In a forceful, flawless style, Klaatje ZUIDERBAAN of Holland eliminated Jenny AXHEDE of Sweden 3-0 to win the Cicada International Women's Match Racing championship in nearly perfect sailing conditions on Hamilton harbour yesterday.
Zuiderbaan and her team will advance to the open qualifying round of The ISAF Grade 1 King Edward VII Gold Cup today and face America's Cup legend Dennis CONNER in the first round of competition tomorrow.
"We made a decision today to go out and have fun and there is nothing as fun as sailing well,"
Zuiderbaan said whose team will also receive a check for $7,500 from Cicada President Gregory Smith for their efforts. "Winning this event is a fantastic opportunity for us and the kind of response we have had here in Bermuda is so inspiring. The support of the people and the sponsors here today is overwhelming and will really do a lot to make our sport grow."
The day started out with all eyes on Bermudian Paula LEWIN who was the clear favorite to win the event as she came into the semi-finals with a 7-0 performance in the round robin. She was in the comfortable position of choosing her opponent for the semi-final round of the match. Lewin chose to race against Zuiderbaan and she may now live to regret it as she fell 0-3 to the Dutch team and was ousted from her undefeated spot at the top of the roster. Zuiderbaan then went on to best Swedish sailor Jenny Axhede 0-3 sailing almost without error. While The King Edward VII Gold Cup is still a bit out of reach, she and her team held aloft the 4th Cruiser Squadron Bowl in celebration after the race. Lewin finished out the competition in third place.
"It is always difficult to know whom to choose and over the week we were struggling a bit,"
said Zuiderbaan who raced here last year but did not make it to the semi-finals. She spent the past few months training to sail in the Athens Olympics and has focused on her sailing intensely this year. "For this week, we had brought on a new team member who did not speak Dutch. For most of the week, we were working out the vocabulary between Dutch and English on the boat. But, today we went out to have fun, we understood each other and it all worked."
The Swedish team went 3-2 in the semi-final round against Guila CONTI yet tired somewhat after those five races and were not as quick off the starts against the Dutch. The team did not get back into the groove until the third race of the finals where they led at the top mark, until Axhede chose to jibe away from the Dutch team going downwind and lost her lead in the process.
"Klaartje had a fantastic race today and I think we fought so hard in the semi-finals that we may not have gotten it going until the final round,"
Axhede said. "Tomorrow we do enter the qualifying rounds, however, and have to sail against Russell COUTTS. We are not sure how that will go but feel it is an honour to sail against him."
"We would also like the honour of sailing against Russell COUTTS,"
Zuiderbaan said yesterday. "But, we look forward to sailing Dennis CONNER tomorrow. These men are really giants in sailing and it is going to be great."
For complete results, go to the event website at the address below.