Finalists do battle at Queen Mary SC this weekend

by RYA 
The eagerly-anticipated RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series Grand Final can be confirmed and it would be hard to expect anything but three sensational days of sailing when the finalists do battle at Queen Mary Sailing Club this weekend (7-9 March).

World number five Bjorn Hansen (SWE) heads the pack having secured his Series Final spot after finishing second to his closest ranked rival in the Final, Frenchman Damien Iehl, at a windless Challenge 5 event; both men beating World Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams (GBR) into the bargain.

RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series Grand Final start list (inc. 2007-08 Winter Challenge results) ISAF World ranking in brackets:

1) Bjorn Hansen (SWE) (5) – 2nd Challenge 5
2) Damien Iehl (FRA) (8) – 1st Challenge 5
3) Torvar Mirsky (AUS) (11) – invitation – 1st Warren Jones Youth Regatta, Perth in February; 5th 2007 Monsoon Cup, 7th 2007 Brasil Cup
4) Mark Campbell-James (GBR) (22) – 2nd Challenge 1, 3rd Challenge 2, 8th Challenge 5
5) Victor Lanier (FRA) – (24) 1st Challenge 3
6) Carsten Kemmling (GER) (27) – 1st Challenge 1
7) Christian Ponthieu (FRA) (41) - 2nd Challenge 3
8) Alexis Littoz Baritel (FRA) (55) – 2nd Challenge 4
9) Ali Hall (GBR) (60) – 7th Challenge 2, 4th Challenge 4
10) Andy Green (GBR) (124) – defending champion – 9th Challenge 2, 1st Challenge 4

World number five Bjorn Hansen (SWE) heads the pack having secured his Series Final spot after finishing second to his closest ranked rival in the Final, Frenchman Damien Iehl, at a windless Challenge 5 event; both men beating World Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams (GBR) into the bargain.

However, Great Britain’s former America’s Cup star Andy Green returned to high-profile match racing in explosive fashion last year to clinch the 2007 Series and despite his current ranking, Green has already shown he is in no mood to relinquish his title during this Series as he swept to Challenge 4 victory in January.

Australian prodigy Torvar Mirsky, who at just 21-year-old is the highest ranked Youth sailor on the World rankings at 11, could be the surprise package of the Finals as he makes his Winter Challenge bow by invitation.

Mirsky, who includes Volvo RYA Keelboat Squad member Tudur Owen in his crew, recently triumphed at Warren Jones Youth Regatta on his home waters of Western Australia while also racking up a notable number of 2007 World Match Racing Tour results.

Mark Campbell-James (GBR) narrowly missed out on claiming his first Winter Challenge title last year when he lost out 2-1 to Green in the 2007 Final and having familiarised himself with the Queen Mary conditions during no fewer than three of this winter’s Challenges there will not be many sailors who know the venue better.

Racing gets underway with the 15 flight round-robin at Queen Mary on Friday 7 March with a scheduled five flight final for the top two teams over the event set to decide the overall Series winner on Sunday 9 March.

David Campbell-James, Winter Challenge Series Co-ordinator, said: “Two weeks ago we enjoyed a fantastic Women’s Winter Challenge Final, when World number one Claire Leroy showed everyone just why she is so revered on the World match racing stage, and now the men have the chance to match the standards of excellence laid down by the women.

“There have been so many twists and turns throughout this year’s Series that I cannot wait to see it all come together at Queen Mary this weekend. Andy Green demonstrated just what this event means to the sailors when he won the title last year and whoever takes the Series this time around will certainly be a worthy winner.”

2007-08 Series Winners (by skipper):

Development Event (10-11 November) – Sarah Ayton (GBR)
Winter Challenge 1 (24-25 November) – Carsten Kemmling (GER)
Winter Challenge 2 (7-9 December) – Ian Williams (GBR)
Winter Challenge 3 (19-20 January) – Victor Lanier (FRA)
Winter Challenge 4 (26-27 January) – Andy Green (GBR)
Winter Challenge 5 (8-10 February) – Damien Iehl (FRA)
Women’s Winter Challenge (22-24 February) – Claire Leroy (FRA)
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