World #1 Claire LEROY heads an all-star cast for the ISAF Grade 2 RYA Women's Winter Challenge Championship crown this weekend.
No fewer than six of the top ten ranked females in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings are poised to fight it out this weekend from 22-24 February.
(FRA), who received the prestigious ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award in November after claiming both the World and European match racing titles during 2007, will arrive at Queen Mary Sailing Club desperate to wrestle back the Winter Challenge title she first won in 2006 having finished as runner-up at last year's Women's Final.
On that occasion it was Silja LEHTINEN
(FIN) who upset the odds to see off the challenge of LEROY in the final to land the main prize and the Finnish helm, seventh at last week's Yngling World Championships in Miami, will be in no mood to relinquish her crown easily.
Yet both women are set to face a stern test from a host of sources, both from overseas and home territory.
World #2 Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN
(DEN) will want to get one over on LEROY, the woman who has kept her off the top of the rankings for almost 18 months, while Swede Jenny AXHEDE
, world #6, is another sailor with the potential to ensure the Challenge crown returns to Scandinavia for the second year running.
(GBR) and Josie GIBSON
(GBR), ranked 14th and 15th respectively, head up the Great Britain challenge while reigning RYA Women's National Match Racing champion Lucy MACGREGOR
(GBR), fresh from crewing Skandia Team GBR's Team Shirley Robertson to eighth at the Yngling Worlds, is also turning her hand back to match racing at Queen Mary.
The Women's Winter Challenge gets underway at Queen Mary at 10:00 on Friday 22 February with the finals scheduled for Sunday 24 February.
The winner of the event will also secure their spot in the RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series Grand Final at Queen Mary on 7-9 March.