For BARKOW the presence of her fellow American is a mixed blessing as it was ALISON who finished runner up in the curtailed Championship in Annapolis, USA last year. With the wind dying on the final day, the two semi final matches were left evenly balanced with BARKOW all square at 2-2 with Claire LEROY (FRA) and ALISON tied on the same score with LEWIN. The results then came down to a series of calculations which gave the round robin winner BARKOW the title, with ALISON second and LEROY third.
That second place gave ALISON her fourth top three finish in the Worlds, a record that can only be matched by three time winner Dorte JENSEN (DEN) and three time runner up, Marie BJÖRLING (SWE). BJÖRLING did not compete in Annapolis last year, ending a run of five straight Championship appearances from which she has one third and three second places, but she is back in 2005 and will line up in Hamilton as one of the Championship favourites.
Since losing her spot at the top of the Rankings to LEROY back in May, BJÖRLING has been the most impressive sailor on the circuit, winning the ISAF Grade 1 BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup in Annapolis and finishing runner up in the ISAF Grade 1 Swedish Match Cup in Marstrand. Although BJÖRLING may have edged their most recent encounters, LEROY has never been far behind her, finishing second in Annapolis and third in Marstrand. She also managed to fit in a win in the ISAF Grade 2 Women's Antibes Cup in France in between the two events and looking at 2005 as a whole, has been the most successful sailor, with three wins and three second places so far this year.
Along with BJÖRLING's victory in Annapolis the other wins in the ISAF Grade 1 events this year have gone to Malin MILLBOURN (SWE) in Marstrand, who is not competing in Bermuda, and Klaartje ZUIDERBAAN (NED), who won the International MR Women's Criterium and will line up in Bermuda. Before the start of racing in Hamilton there will be four more ISAF Grade 1 events in which the world's top sailors will have the chance to take each other on in Sweden, Italy, France and Germany.
BJÖRLING and LEROY lead strong challenges from Sweden and France at this year's Worlds. Jenny AXHEDE (SWE) and Linda RAHM (SWE) will be aiming to make up for missing out on a quarter final place in Annapolis last year as will Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA). Christine BRIAND (FRA) was not at the Worlds in 2004, although she went someway to making up for her absence with victory in the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Osprey Cup.
Along with BJÖRLING, LEROY, BARKOW, ALISON and ZUIDERBAAN, Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN (DEN) has a top three finish in the Worlds to her name, taking second place in Sundsvall, Sweden two years ago and third on Lake Ledro, Italy in 2001. Last year LEWIN just missed out on joining that exclusive list, although with the home supporters lining up behind her in Hamilton, in 2005 she will be confident of taking the next step forward.
The ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship 2005 will be contested between the following sailors:
(Helm, Crew, Current ISAF World Match Race Ranking)