The latest release of the ISAF World Match Race Rankings comes almost on the eve of the ISAF Annual Conference in Copenhagen, when the implications of proposed changes to the method of calculating skippers' points will be discussed and implemented.
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Back to the rankings, ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year nominee and 2004 ISAF World Match Racing Champion Ed BAIRD (USA) retains his grip over the Open Rankings, whilst in a surprise move in the Women's rankings, Marie BJORLING (SWE), who was one of the first competitors to take a rankings "holiday" earlier this year, returing to the tour in April, and has now regained her top spot.
Ed BAIRD (USA), one of the ten male nominees for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award, which will be held in Copenhagen on 9 November 2004, holds a ninety point lead over one of the young stars on the ISAF tour James SPITHILL (AUS). At the beginning of 2003, Baird was commentating on the America's Cup Skipper's moves for OneWorld down in Auckland, and since the beginning of 2004, has been getting much closer to the action around the world, hitting the top spot in June and since then has steadily ffirmed his position.
Spithill has climbed the rankings since the last release following his second place finish in the recently completed ISAF Grade 1, Investors Guaranty Presentation of the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda. After a bit of boat bashing with Kiwi Russell COUTTS earlier in the competition before a pre-start, the pair met in the final and it was the ever dangerous Coutts and his crew that came out victorious.
That victory in what is arguably one of the most famous match racing regattas on the calendar, not only shunted Coutts into the top ten of the ISAF World Rankings from a lowly 24, but also put him into the record books as a seven times winner of the event. Coutts has now competed in five ISAF events this year and either won, or finished runner-up in all of these events.
Karol JABLONSKI (POL), having not been seen in action for a few months has seen his dominance of the rankings wane slowly. Overtaken by a host of America's Cup skippers he now sits in fifth place behind Mathieu RICHARD (FRA).
There are a full ten nations represented in the top twenty of the rankings for 27 October. Scandinavia is as usual, incredibly well represented as a region with three skippers from Sweden, three from Denmark and one from Finland.
The Women's rankings see a return to the top for Marie BJORLING after she took time off from the tour at the end of last year to have a baby. Coming back into the competitive scene in April she has steadily built up her position on the world tour with solid victories in the Lysekil Women's Match and the Swedish Match Women's Cup, both ISAF Grade 1 events.
This consistent backbone of competition has pushed her into pole position from seventh overall, ousting previous ranking leader Lotte MELDGAARED PEDERSEN (DEN), who drops into second place.
Klaartje ZUIDERBAAN made a name for herself last week by winning the Cicada International Women's Match Racing in Bermuda and in doing so gained an entry to the open class of the coveted King Edward VII Gold Cup. Eventually she finished eighth, beating "Mr. America's Cup" Dennis CONNER himself on her way to a solid result and scoring points that were enough to propel her into the top ten of the rankings, to sit at number 10. She now holds her highest position since June 2003 when she was ninth.
Nina BRAESTRUP (DEN), who was second in the rankings going into this release has dropped to sixth in the world's best female skippers. She is one of three Danish skippers in the top twenty in the world in a list that includes; Lotte MELDGAARD-PEDERSEN (DEN), who has replaced her in second place; and Annette STROM (DEN) in 15 position behind Paula LEWIN.
As well as Denmark, there are a further seven nations represented in the top twenty, with Rita CONCALVES (POR) making a hitch in 20 position and representing her nation in the Worlds best.
The next ISAF World Match Race Rankings will be released on 24 November following the ISAF Grade 1 Nippon Cup. These will be the last rankings for 2004.