Aussies vs Europe - Harken Women’s International

Claire Leroy and Team Claire Leroy
Bob Grieser/PPL
With the results from the New Zealand Women’s Match Racing Championship decided yesterday, the competition will now shift across the Tasman Sea to Sydney. Three Australian teams will be fighting for national pride, with two of the three also duelling for the one remaining place for the upcoming world championship, when they take on the match racing might of the Europeans.

From 15-19 March 2008 the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Rushcutters Bay will host the ISAF grade 2 Harken Women’s International Match Racing Regatta using its fleet of 10 Elliott 6s, the same class raced over the three-day Nationals sailed out of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

Australia’s hopes in the Harken Women’s International and the final event in the southern hemisphere series, the ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championships to be held in Auckland from 1-6 April, on paper rest on the strong shoulders of the world number three ranked woman, Katie Spithill from Sydney’s northern beaches.

But to underestimate the 12th ranked Nicky Souter, who finished third to Spithill’s fifth in New Zealand over the weekend, could prove perilous.

Souter, the CYCA’s Samantha Boyd and Spithill, who finished runner up at last year’s World’s to ISAF’s highest ranked woman match racer and current ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Claire Leroy, are preparing to challenge the world number one on home turf and in a class of boat they know well.

However Leroy’s victory in the New Zealand Nationals, sailing the Elliott 6’s for the first time in extremely difficult tidal conditions and finishing with a perfect scorecard proved she can seamlessly adapt to an unfamiliar class of boat.

Sailing with her core team of Nina Curtis, Kristen Short and Jessica Eastwell, Spithill is also conscious of the extra determination her fellow Aussies will bring to the Harken Women’s International.

There is only place left for the Worlds and it will go to Sam Boyd, ranked 47, or the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s Souter, based on their results in the Harken Women’s International.

“The stakes are much higher,” admits a somewhat nervous Boyd, who finished seventh in New Zealand.

“I know Nicky is a stronger skipper on paper. We haven’t beaten her overall but if I can stay focused, and maybe get into her head, who knows?”

Souter’s polished team, which includes two-time ISAF youth representative Rayshele Martin on the bow, has spent four years together and they want the golden ticket, the one remaining spot for the world championship.

“It makes it more exciting. I think results in the Harken are going to come down to boat handling. Plus every time we travel to Europe the home teams have the advantage…this time it’s our turn,” Souter said.

Ten teams representing France, Denmark, Germany, UK, New Zealand and Australia will train on Sydney Harbour this Saturday, 15 March, before Saturday night’s official team welcome hosted by the CYCA and sponsor Harken Australia.

Competition commences Sunday with the finals to be sailed Wednesday afternoon on Sydney Harbour.

http://www.sail-world.com/42510