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1 February 2005, 09:54 am
Ian WILLIAMS Wins Fourth Challenge
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JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge
Great Britain

The fourth JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge weekend saw one of the most exciting line-ups yet with two teams from the top ten of the ISAF World Match Racing Rankings competing.
World number seven ranked sailor Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) returned to improve on his runner-up position in the third weekend, but it would not be plain sailing as the world number nine Lars NORDBERG (DEN) was also competing and keen to gain a place in the Final on the 5-6 March.

The Challenge took place in the Royal Yachting Association's fleet of J80's at Queen Mary Sailing Club in Sunbury, with a total of nine teams taking part, including three international teams - one representing Australia and the other two representing Denmark.

The round robin stage of the competition started on Saturday in very cold north-westerly winds, with British match racer Ian WILLIAMS and crew of Mark WILLIAMS, Joe LLEWELLYN and Ben VINES breaking the JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge record with eight wins out of eight races. Lars NORDBJERG, with his crew of Sille CHRISTENSEN, Christian MONBERG and Caroline CLAUSEN, followed close behind on seven wins, and the winner from the second weekend in November 2004, British sailor Mark CAMPBELL-JAMES, came in third with five wins. The lowest ranked competitor, Richard SYDENHAM (GBR), ranked 1138 finished in fourth position.

The final race in the round robin saw Nordbjerg and Williams go head-to-head. Going down the final run Williams trailed with a penalty, but he cleverly managed to unwind this and won the race by a matter of seconds to come through to win the round robin overall.

The first of the semi-finals saw Sydenham beaten in two races by Williams. Campbell-James raced against Nordbjerg, and after two races it was one apiece. The third race saw a brave attempt from Campbell-James trying to come back into contention, but he lost to Nordbjerg by half a boat length.

Wibroe took on Cherry to win through in three races to take fifth place, with Cherry in sixth. Cherry, who is the current British Youth Match Racing Champion, is due to fly out to New Zealand in a few days for the World Youth Match Racing Championships and the JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge Series was his last chance to gain some vital practice.

Sunday saw decreased winds, but the two top ten ISAF ranked match racers, Williams and Nordbjerg had only the March Final and their ISAF rankings on their minds. The first race of the final went to Nordbjerg who led straight off the line. The second race was much closer and Williams won, sending the weekend's final into an exciting third race. With a significant drop in the wind to its lightest levels of the weekend, 3-5 knots, and a sharp deterioration in the light, an undeterred Williams came through as the fourth JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge weekend winner.

The third and fourth place sail-off was a battle between Campbell-James and Sydenham, with Campbell-James winning both races to take third place overall.

Winning helm, Ian WILLIAMS, was very pleased: 'It's been another great weekend, and we are very excited to be going through to the Final. We, we were a lot sharper this weekend than two weekends ago when we were here previously, and the team is working really well together. There's a great set of people here and the standard is very high. It's great to see this level of match racing in the UK.'

The JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge began on 27/28 November 2004 in conjunction with the Royal Yachting Association, and will continue through to the Final on 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, Ian WILLIAMS, Mark WILLIAMS, Joe LLEWELLYN, Ben VINES
2, Lars NORDBJAERG, Sille CHRISTENSEN, Christian MONBERG, Caroline CLAUSEAU
3, Mark CAMPBELL-JAMES, Andy CLARK, Nick WILCOX, Dave MASON

Sacha Oswald (As Amended by ISAF)
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