|© Walter Cooper|
2004 ended up as a mixed year for Sally BARKOW (USA), who since coming onto the scene three years ago has been a prominent force in both the Yngling and the Women's Match Racing scene. At the beginning of the year BARKOW and her team lined up at the US Olympic Sailing Team trials, and a despite a fantastic start posting three bullets in the first four races, eventually finished third and consequently missed out on a place in Athens. Counterbalancing this disappointment were top five places in the Yngling in Hyères, Spa and at the Yngling Worlds, which were followed by victory in her debut at the ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship on her home waters in Annapolis.
This year BARKOW has been at her very best, first of all in the Yngling were she recorded wins at the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française in France and then the ISAF Grade W Yngling World Championship in Austria. Since then she has recorded victory above number one in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, Claire LEROY (FRA), at the ISAF Grade 1 St. Quay Women Match Racing in France, although the Frenchwomen got the better of her in Italy in the final of the ISAF Grade 1 Women Trentino Match Race.
Last year in Annapolis, USA, BARKOW claimed the World title after light winds cut short the Championship at the semi final stage. This year in Bermuda, BARKOW will be aiming to defend her title and prove she is still top of the match racing pile.
|© Dan Ljungsvik|
Marie BJÖRLING (SWE) has so far been the 'near Champion' at the ISAF Worlds, three times losing out in the final in 2000, 2001 and 2002. During that time she has consistently proven her ability on the women's match racing circuit, holding the top spot in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings for months on end and frequently claiming the top spot on the podium on the circuit's major events. Of the other competitors in Bermuda, only World number one Claire LEROY (FRA) has won more events this year and BJÖRLING seems to be coming into form at the perfect time, scoring two victories this month at the ISAF Grade 3 Swedish National Match Racing Championship and the ISAF Grade 3 Ladies Nordic Match Race Championship.
Whilst Sally BARKOW (USA) was concentrating on the Yngling, the early part of 2005 was marked by the battle between LEROY and BJÖRLING, with the Frenchwomen aiming to dislodge her rival from the top spot in the Rankings. In the first half of the year LEROY seemed to hold the upper hand, but since then BJÖRLING has been fighting back and victory in Bermuda could well see her not only claim that so far elusive World title, but also regain the top Ranking spot.
|© Barry Pickthall/PPL|
Klaartje ZUIDERBAAN (NED) is one of the most experienced names on the women's match racing circuit and has enjoyed success throughout her lengthy career. She came third in the 1998 Worlds, which took place as part of the ISAF World Sailing Championship, and has since scored podium finishes at the Europeans and top fives at the Worlds.
She will come to Bermuda brimming with confidence, having won the ISAF Grade 1 Cicada Bermuda Women's International Match Racing Championship at Hamilton Habour last October, and familiarity with the venue. Since that victory ZUIDERBAAN has continued to prove her form, finishing third at the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Osprey Cup just over a week later and then this year starting with a third at the ISAF Grade 3 JPMorgan Fleming Women's Challenge, before defeating current number one in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings Claire LEROY (FRA) in the final of the ISAF Grade 1 International Women Match Race Criterium. That victory and a fourth place at the ISAF Grade 1 Women Trentino Match Race have helped ZUIDERBAAN climb to number four in the World and she looks set to be one of defending champion Sally BARKOW's (USA) biggest threats in Hamilton.
2005 has been a nearly year for Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA), with the Frenchwomen frequently missing out on a semi place in the events she has entered. However her consistently high finishes have seen her ISAF World Match Race Ranking place her eighth in the World and PHILIPPE will be aiming to fulfill that ranking by bettering her previous best Worlds' finish of twelfth, which she achieved last year.
PHILIPPE enters the event as the reigning European Champion, after her victory in St. Quay Portrieux, France last year (and the cancellation of the 2005 event). This year her return to St. Quay was typical of her season so far. After the early stages of the round robin she was lying tied in third, with only Claire LEROY (FRA) and Sally BARKOW (USA) ahead of her. However by the conclusion of racing she had dropped to a disappointing seventh. In Bermuda, PHILIPPE will be aiming to put right the problems she has had so far this year and take the next step forward in her quest for the World title.
|© Anders Averdal|
Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN (DEN) is a familiar name at the ISAF Worlds' having appeared at every Championship since 2001 and twice reaching the podium. Two years ago she came within a whisker of Worlds' glory, only losing out to Malin MILLBOURN (SWE) in the final flight of the Championship. She quickly followed that second place by taking the 2003 European crown, but since then has been without a win on the women's circuit.
She will be looking to put that right in Hamilton, and seems to be coming into form at the right moment, finishing third at the recent ISAF Grade 1 Women Trentino Match Race with only defending World Champion Sally BARKOW (USA) (who beat her 2-1 in the semi final) and World number one Claire LEROY (FRA) finishing above her.
|© Walter Cooper|
Aside from the defending champion Sally BARKOW (USA), Betsy ALISON (USA) is the only one of the twelve skippers in the field to have previously won the World title. That victory came at the inaugural event in 1998, which took place as part of the ISAF World Sailing Championship in Dubai, UAE. In that Championship, ALISON defeated Klaartje ZUIDERBAAN (NED) in the final and since then she has been a major force at the Championship, scoring second and third place finishes in the following two years. In both 2001 and 2002 she missed the Worlds before returning in 2003 to end third, after going down in the semi final to fellow 2005 finalist Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN (DEN).
Last year ALISON went one better, finishing second overall after racing was abandoned at the semi final stage when she was all square at 2-2 with Paula LEWIN (BER). Since finishing sixth in the ISAF Grade 1 Cicada Bermuda Women's International Match Racing Championship last year, ALISON has only made a couple of appearances in 2005, both on American waters. She finished third in an open fleet at the ISAF Grade 3 Chicago Match Racing Regatta before taking fourth place at the ISAF Grade 1 BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup, where once again racing was cut short by light winds with ALISON lying tied at 2-2 in the semi final, this time with Marie BJÖRLING (SWE).
Look out for a profile of the remaining six skippers, including number one in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings Claire LEROY (FRA) and home favourite Paula LEWIN (BER), who complete the field for the Virtual Spectator ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship on Friday.
For a complete list of all the news about the Virtual Spectator ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship CLICK HERE.