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9 July 2008, 03:44 pm
Points Race Tightens On World Tour Leaderboard
Bjorn HANSEN leads Jes GRAM-HANSEN on day one of Match Cup Sweden
Bjorn HANSEN moves up to second in the World Championship standings

World Match Racing Tour

After a spectacular and highly competitive event last week in Marstrand at Match Cup Sweden, the race for points towards the World Championship has tightened on the World Match Racing Tour leaderboard.
After four stages completed, Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) and his Team Pindar remains in the lead, but that lead has shrunk by half as new teams have arisen through the ranks to challenge the Tour regulars.

Sailing the highly-manoeuvrable DS 37s in Marstrand in front of a cliff-packed record-breaking crowd of over 150,000 spectators, an exceedingly-competitive field of 12 teams battled throughout last week for their share of the US$200,000 prize money purse, the largest yet offered in the 14 years of this legendary event. And those that fared well also won valuable points to advance in their standings, with five stages remaining in this year's march towards the World Championship.

Sailing only his second Tour event this year, winner Mattias RAHM (SWE) and his Stena Bulk Racing Team nonetheless put on a superb performance, especially on the final day where he bounced back from being down 2-0 in the semi-finals to fellow Swede and former Victory Challenge team mate Magnus HOLMBERG. Not only did he win the next three to go on to the Finals, but he then in turn won the next three against the Tour wunderkind Torvar MIRSKY (AUS) and his Mirsky Racing Team in the Finals to take the top prize of $50,000 and pick up 25 points to move from 14th to 5th on the leaderboard.

Ironically, MIRSKY and RAHM were actually tied for fifth place at the Tour's first stage, the Brasil Sailing Cup, and MIRSKY went on to just squeak into the top eight at stage three, last month's Korea Match Cup. But this 22-year old Australian's impressive runner-up performance among an exceedingly tough field in Marstrand has moved him up three places to be now tied for sixth in the standings.

Others who have advanced up the ladder include Bjorn HANSEN (SWE) and his Alandia Sailing Team, from fourth to second; Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) and his French Match Racing Team, from fifth to tied for third; Magnus HOLMBERG, from tenth to eighth; and Peter GILMOUR (AUS) and his Team PST's fifth place finish has earned them their first 10 points to make it into the standings at tied for 13th.

But the battle in Marstrand left some surprising victims in its wake, including Tour regulars and past stage winners who could not advance to the top-eight quarter final round. These include the reigning World Champion WILLIAMS, who missed the cut by one place, the winner at Match Cup Germany, Damien IEHL (FRA) and his French Match Racing Team, and Paolo CIAN (ITA) and his Team Shosholoza, who could manage no better than 10th and 11th respectively amongst this tough field. And even though WILLIAMS still leads in points, IEHL and CIAN have seen their standings on the leaderboard drop respectively from fifth to tenth and from second to sixth in points totals.

But as proven at Match Cup Sweden as well as every other stage, Tour teams are nothing if not resilient, and expect to see those vanquished in Marstrand to bounce back to excel again in future stages. The battle will resume again at the next stage on the Tour, the Danish Open, held over 27-31 August at a new venue in Frederikshavn, Denmark.

World Tour Standings
(After 4 events of 9)

1. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Pindar - 47 points
2. Bjorn HANSEN (SWE), Alandia Sailing Team - 40 points
3. Sébastien COL (FRA), French Match Racing Team/K Challenge - 37 points
3. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), French Match Racing Team - 37 points
5. Mattias RAHM (SWE), Stena Bulk Racing Team - 34 points
6. Paolo CIAN (ITA), Team Shosholoza - 33 points
6. Torvar MIRSKY (AUS), Mirsky Racing Team - 33 points
8. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), Victory Challenge - 27 points
9. Jes GRAM-HANSEN (DEN), Trifork Racing Team - 26 points
10. Damien IEHL (FRA), French Match Racing Team - 25 points

ISAF Match Racing World Championship microsite - www.sailing.org/matchworlds
Dobbs Davis
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