an owner of the match racing centre outside of Stockholm but now considers himself a full time sailor. “Before that we were good enough to win an event here and there, but we didn’t have any consistency - we’d win one event and come last in the next one. Now we are focussing on having the same team at all of the regattas, which is more or less what we have now.”
However numbers are shrinking. Hansen remembers only a few years ago when Sweden had eight match racing skippers ranked within the ISAF top 100. He hopes that this might return now that he is back sailing under the colours of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, where this is once again a scheme to get youth sailors match racing.
For Match Race Germany Hansen is once again sponsored by Mekonomen, a Swedish company which makes car products. However he says he hopes to sign a new sponsor once has returned to Sweden next week.