World Match Racing Tour – They start match racing young in Denmark. Continuing the line of match racing greats from this country such as Jesper Bank, Jes Gram Hansen and Jesper Radich, a new kid on the block, and hoping to continue the tradition, is first time World Match Racing Tour tour card holder Joachim Aschenbrenner.
Despite his tender age of 21, Aschenbrenner is already a seasoned match racer having been pushing hard in this discipline since his teens. It is still impressive that while being the youngest skipper this year on the World Match Racing Tour, Aschenbrenner goes into the Argo Group Gold Cup in fourth overall in the 2015 world championship rankings.
For the young Dane it will be his first time in Bermuda, competing at the Argo Group Gold Cup, one of the oldest, most revered events on the World Match Racing Tour.
“We’ve heard a lot of good things about this island, so we should have a good time over there,” says Aschenbrenner. He admits the sticking point to their Gold Cup could be adapting to the International One Designs used at the event. Created in 1935 the IOD was based on a six-meter design and features long overhangs, a tall rig and rudder attached to the back of the keel. At over 3000kgs momentum is king, leading to more strategic match racing. “I haven’t seen a lot of teams doing well the first time they’re there, so I don’t know how high our expectations should be.
“Our boat handling might be alright, but I think we might be quite busy working with our speed. Probably the pre-starts are a bit different with a heavy boat and I guess they don’t manoeuvre as quickly as the other boats we usually sail, so there’ll probably be a few things to get used to.”
With racing taking place in Bermuda, venue for the 2017 America’s Cup, two of the America’s Cup teams will be represented at the Argo Group Gold Cup with an Artemis Racing crew led by 2013 Gold Cup winner, Francesco Bruni and SoftBank Team Japan with Dean Barker at the helm. While Aschenbrenner competed against Bruni last year, this will be his first time against the former Emirates Team New Zealand skipper. “It will be exciting. We’ll see if these guys still remember keelboat sailing!”
Getting on the World Match Racing Tour for the first time this year has been a big step for Aschenbrenner. The coveted skipper ‘Tour Card’ guarantees his team a berth at the World Championship Events, enabling him to plan his match racing for the season with the prospect of keeping a more regular crew together. Typically this year he has sailed with Danes Jonas Funk and Jeppe Ditlev, and Australians Patrick Vos and Hamish Hardy.
“There’s definitely more pressure being a part of the Tour, and also a tour card holder,” agrees Aschenbrenner. “Before we went into regattas without any expectations. Now you are a part of it, suddenly you have goals and try to improve. I think we saw that in Marstrand [Sweden] this year where our expectations were really high, and we probably put too much pressure on ourselves and ended up messing it up a bit, especially compared to last year.”
Already with three scoring results on the leaderboard going into the Argo Group Gold Cup, Aschenbrenner says they need to finish in the top five in Bermuda to improve their position “which will be really hard. I don’t know if I expect to come away with any more points from Bermuda, but we’ll definitely learn a lot and gain experience for next year and see how far we can get.”
Monsoon Cup in January will also be a first for the Dane, although he has previously competed in the Foundation 36s used at the event at the Warren Jones Regatta in Perth.
Overall, Aschenbrenner is keeping his fingers crossed that they can end the 2015 season still in the top five. “That would definitely be a good result for us. Then we’d be very satisfied.”
Being the youngest blade on the circuit, Aschenbrenner is keen on the prospect of M32 catamarans being used for some events on the World Match Racing Tour from 2016. “It’s definitely exciting, especially for a young team like ours – we’re always trying to push towards professional sailing and it seems like more and more sailing is going that way. I think it’s a great step for the World Match Racing Tour. The Tour has always been recognised as the feeder to the America’s Cup, and while it has moved away from that a little over the last few years [following the Cups move to multihulls], introducing the M32s on the Tour will definitely bring it closer again.”
He has had a chance to have a go on the one design catamaran and Aschenbrenner says he is looking forward to mastering the unrigged catamaran so that they can get proficient at match racing it. “We’ll work it out – it’s definitely going to be another game and different strategy but that’s all part of sailing, and match racing.