Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) holds firm at the top in the latest release of the open ISAF World Match Race Rankings. The French skipper has made a strong start to the 2008 season, following up his win in March at the Marseille International Match Race with a third place finish at his first World Match Racing Tour event of the year, Match Race Germany in Langenargen.
RICHARD's big rival, the reigning ISAF Match Racing World Champion Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), finished one place behind him in Germany. Frustratingly, in the first big match up of the 2008 Tour season between the two skippers who finished first and second last year, the wind died with the petit-final delicately balanced at 1-1, giving RICHARD third thanks to a superior round robin score.
Behind the top two, Paolo CIAN (ITA) stays in the world #3 spot for the ten consecutive Ranking release. However, the Italian Team Shosholoza skipper, who won stage 1 of the 2008 Tour in Brazil, was strangely off the boil in Germany, failing to make the knockout stages and finishing well down in 11th overall.
Damien IEHL (FRA) sprung a big surprise in Germany by winning on his World Tour debut. IEHL has spent the past two seasons gradually working his way up the World Rankings and is now at #6. Fellow Frenchman Pierre-Antoine MORVAN (FRA) was also on the victory trial in the latest Ranking period, winning the ISAF Grade 2 Morbihan Match Race ahead of Alexis LITTOZ BARITEL (FRA). MORVAN moves up two places to #9, which along with IEHL, RICHARD and Sébastien COL (FRA), gives France four skippers in the world top ten - bravo to the Equipe de France Match Racing!
Like IEHL, Match Race Germany runner up Jes GRAM-HANSEN (DEN) was also an outside bet at the start of the event. However, the Danish skipper showed no signs of rustiness after a two-year break from the World Tour circuit, particularly when knocking out World Champion WILLIAMS in the semi-final. Following his silver medal finish, GRAM-HANSEN is one of the highest climbers in this Ranking release, up from #106 to #49.
Other noteworthy performances come from Mads EBLER (DEN), up two places to #12 after victory over a very strong fleet at the ISAF Grade 2 Spring Cup in Denmark, and Simon MINOPRIO (NZL), the top-Ranked Kiwi skipper, who gains five places to #21 following victory at the ISAF Grade 2 Detroit Cup in the USA. Along with GRAM-HANSEN, there are another four new entries into the world top 100: Natsuki MOTOYOSHI (JPN), up from #104 to a career-best #88; Jon BRECELJ (SLO), #116 to #89; Mattias RAHM (SWE), #156 and #93; and Fabrizio ONOFRI (ITA), #160 to #100.
NB. Results from the ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup are not included in this Ranking release as they have not been submitted to the ISAF Secretariat (see ISAF Regulation 24.2.2(b) - www.sailing.org/regulations).
New events included in this Ranking release:
Grade 1 - International Women's Match Race Criterium, ESP
Grade 2 - Brasil Women's Cup, BRA
Grade 3 - Portuguese Women's Match Racing Championship, POR
Grade 3 - Sundance Cup, USA
Claire LEROY (FRA) extends her unbroken run at the top of the women's ISAF World Match Race Rankings to over two years and her lead is looking stronger than ever. A windless ending at the ISAF Grade 1 International Women's Match Race Criterium in Calpe brought to an end the French skipper's winning streak of four consecutive ISAF Graded events, but second place in Spain means she extends her lead over world #2 Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN (DEN) again. LEROY's advantage at the top is now a massive 977 points.
MELDGAARD PEDERSEN finished fourth at the Criterium to consolidate her world #2 spot, whilst Katie SPITHILL (AUS), sixth in Spain, is also unchanged at #3. Germany's Silke HAHLBROCK was the undoubted star of show, stringing together a very impressive series of results in the round robin - including what proved to be a decisive victory against LEROY - to win her second ISAF Grade 1 event. The German skipper is the big mover at the top in this Ranking release, gaining four places up to #4.
Further back there are two new entries into the world top 20. Both Sandy HAYES (USA), up from #24 to #16, and Mathilde GERON (FRA), up from #25 to #18, achieving career-best Rankings after podium finishes at the ISAF Grade 2 Brasil Women's Cup in Vitoria. Cup winner, Caroline BEJAR (BRA) gains 11 places up to #28. Not only is this BEJAR's Ranking-best performance, it's also the highest Ranking ever achieved by a South American skipper on the Women's Rankings - a terrific boost for match racing on the continent ahead of the 2009 ISAF Nations Cup Grand Final, which will be hosted in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Another high riser is Portugal's Maria RAMIRES, up 14 places to #37. She finished sixth in Brazil and narrowly missed out on the podium at the ISAF Grade 3 Portuguese nationals, won for the second year running by Rita GONCALVES (POR). At #78 Molly CARAPIET (USA), winner of the ISAF Grade 3 Sundance Cup in Texas, is the highest of five new entries in this Ranking release. They help the total Women's Ranking list increase to a record 211 skippers.
ISAF World Match Race Rankings - www.sailing.org/mrrankings