ISAF have today released the ISAF World Match Race Rankings that will decide which skippers are to be invited to the ISAF Match Racing World Championship, to be held from 17-24 July.
The event will be hosted by the Russian Yachting Federation and sailed in Yekaterinburg on the Verkh-Neyvinsky Pond in the "Ricochet-747" keelboat supplied by the organisers. 12 Skippers are to be invited to the event, including last year's World Champion Ed BAIRD (USA), the top skippers in this release of the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, and the first Russian Skipper in the Russian Open Match Racing Championship, the Ekaterinburg Cup, 2004.
Ed BAIRD (USA), current World Champion, has climbed the rankings and is now peering over Karol JABLONSKI's shoulder in second place. But the Polish champion still holds an ever-slimming lead over the rest of the chasing pack. A victory at the ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup will have greatly assisted Bairds quest for the top spot in the rankings, especially as Jablonski was not there. Although Jablonski still has a huge reserve of points to use if necessary.
As Baird is currently in second place in the rankings, the selection criteria for the ISAF Match Racing World Championship means that the eleventh placed skipper will be invited to the event. This is good news for Bjorn HANSEN (SWE), recently fourth in the ISAF Grade 3, Ice Breaker Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden, who since the last release has slipped a place into eleventh, being replaced in tenth by Michael LINDQVIST (SWE), who will also receive an invitation to the Worlds.
Higher up the rankings, Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) has strengthened his position and appears in ninth place, with a plethora of good results over the past two years, his second invitation to the ISAF World Match Racing Championship in succession is a worthy reward for such a consistent sailor, especially with the host of America's Cup skippers banging at the door of the top ten.
Phillippe PRESTI (FRA) did no harm to his ranking position with a victory at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. That result is his best in the last year and as a direct result he has shifted into the top twenty, rising from 26 to 19. Not enough to secure an invite to the Worlds, but encouraging for the future. Another new face in the top twenty is Matteo SIMONCELLI (ITA), who won the ISAF Grade 3 Palio del mare citta di Palermo, held in Italy last weekend. He now resides in 13 position, a mere hair's breadth from an invite to the Worlds.
A full preview of the ISAF World Match Racing Championship will be released once all skippers have accepted their invitations to the pinnacle event in the World Match Racing Calendar.
No move in the top five of the ISAF Women's Match Race Rankings. Invitations to the BoatUS 2004 ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championships were decided from a previous ranking release and the event, which will attract the World's top ranked women skippers and crews to Annapolis in June, is well subscribed.
However, the New Zealand Women's Match Racing Championship, which finished recently in Auckland and was won by an Australian, has caused a big change slightly outside the top ten. Nicky SOUTER (AUS), previously ranked 22 has risen nine places to 13 in the rankings. The 19 year old from New South Wales has now won every major event she has competed in this year and is looking to be a hot face on the match racing circuit in the future.
Jenny AXHEDE (SWE), who is still only counting results from this year, has also jumped up the rankings into 12 place after her fantastic victory at the Ladies Cup in Denmark at the beginning of this month. She beat Nina BREASTRUP in the final, who still maintains her third place in the World. Jenny could well cause some upset if she continues in current form, she has accepted an invitation to the World Championship and will no doubt be looking forward to some giant killing.
The next ISAF World Match Race Rankings will be released on 23 June following the Cento Cup in Gargnano, Lake Garda, Italy.
To see details of Olympic sailors and Match Race skippers, or to upload your own profile, be sure to visit ISAF Sailor at www.sailing.org/isafsailor