Following the New Zealand Women's Match Racing Championship, the competition shifts across the Tasman Sea to Sydney and the ISAF Grade 2 Harken Women's International Match Race.
Three Australian teams will be fighting for national pride, with two of these three also duelling for the one remaining place for the upcoming ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship, when they take on the match racing might of the Europeans.
From 15-19 March 2008 the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Rushcutters Bay will host the ISAF Grade 2 Harken Women's International Match Racing Regatta using its fleet of ten Elliott 6s, the same class raced over the three-day nationals sailed out of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
Australia's hopes in the Harken Women's International and the final event in the southern hemisphere series, the ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championships to be held in Auckland from 1-6 April, on paper rest on the strong shoulders of the world #3 ranked woman, Katie SPITHILL
from Sydney's northern beaches. But to underestimate the 12th ranked Nicky SOUTER
, who finished third to SPITHILL's fifth in New Zealand over the weekend, could prove perilous.
SOUTER, the CYCA's Samantha BOYD
and SPITHILL, who finished runner up at last year's Worlds to the world's highest ranked woman match racer and current ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year
, Claire LEROY
(FRA), are preparing to challenge the world #1 on home turf and in a class of boat they know well. However LEROY's victory in the New Zealand nationals, sailing the Elliott 6's for the first time in extremely difficult tidal conditions and finishing with a perfect scorecard proved she can seamlessly adapt to an unfamiliar class of boat.
Sailing with her core team of Nina CURTIS
, Kristen SHORT
and Jessica EASTWELL
, SPITHILL is also conscious of the extra determination her fellow Aussies will bring to the Harken Women's International.
There is only place left for the Worlds and it will go to Sam BOYD, ranked #47, or the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club's SOUTER, based on their results in the Harken Women's International.
"The stakes are much higher,"
admits a somewhat nervous BOYD, who finished seventh in New Zealand.
"I know Nicky is a stronger skipper on paper. We haven't beaten her overall but if I can stay focused, and maybe get into her head, who knows?"
SOUTER's polished team, which includes two-time Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship
representative Rayshele MARTIN
on the bow, has spent four years together and they want the golden ticket, the one remaining World Championship spot.
"It makes it more exciting. I think results in the Harken are going to come down to boat handling. Plus every time we travel to Europe the home teams have the advantage…this time it's our turn,"
Ten teams representing France, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia will train on Sydney Harbour this Saturday, 15 March, before Saturday night's official team welcome hosted by the CYCA and sponsor Harken Australia. Competition commences Sunday with the finals to be sailed Wednesday afternoon on Sydney Harbour.
To view the list of teams contesting the Harken Women's International Match Racing Regatta and their World Rankings click here