by Matt Carter
RYA National Match Racing Championship Series finale is being held on the shores of Queen Mary Sailing Club, Staines, this weekend (18 to 20 November). Eleven teams will do battle for the prestige of picking up the coveted 2011 RYA National Match Racing Championship title.
Cherry - RYA National Match Racing Champion 2010
The skippers and their crews have earned their berths at the grand final through five qualifying rounds, their positions in the ISAF Match Racing world rankings, or as defending champion, with all eleven skippers now having the chance to scoop the 2011 RYA National Match Racing Championship crown.
Last year’s winner and three time RYA National Match Racing Champion (2010, 2007, 2006), Southampton’s Nick Cherry, will be eager to make his mark on this year’s event with the aim of a repeat of last year’s performance. Having raced in the Gold Cup in Bermuda in the summer, Cherry will be wanting to lead his crew to victory against a very strong line-up and some impressive qualifying teams which include Skandia Team GBR and Women’s Match Racing World Champion, Lucy Macgregor.
Britain’s top ISAF ranked skipper at the event is Poole’s Mark Lees, sailing with his crew Toby Yeabsley, Mark Yeabsley and Peter Austin who make up Team Echo. Having recently competed in five consecutive weekends of match racing including the International Geneva Match Race (ISAF Grade 3), the Master Espana Match Race (ISAF Grade 2) and three more highly competitive events across Europe, the team will be well prepared and truly focused on this weekend’s final. In addition, Mark Lees and his team were one of the biggest movers in latest ISAF rankings release, moving up 31 places to a respectable 71st and will be determined for this rise to continue.
Adding to the excitement is Mark Campbell-James who holds three RYA National Match Championship titles (2009, 2008, 2005). The 31-year-old was pipped to the post last year by Nick Cherry preventing him from winning the event for a third consecutive year. No doubt the match racing stalwart will be eager to reclaim his position at the top of the National Match Racing pile and to get his hands back on his beloved trophy.
In hot contention this year will be the female competitors who look to be a dominant force. Skipper and 2012 Team GB member Lucy Macgregor along with her fellow Skandia Team GBR Match Race crew Annie Lush and sister Kate Macgregor are sure to be on everyone’s radar. Also joining the 2012 Olympians on the quest for podium success will be Vicky Lens and the Skandia Team GBR match race coach Maurice Paardenkooper. With an all-male RYA National Match Racing trophy table to date, the experience of Macgregor and her crew is bound to pay dividends come the end of the regatta.
Joining the party will be the RYA’s Youth National Match Racing Champion James French. The 19-year-old clinched both the U20 and U25 titles at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy back in October and will be aiming to deliver on the big stage this time around. With French being one of the youngest skippers competing, his age is not a worry entering the Series Grand Final.
'We are really looking forward to the finals at the Queen Mary Sailing Club where we will have the opportunity to race against some of the best match racers in the country. We are as prepared as we can be and are looking forward to competing against a lot of the older teams at the event. Having competed in the Governor’s Cup, I hope my experience will pay dividends and that we can get a good result come the end of play on Sunday,' said French.
Qualifying for the finals at the Youth National Championships along with French was Tom Phipps who will also be joined by Sam Pearson who won his place in the final through Qualifier 1 victory. Triumph at the BUSA Match Racing Championships back in April secured Rob Gullan’s place in the final while Griogair Whyte’s success in the Celihi Cup and Charlotte Lawrence’s victory in the Women’s event cemented their spots. Robbie Allam’s conquest at the Mermaid Match Racing Championships in April secured his spot at Queen Mary Sailing Club.
Racing, in J80s, gets underway Friday morning (18 November) with a 22 flight round-robin which will be followed by knock-out quarter-final and semi-final rounds before the Champion is decided in the final round on Sunday 20 November.
Further information on the RYA National Match Racing Series Final is available here, follow the links to ‘Keelboat Match Racing’.
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