This weekend some of the most talented match racers in the world brought a sparkle to the JPMorgan Asset Management Winter Challenge Series at the first Grade 2 qualifier of the Challenge.
Run by the Royal Yachting Association, the match racing weekend attracted ten teams from six nations, including six of the top 25 from the World Match Race rankings. Every match was hotly contested and several were not decided until the final few seconds of the race.
Ian Williams, currently ranked second in the world, looked to be dominating the round robin with no losses until he met last year’s Winter Challenge overall winner Damien Iehl from France. Staffan Lindberg from Finland took third with fourth place decided by a tie break between Andrew Cornah and Mark Campbell-James; Cornah took the win.
The best of five races, semi finals and finals, sailed in almost perfect match race conditions with a crisp, sunny seven to 12 knots, produced fantastic match races. Iehl and Williams went through to the finals both winning three and losing one match in the semis. As this was a Grade 2 qualifier both have secured their place in the JPMorgan Asset Management Winter Challenge final 9-11 March.
The wind steadily increased during the final and after one win each, the final place was wide open but Williams with his top crew of Simon Shaw, Mark Nicholls and Mark Williams kept the British flag flying and took the victory 3 to 1. Williams said “normally we have starting superiority but today we had to fight hard from the start. It has been a tough event and we are delighted with the outcome.”
Lindberg won the 3rd/4th sail off against Cornah. Campbell-James won the 5th/6th sail off against Dorte Jensen, Women’s World Champion from Denmark.
Jensen summed up the feelings of most of the competitors “The JPMorgan Asset Management Winter Challenge at Queen Mary Sailing Club is such an ideal location for visiting overseas teams. It is marvellous to have the opportunity to compete in the winter months against such strong teams. The Winter Challenge has become one of the key events in the Match Racing calendar and we are grateful to JPMorgan Asset Management for all their support.”
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