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14 September 2010, 01:38 pm
A Fierce Challenge For Match Race Thailand III
Match Race Thailand II
Action from Match Race Thailand II

Match Race Thailand 2010
Varuna, Thailand

A bigger and better match race will be held at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya, Thailand on 18 and 19 September - the ISAF Grade 4 Match Race Thailand.
Four identical yachts are shared between all the attending teams, and two pairs will be racing at the same time. Spectators are welcome all weekend at the beach bar where also the racers will hang out in-between races. Racing starts before noon (local time) with the deciding matches to be held both afternoons.

For readers who are not familiar with the match race discipline; the organizers can guarantee two things: First - this is a truly spectator friendly event; the racing is easy to follow on the very small race course, and the start line is only 40 meters from the beach bar. Second - sparks are likely to fly, when the eight combatants from six nations comes head to head on the start line; in particular when 'The Missile' Eriksson is fired up.

The line-up for this event is:

In the Blue corner (at least for the Girls final sat afternoon), representing Malaysia: Ai Li Ng

While being the most experienced female skipper in the race, Ai Li is still only in her early twenties. Despite her relative youth, Ai Li's sailing experience is extensive. She started sailing at 12 years of age, and quickly became a Malaysian National Team sailor in Laser and 420 classes. She has also been tactician, trimmer and even guest-helm on several of the leading racing keelboats in the region, including the Thai boats Phoenix (X-3/4 ton), and Emma Mathilde XX. She has headed up a Platu25 team for several years, and led a Singaporean /Thai/Malaysian all-girls team in Top of the Gulf Regatta 2010. Her tactician's duties have included the ISAF grade three Mumbai International Match Race 2009. She is fast and furious - so watch out - do not mess with this young chick!

In the yellow corner, representing India, Ayesha Katherine Lobo

Benefitting from the very active match race scene in Mumbai, India, Ayesha formed the first Match Race all girls team in 2007. Since then Ayesha has introduced over 30 women sailors to the sport. She is bringing her team of Mumbai girls for a show down - not only with Ai Li, but certainly plan to beat up a few male skippers on her way to the final. The team's ambition is to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in the women's Elliot 6 match race class, and is chasing world ranking points to help qualify for that event. Her official ISAF match race rankings are 392 in the Open category, which makes her the second highest ranked, skipper at this event. She is also 240th on the women ranking. Being an all girls team they have the advantage of being allowed to have a crew of 5 whereas the other teams are limited to crews of four.

Representing the Philippines: Ridgely Balladares

Ridgely has been the most successful sailor from his nation since 1995 when he joined the National team in the International 470 class, having won medals at several SEA games and other major regional events. His match race team is also Philippines' national team and consists of his former 470 crew and other SEA Game medalists.

He sees this event as an essential part of the team's preparations for pursuing a medal in match racing at the 16th ASEAN Game in Guangzhou, China at the end of the year. His match race skills are somewhat unknown as he does not appear on the official ISAF ranking list; however as the leader of a national team, he is not to be underestimated. We would be surprised if he would want to let any weekend-warriors stand between him and a place in the event final.

Representing RVYC and Thailand: Neil Semple

Neil started his sailing career 15 years ago on dinghies and has been successfully racing in the Thai Platu25 fleet. Now he is focusing on match racing, and has in the past achieve strong results in Asian Qualifier for Monsoon Cup (MAS), and reached the Regional Final of the Nations cup in 2008. In addition to being fun and fierce, Neil sees match racing as a way to exercise his expertise in sailing rules. How? Neil is an ISAF International judge, so do not rub him the wrong way on the water, that protest flag may be coming up just about NOW! His current ISAF match race ranking is 1187.

Representing Finland: Jon Eriksson

The winner of Match race Thailand Cup I&II in June 2010, Jon is bringing his team back for more. Jon has not owned a boat for the last ten years, and prefer to match race because he is addicted to the adrenaline and 'one for all - all for one' teamwork mindset. His team has recently been reinforced by adding Estonian national Janno, one of the national coaches of Thailand, as tactician. His very strong MR background includes finishing runner up in the European final of the 2009 ISAF Nations Cup, and thereby qualifying to the final in Brazil.

His best placing was 31 on the ISAF world match race rankings, which more represents his skill level than his current position of 95. He is the highest ranking skipper at this event by a good margin. Keep your eyes open for his pre-start spectaculars; one of his sparring partners recently mentioned they would have a better chance of escaping during the pre-start if they were followed by a heat-seeking missile……

Representing RVYC and Ireland: John Higham

John has on his CV a 20 year career as a professional sailor and has logged over 130,000 miles of racing in events like Whitbread Round the World Race, Rolex and Sardinia Cup. His professional career ended only five years ago when he became CCO of Composite Marine International (CMI), which is the largest boat builder in Thailand and builds racing yachts and dinghies/cats in the 100's for international clients like RS Sailing in the UK.

His match race experience was gained in the pointy end of a very large boat, doing bow on a 12m class yacht (which is 20 meters long) during America's Cup Trials. However it is believed that any world ranking points gained at that time may have expired, as was before the attending female skippers were born. John is looking forward to getting a break from his demanding job, but with his extensive racing experience, his team can certainly not be underestimated at this event. As he likes to keep a low profile, no team photo is available.

Representing RVYC and Thailand: Kevin Whitcraft

Former Thai National team member and a Silver Medalist of Asian Games in 470 class, Kevin is one of the most active sailor of Thailand. Besides racing, he heads up Thailand most popular regatta - the Phuket King's cup - and is the present Commodore of Royal Varuna YC. After the first two match race events there, Kevin uttered 'We want more!' And yep, he brings his team along for more...this time with a vengeance. His current ISAF ranking is exactly nine places ahead of Neil Semple, and Kevin will surely try to increase the difference at this event.

Representing RVYC and Thailand, Morten Jakobsen

Having more than 30 years experience in fleet racing, he still considers himself a beginner in the discipline of match racing. Morten and his team of weekend warriors has been match racing for the last five years in selected regional event, but decided the only way to get enough practice was to help organize match race events in Thailand; this event is the third international event arranged mostly by crewmember Apple and Morten this year.

His past MR events include the Asian Qualifier for Monsoon Cup (Malaysia), Mumbai International Match race and Asian Sailing Championship, China. Having had plenty of Thai sparring partners recently, this team is ready to challenge the local teams and out-of-towners. His current ISAF ranking is 457.

For further information on match racing in Thailand, click here.

Morten Jakobsen
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