The final line up for the eagerly-anticipated ISAF Grade 2 RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series Grand Final has been confirmed.
It has taken almost five months of fiercely competitive racing in the best and worst of whatever Mother Nature has been able to throw at them for the ten skippers to get to this point. It would be hard to expect anything but three sensational days of sailing when the finalists do battle at Queen Mary Sailing Club this weekend (7-9 March).
World #5 Bjorn HANSEN
(SWE) heads the pack having secured his Series Final spot after finishing second to his closest ranked rival in the final, Frenchman Damien IEHL
, at a windless Challenge 5 event; both men beating ISAF Match Racing World Champion Ian WILLIAMS
(GBR) into the bargain.
However, Great Britain's former America's Cup star Andy GREEN
returned to high-profile match racing in explosive fashion last year to clinch the 2007 Series and despite his current ranking, GREEN has already shown he is in no mood to relinquish his title during this Series as he swept to Challenge 4 victory in January.
Australian prodigy Torvar MIRSKY
, who at just 21 year old is the highest ranked youth sailor on the World Rankings at #11, could be the surprise package of the Finals as he makes his Winter Challenge bow by invitation.
MIRSKY, who includes Volvo RYA Keelboat Squad member Tudur OWEN
(GBR) in his crew, recently triumphed at Warren Jones Youth Regatta on his home waters of Western Australia while also racking up a notable number of 2007 World Match Racing Tour results.
(GBR) narrowly missed out on claiming his first Winter Challenge title last year when he lost out 2-1 to GREEN in the 2007 Final and having familiarised himself with the Queen Mary conditions during no fewer than three of this winter's Challenges there will not be many sailors who know the venue better.
Racing gets underway with the 15 flight round-robin at Queen Mary on Friday 7 March with a scheduled five flight final for the top two teams over the event set to decide the overall Series winner on Sunday 9 March.
David CAMPBELL-JAMES, Winter Challenge Series Co-ordinator, said: "Two weeks ago we enjoyed a fantastic Women's Winter Challenge Final, when world #1 Claire LEROY showed everyone just why she is so revered on the world match racing stage, and now the men have the chance to match the standards of excellence laid down by the women.
"There have been so many twists and turns throughout this year's Series that I cannot wait to see it all come together at Queen Mary this weekend. Andy Green demonstrated just what this event means to the sailors when he won the title last year and whoever takes the Series this time around will certainly be a worthy winner."
RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series Grand Final start list
Inc. 2007-08 Winter Challenge results and ISAF World ranking in brackets:
(SWE) (5) - 2nd Challenge 5
(FRA) (8) - 1st Challenge 5
(AUS) (11) - invitation - 1st Warren Jones Youth Regatta, Perth in February; 5th 2007 Monsoon Cup, 7th 2007 Brasil Cup
(GBR) (22) - 2nd Challenge 1, 3rd Challenge 2, 8th Challenge 5
(FRA) - (24) 1st Challenge 3
(GER) (27) - 1st Challenge 1
(FRA) (41) - 2nd Challenge 3
(FRA) (55) - 2nd Challenge 4
(GBR) (60) - 7th Challenge 2, 4th Challenge 4
(GBR) (124) - defending champion - 9th Challenge 2, 1st Challenge 4