This year more sailors than ever from the world's elite in match racing will be competing in Stena Match Cup Sweden.
From 5 - 11 July the fifth out of nine stages of the World Match Racing Tour will be sailed at Marstrand, Sweden. Six Swedish top sailors out of a total of 16 men and 10 national womens teams in the top elite are fighting for titles.
Most of the 16 male elite teams have been racing in Marstrand before, but this year they are accompanied by a couple of newcomers. Also new for this year is the introduction of the Elliott 6 as the women's class. The same boat will be used as the new Olympic match racing class for women in London 2012. With only three in the crew, instead of six in the larger DS37 sailed by the male teams, it will provide an enthralling contest. The national team sailors Anna Kjellberg and Linda Rahm are flying the flag for Sweden.
"We chose the Elliott 6 as the top teams in the world and most national teams in women's match racing have switched to the Olympic boat. This will provide us with more and stronger top women teams than before,"
explains Martin Sohtell, project manager of the organizers Brandspot.
The legendary Australian, seven time champion at Marstrand, and last year's winner of Stena Match Cup Sweden, Peter Gilmour is back to try and win his eighth title if possible. Only the Swedish sailors, Magnus Holmberg, Mattias Rahm, Björn Hansen and Johnnie Berntson, know the difficult waters below the cliffs at the inlet to Marstrand better than the world star.
Gilmour is just one out of a strong Australian campaign in the Swedish World Match Race Tour event, with three male crews and one women's team present. The number two in the world, Torvar Mirsky, who was in the 2008 finals when Mattias Rahm won, is aiming for revenge. This year another young and promising match racing sailor from Perth, Australia, will be in the starting blocks. Keith Swinton claimed the qualification spot for Stena Match Cup Sweden through his second place in the GKSS Spring Cup at Långedrag, Sweden. Keith knows Marstrand from before when he in 2007 he worked as a boat mechanic and volunteer at the event.
The men's event is led by WMRT top ranked sailors and the reigning world champion Adam Minoprio from New Zealand. Right now, Minoprio is number two on the Tour, behind last year's finalist Mathieu Richard from France. In addition, four time Olympic medalist and America's Cup skipper Ben Ainslie and previous world champion Ian Williams, both from Great Britain, will be racing. Other repeat visitors in the regatta who have tried to claim the title at Marstrand are Italian Francesco Bruni, with a broad experience from America's Cup, Farr 40 and TP52, and Staffan Lindberg sailing for Finland.
Nordic sailors in the top
Danish sailor Jesper Radich is the sixth challenger among the Nordic teams. He recently finished second in the German event of World Match Racing Tour and has good chance for a top place in this strong starting field.
Johnnie Berntson from Stenungsund, Sweden has been showing great international form lately. The same goes for the former America's Cup skipper Magnus Holmberg, who is racing with a New Zealand crew from Phil Robertsons team. Number ten in the world and 2007 winner, Björn Hansen, is the only Swede with a tour card and a guaranteed start in the World Match Racing Tour. Hansen hasn't yet reached his top performance but is usually finishing high in the ranks at Marstrand. Another winner at Marstrand who has shown improving performance is Mattias Rahm, a sailor who should never be neglected at Marstrand.
Any team can win in the Elliott 6
Two Swedish female sailors, Anna Kjellberg and Linda Rahm, are in the challenge to be the one team to represent Sweden at the Olympics. In their aspiration for the Olympics, Stena Match Cup Sweden is an important regatta due to the introduction of the Olympic Elliott boats.
Among the female competitors will be ISAF ranked number one in the world, Lucy MacGregor from Great Britain, as well as last year's winner, ranked third, Katie Pellew - Spithill. In the lineup for this year, the young German team of Silke Hahlbrook, ranked four in the world, the much merited Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen from Denmark, and Ekaterina Skudina from Russia, who won the European Championship against MacGregor in May this year, are all hot candidates for the Finals.
French Olympic candidate Anne-Claire Le Berre has been chosen by the national association to represent France at Marstrand instead of superstar Claire Leroy, who had not yet started her Olympic 2012 campaign. Renee Groeneveld from the Netherlands is one of the new elite sailors in the ISAF Sailing World Cup. She is a fast climber in the ranks and due to her success in the Sailing World Cup so far, she should be considered as a dark horse.
"This year's women's event is different from earlier years since national associations are actively working with their entries into the event. Their campaigns are more professional in that they bring coaches, dieticians and trainers to Marstrand,"
says Erik Centerwall, GKSS.
With the new and smaller Elliott boat, the conditions at Marstrand will be completely new for the sailors. It has a lower mast, only three women in the crew and as a boat it demands more physical effort by the team than the 11 metre boat which was used before. The women will not be able to fall back on previous experience from the arena in this year's prestigious event.
"The international interest for the event is greater than ever this year. The women's event will become a formidable wasp's nest. With new and more demanding conditions anyone can win,"
says Martin Sohtell from Brandspot.
Stena Match Cup Sweden starts 5 July at Marstrand with a round robin series. Finals for the women will be sailed on Saturday 10 July and the men's finals are planned for Sunday 11 July.
Stena Match Cup Sweden 2010 - Men skippers
Adam Minoprio, NZL - ISAF ranking 1
Torvar Mirsky, AUS - ISAF ranking 2
Ben Ainslie, GBR - ISAF ranking 3
Mathieu Richard, FRA - ISAF ranking 4
Ian Williams, GBR - ISAF ranking 6
Peter Gilmour, AUS - ISAF ranking 8
Franceso Bruni, ITA - ISAF ranking 9
Björn Hansen, SWE - ISAF ranking 10
Johnie Berntsson, SWE - ISAF ranking 11
Mattias Rahm, SWE - ISAF ranking 20
Staffan Lindberg, FIN - ISAF ranking 23
Magnus Holmberg, SWE - ISAF ranking 49
Jesper Radich, DAN - ISAF ranking 320
Lucy MacGregor, GBR - ISAF ranking 1
Katie Pellew Spithill, AUS - ISAF ranking 3
Silke Hahlbrook, GER - ISAF ranking 4
Anne-Claire Le Berre, FRA - ISAF ranking 7
Anna Kjellberg, SWE - ISAF ranking 9
Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen, DAN - ISAF ranking 12
Renee Groenevald, NED - ISAF ranking 14
Linda Rahm, SWE - ISAF ranking 20
Ekaterina Skudina, RUS - ISAF ranking 22
For more details on the ISAF World Match Racing Tour visit: www.wmrt.com