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28 February 2007, 09:34 am
LEHTINEN Beats LEROY To Take Women's Title
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JPMorgan Asset Management Winter Challenge 2006-2007
Staines, Great Britain

Last weekend 50 of the world's top women's match racers descended on Queen Mary's Sailing Club in Staines, Great Britain for the ISAF Grade 2 JPMorgan Asset Management Winter Challenge Women's final. Expectations were high for world #1 Claire LEROY (FRA), yet it was the outsiders, led by 21 year old Silja LEHTINEN (FIN) that stole the show, securing the title away from the event favourite.
LEROY, who is the only woman to have secured a place in the Grand Final in March, qualified for the semi-final with ease during the round robin series, along with the Finnish entry and world #15 LEHTINEN. Also securing their places in the semi-final were world #2 Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN (DEN) and Swedish national champion Jenny AXHEDE (SWE).

After the round robin, Britain's Gemma FARRELL, ranked world #12, fought hard against world #3 Klaarte ZUIDERBAAN (NED), as they battled it out for fifth and sixth place overall, with the British team gaining victory in the end.

LEROY Cruises Into Final

The semi-finals saw an easy race for the event favourite LEROY, as her team sailed into the final round. However the Finnish and Swedish entries pushed each other on the water, forcing a fourth match for the Finnish team to secure their place against the French in the final.

The first match of the final saw the Finns hold the French out to windward of the start line, meaning both teams had to raise their spinnakers to get back across the start. However, this delay caused complications for LEROY, who, when turning to cross the line, was impeded by the third/fourth race sail off match, giving LEHTINEN a unique chance which she grabbed with open arms to win the race. In the second match of the final LEROY narrowly led off the line but LEHTINEN was close on their heels after a strong start. She soon overhauled the French and despite a determined attack, LEROY could not regain her lead.

Finnish Whitewash

The third match was close but LEHTINEN, sailing with Erica BACKSTROM, Livis VARESMAA, Vivi FELMING and Maria KLEMERZ, was on a winning streak and her team's determination saw them take the title. At #15 in the Women's ISAF World Match Race Rankings this was a significant victory against the world #1.

A happy LEHTINEN commented at the prizegiving, 'We are delighted to win and would like to thank the sponsors, JPMorgan Asset Management, the organizers and umpires for all their hard work and support.' Roger THOMPSON, Head of Finance of JPMorgan Asset Management, gave out the prizes.

The series culminates with the Grand Final on 9-11 March. The qualifiers have featured many teams from the top of the ISAF World Match Race Rankings with sailors representing 12 different nations. The teams through to the final have had to fight hard for their places, with several lesser-ranked match racers beating the top teams to secure their chance to become the overall winners of the series.

Myrrh Walker (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Silja LEHTINEN led her Finnish team to the title:© Paul Wyeth/JPMorgan Asset Management/RYA
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