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18 January 2005, 01:43 pm
Monnin Wins
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JP Morgan Fleming Winter Challenge
Great Britain

The third JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge weekend attracted top sailing talent, including British match racers Ian WILLIAMS and Christian HAMILTON, but it was Eric MONNIN from Switzerland who really made his mark on the event
The Challenge took place in the Royal Yachting Association's fleet of J80s at the Queen Mary Sailing Club in Sunbury, with a total of nine teams taking part, including four international teams representing America, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

The round robin stage of the competition started on Saturday in a light southerly 5-8 knot wind with very few penalties occurring as a result of the relatively light conditions and flat water. The light windsailing conditions gave an advantage to those sailors who started in first and gained an early lead, with Björn HANSEN from Sweden, ranked 15 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, making through comfortably to the semi final following an impressive start of seven wins.

Second place in the round robin went to Mason WOODWORTH from America, ranked 85 in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, who managed six wins. Third place was more of a struggle, with four boats each registering five wins. The four boats in contention were GBR match racer Ian WILLIAMS, Eric MONNIN from Switzerland, Andreas WILLIM (GER), and Paul CAMPBELL-JAMES (GBR), with Monnin and Williams going through to the semi finals on count back.

The end of the round robin and semi finals on Sunday saw south-westerly winds of 5 knots rising to 14 knots for the final on Sunday afternoon. Williams and his crew were the only British boat to progress to the semi-finals. In the first semi-final, Williams raced against Hansen and progressed comfortably to the final after winning two races straight off.

The second semi-final saw Woodworth and Monnin draw the first two races, but Monnin went through to the final after winning the decider. Both winners from the round robin, Woodworth and Hansen, therefore lost in the semi finals, which meant that third and fourth place from the round robin went through to the final.

The third and fourth place sail-off was a battle between Bjorn and Woodworth, with Bjorn eventually winning through to take third.

The final of the weekend's competition saw Williams take on Monnin for a place in the overall Final in March. With the winds rising to the strongest the competitors had seen all weekend, Williams took the first race, but Monnin came back in the second to level the scores to one win apiece. This meant that the competition would be decided by the final race of the weekend. Williams got off to a great start, giving Monnin a penalty at the start. However, Monnin managed to claw his way back up the first leg to lead at the windward mark, with Williams close on his tail. Williams attacked at the leeward mark, but Monnin defended well enough to keep his position and went on to win the race and take his place in the overall Final in March.

Winning helm, Eric MONNIN, said it was a special weekend, 'Every race was very close, even to reach the semi-final was very close too - this was the special part of the race weekend for us - a good day for us. We made a couple of bad mistakes at the start but we were really quite fast, so were able to put pressure on the other competitors even if they were in front. There were five members of our crew, and the special thing was that I have my two brothers sailing on the boat, which makes us a strong crew.'

Ian WILLIAMS also commented on the event: 'It has been a fantastic weekend and exactly what you want from an event like this - close racing and very testing. The main goal was to start training as a team as we'll be sailing as this team for a number of events this summer. We were sailing much better as a team by the end of the weekend. In terms of coming second - you always end up with a loss in match racing, however all credit goes to Eric who sailed very well and very tidily. We had opportunities to win, but in the end, he was just neater in the boat. We did have a great time though.'

In conjunction with the Royal Yachting Association, the JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge began on 27/28 November 2004 and will continue through to the Final on 4/5/6 March 2005. The race weekends are being held at the Queen Mary Sailing Club, Sunbury. More than 250 sailors from across Europe are expected to enter into one of the seven JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge race weekends, in the lead up to the Final in March.

Final results

1, Eric MONNIN, Jean-Claude MONNIN, Marc MONNIN, Alain MARCHAND, Dominique VALITON
2, Ian WILLIAMS, Joe LLEWELLYN, Steve MITCHELL, Mark WILLIAMS
3, Bjorn HANSEN, Fredrik EKMAN, Anders JONSSON, Mathias BREDIN

Jane Cosson (As Amended by ISAF), Image: Monnin © Event Media
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