This weekend in Sydney the battle begins for the final qualification place at the 2008 ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship.
Less than three weeks now remain until the 2008 ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship launch into action at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, with racing scheduled from 1-6 April. To date, 13 of the 14-strong line up set to contest the 2008 World title has been decided, with the final skipper to qualify at the ISAF Grade 2 Harken Women's International Match Racing Regatta, taking place in Sydney, Australia from 16-19 March.
Heading the World Championship line-up is the 2007 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year
and world #1 skipper Claire LEROY
(FRA). As defending champion, Leroy received an automatic invitation to this year's Worlds, along with the top ten skippers in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings
released six months prior to the Worlds (in this case 24 October 2007). Two further places representing the host nation New Zealand were secured by Jan DAWSON
, the President of Yachting New Zealand, and Jessica SMYTH
at the recent ISAF Grade 2 New Zealand Women's Match Race.
With the start of the Worlds just around the corner, the Harken Women's Match Race has attracted an all-star cast to Sydney this year. Headlining the event are the top four skippers in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, from #1-#4 respectively, LEROY, Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN
(DEN), Katie SPITHILL
(AUS) and Christelle PHILIPPE
(FRA). Of the remaining line up, Silke HAHLBROCK
(GER), Gemma FARRELL
(GBR), Josie GIBSON
(GBR) and New Zealander Smyth have also already qualified for the Worlds, leaving a head-to-head battle between the Australian entries Nicky SOUTER
and Samantha BOYD
for the final World Championship spot.
The Harken Match Race begins on Sunday 16 March and continues through to Wednesday 19 March, with racing on Rushcutters Bay with a crew of four in Elliott 6 sports boats - the same crew/boat combination to be used at the Worlds. Consequently, the event should provide a fascinating form guide ahead of next month's Worlds, especially for European competitors, many of whom will be dealing with unfamiliar equipment and conditions (LEROY had never before sailed the Elliott 6s before she competed in the New Zealand nationals). Meanwhile, for SOUTER and BOYD, it will also provide the final chance to join the elite of the women's match racing world as they do battle for its most prestigious prize, the ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship Trophy.
ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship Line Up
1. Claire LEROY
(FRA), defending champion
2. Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN
3. Katie SPITHILL
4. Christelle PHILIPPE
5. Silke HAHLBROCK
6. Liz BAYLIS
7. Josie GIBSON
8. Gemma FARRELL
9. Silja LEHTINEN
10. Sabrina GURIOLI
11. Camilla ULRIKKEHOLM
12. Jan DAWSON
13. Jessica SMYTH
14. Nicky SOUTER
(AUS) or Samantha BOYD
Find out more on the ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship at www.sailing.org/wmatchworlds