Twelve of the world's top women match racer skippers are in St Quay Portrieux for the ninth edition of the ISAF Women's Match Worlds, hosted by the Sport Nautique de Saint Quay-Portrieux. The competition will take place in First Class 8 type boats with a crew of four. A round robin will be followed by a repechage and then quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.
One thing is certain in 2007 - there will be a new name amongst the list of ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champions. Reigning World Champion Dorte JENSEN (DEN) is not defending her title as she is on maternity leave from the match racing circuit, whilst 2004 and 2005 World Champion Sally BARKOW (USA) is competing in the Yngling in Qingdao at the Olympic Test Event.
LEROY has twice won a bronze medal at the Worlds, although finished a disappointing eighth in Denmark last year. Over the past two seasons she has dominated the women's match racing scene, occupying the world #1 spot since 4 May 2005. Last year she skippered the French women's team to victory at the ISAF Nations Cup and already has one victory in St Quay Portrieux under held belt this year at the Spring Cup, held back in April.
Given that between them Denmark and Sweden have won 13 of 24 medals over the past eight World Championships, it is surprising each nation has only one entry in France. However Jenny AXHEDE (SWE) and Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN (DEN) looks set to provide one of the toughest obstacles to LEROY. MELDGAARD PEDERSEN , the current world #2, has a World Championship silver medal from 2003 and reached the semi-finals in Denmark last year, eventually finishing in fourth place. AXHEDE, #5 in the world, arrives in France on top form after recording victory at the ISAF Grade 1 Tróia Portugal Women's Cup.
Other leading challengers for the title are Klaartje ZUIDERBAAN (NED), who put in a fine performance last year to finish fifth, and young German skipper Silke HAHLBROCK (GER), who has been in impressive form this year, rising up to #3 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings.
From outside of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the USA are represented by Katie SPITHILL (AUS), Nicky SOUTER (AUS), Jessica SMYTH (NZL) and Sandy HAYES (USA). Josie GIBSON (GBR) and Gemma FARRELL (GBR) both line up for Great Britain, whilst Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA) is the second big French hope for gold.
(ISAF World Match Race Ranking)
Claire LEROY (FRA) - 1
Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN (DEN) - 2
Silke HAHLBROCK (GER) - 3
Klaartje ZUIDERBAAN (NED) - 4
Jenny AXHEDE (SWE) - 5
Nicky SOUTER (AUS) - 6
Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA) - 9
Gemma FARRELL (GBR) - 10
Katie SPITHILL (AUS) - 11
Josie GIBSON (GBR) - 12
Sandy HAYES (USA) - 15
Jessica SMYTH (NZL) - 16