by Zoe Hawkins
Claire Leroy of France has secured her second consecutive world championship title in the sport of women’s match racing. American Liz Baylis took silver, and Silja Lehtinen of Finland bronze in a frustrating day that was mostly spent waiting for the wind to arrive, meaning that final placings for the split at 1st and 3rd place were determined on countback.
Britain's Josie Gibson finished fourth and Gemma Farrell 14th. Gibson, a former 470 sailor, represents the Island Sailing Club and also won through to the semi-finals in the 2007 edition of the ISAF Women’s World Match Racing Championships.
Claire Leroy, at 28 years of age and representing Sport Nautique de Saint Quay Portrieux, is current Rolex World Yachtswoman of the Year. She has been virtually untouchable in her recent match racing career, holding the Number One spot in the Women’s ISAF World Match Race Rankings since May 2005.
'We are feeling very good, very emotional,' she says. 'It’s a great moment. We had a cry.'
Of Leroy’s crew of Marie Riou, Elodie Bertrand and Claire Pruvot, both Riou and Pruvot are newcomers to the team this year, and in true Leroy style they have pulled together to achieve a distinctive edge in boatspeed that enables them to win time and time again.
In the other Semi Final, Lehtinen beat American Liz Baylis by six seconds in the third flight, bringing the score up to 2-1 in Lehtinen’s favour. Then, after a lengthy wait for wind, Baylis took both the final matches to get the best of three, and qualify for the Finals with Leroy.
Baylis is one of the sport’s most important patrons. A former Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, and 2002 world champion, she has been instrumental in seeing women’s match racing become an Olympic sport. Now her attention is turned to the remainder of her 2008 campaign, and plans to be at the 2012 Olympics.
Conditions were light for the day’s racing, with a range often less than five knots and racing stalled for some time due to 180 degree wind shifts that Auckland is as famous for as its gusty sou-westers.
Final Overall standings
1st – Claire Leroy (FRA)
2nd – Liz Baylis (USA)
3rd – Silja Lehtinen (FIN)
4th – Josie Gibson (GBR)
5th Katie Spithill (AUS)
6th Silke Hahlbrok (GBR)
7th Nicky Souter (AUS)
8th Jess Smyth (NZL)
9th Christelle Philippe (FRA)
10th Lotte Medldgaard (DEN)
11th Camilla Ulrikkeholm (DEN)
12th Sabrina Gurioli (ITA)
13th Jan Dawson (NZL)
14th Gemma Farrell (GBR)
The BSPORT ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championships were hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and sponsored by BSPORT, Giltrap City Toyota and Auckland City Council.
The 2009 event will take place in Lysekil, Sweden.