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10 March 2008, 10:28 am
IEHL Makes It French Winter Challenge Double
Action from Challenge 4 at Queen Mary Sailing Club
Action from Challenge 4 at Queen Mary Sailing Club

RYA Winter Challenge Final 2008
Staines, London, Great Britain

Damien IEHL ensured it was a glorious double for France as he followed in the wake of compatriot Claire LEROY to claim 2008 ISAF Grade 2 RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series Grand Final glory.
Damien IEHL (FRA) clinched his second Winter Challenge title in three years in clinical fashion outwitting up-and-coming Australian skipper Torvar MIRSKY 2-0 in the Grand Final to cap an impressive three days' racing for the Frenchman at Queen Mary Sailing Club.

Just a fortnight ago Claire LEROY (FRA), the women's world #1, romped to RYA Women's Winter Challenge victory also at Queen Mary setting the standard for the four of her fellow countrymen who had qualified for the Grand Final.

And it was IEHL, who had beaten ISAF Match Racing World Champion Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) on his way to Challenge Five qualifier success last month, who rose to the challenge to take the crown losing just two races throughout the whole event.
A delighted IEHL said: "We've been really pleased to come here especially so we can get in some winter sailing in J/80s putting us, we feel, ahead coming into the new season. The first title we won in 2006 was one of the first times we had sailed together but now we have been sailing together for three years so we feel it is really coming together for us."

MIRSKY and young Brit Ali HALL had swept through to the semis at Queen Mary as the two men to beat having picked up eight wins and just one defeat apiece in the 15-flight Grand Final round robin.

Both men made the best of the perfect 12-15 knot day one conditions on Friday to post immaculate five out of five scores, HALL impressively taking the scalps of top seed Bjorn HANSEN (SWE) and IEHL en route to his opening day clean sweep.
With gusts of up to 25 knots on day two, it was IEHL who looked most at home in the heavier breeze, his only Saturday defeat coming to Hansen in the decisive final flight 15, which determined the pairings for Sunday morning's semis.

Paired against one of two Brits in the first-to-three-points semis, MIRSKY eased to a race one win over Mark CAMPBELL-JAMES (GBR) in light winds before the Briton hit back in the second race, forcing the Aussie into two penalties at the first windward mark and taking race two. But despite two more closely-contested races, MIRSKY won out 3-1 to make his first Series final.

The other semi between IEHL and HALL was more straightforward, HALL unable to replicate the impressive form that had seen him upset the odds to book his place in the top four and IEHL cruising through to the final 3-0.

IEHL laid down the gauntlet to MIRSKY immediately in the final, rapidly surging into a 2-0 lead.

But with the wind becoming ever more unpredictable officials were left with little choice but to abandon racing as setting a fair course became impossible, guaranteeing IEHL reclaimed his title.

RYA Racing Services Manager David ATKINSON said: "You have only got to look at the list of 2007-08 Series winners to see how this event continues to have a place in the consciences of the World's top match racers. To have been able to attract the calibre of the sailors we have again shows the credence and value they believe it has to their campaigns.

"The spectrum of sailors that enter the Series really makes it what it is. On one side you have the World's top ranked racers like Ian WILLIAMS and Claire LEROY, who have always been staunch supporters of the event, and on the other it acts a fantastic opportunity for those up-and-coming racers to learn from the best and get invaluable, quality match racing under their belts."

Results - click here

Karenza Morton
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