by Matt Carter
A fleet of 12 will go head-to-head at Queen Mary Sailing Club (Staines) from the 16th-18th November to battle it out for the 2012 RYA National Match Racing Championship title, including the world’s number one match racer, Ian Williams.
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The three-time World Champion Williams, who has been number one in the ISAF Match Racing Rankings since August 2011, will provide tough competition at QMSC this weekend. He enters the event off the back off a string of impressive results in this year’s Alpari World Match Racing Tour, including first places at the Chicago Match Cup in July and at Match Race France, Marseille, in September, and will be bidding for a record-equalling fourth world title when the 2012 tour concludes at the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia next month.
Williams has recently been announced as one of the finalists for the 2012 Yachting Journalists’ Association (YJA) Pantaenius Yachtsman of the Year alongside Olympic legend Ben Ainslie, also the World Match Racing Champion in 2010, and Paralympic gold medallist Helena Lucas.
The skippers and their crews for this weekend’s event have earned their berths through seven qualifying rounds between March and October, their positions in the ISAF Match Racing world rankings, or as defending champion, with all twelve skippers now having the chance to bag the 2012 RYA National Match Racing Championship crown.
Last year’s winner and four time RYA National Match Racing Champion (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011), Southampton’s Nick Cherry, will be eager to etch his name on this year’s trophy for an impressive fifth time. However, the 27-year-old, who currently sails Figaro 77 with the Artemis Offshore Academy, believes this year will be very different to previous years with triple World Champion Williams in attendance.
'Hopefully the competition will be strong all the way through the field,' said Cherry. 'I haven't seen the full list but I always have good races against Mark Campbell-James although undoubtedly the toughest race will be against GAC Pindar, Ian Williams. I have never taken a race off Ian and he is obviously at the top of his game, and the world at the moment so it would be nice to be able to give them a bit of a race!'
Cherry continued: 'I have a strong crew with Jez Fowke, Connor Myant and Mark Bulkeley but we've never sailed together as a four so it's not exactly the best preparation. Having done very little match racing in the past 12 months my expectations are slightly lower but hopefully this means I can relax and just enjoy the racing. To win the title for a fifth and third consecutive year would be incredible, mostly because the times I have won previously Ian hasn't been around making the title a bit less meaningful.'
David Campbell-James, Event Director, added: 'This year’s RYA National Match Racing Grand finale is set to be a very exciting weekend of Match Racing. The event has a full entry for the first time in as many years and will be welcoming 12 teams who all have the potential to walk away as the 2012 RYA Match Racing National Champions.
'All crews have earned their positions in the final through a number of paths and all thoroughly deserve the chance to battle it out for the Championships crown. Past champions, up and coming talent and triple world champion Ian Williams will all be vying for success at Queen Mary Sailing Club over the course of the three day regatta.'
The 2012 RYA National Match Racing Championship Grand Final will be contested in the RTYC/RYS’s fleet of J80s with the maximum of 12 skippers competing at Queen Mary Sailing Club, Staines, London. Racing gets underway Friday morning (16 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.
For more information on the RYA National Match Racing Series please visit www.rya.org.uk/racing.