Frenchman Damien Iehl won the right to try to reclaim the RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing crown he won in 2006 after securing his place in the 2008 Final with Qualifier Five victory at Queen Mary Sailing Club this weekend (8-10 February).
With competition in the frame of Ian Williams - Great Britain’s World Match Racing Tour champion - World number five Bjorn Hansen (SWE) and three-quarters of the line up in the top 25 of the World match race rankings, the result was by no means a foregone conclusion from the offset.
Racing started in light sunny conditions on Friday and Iehl, the World number seven, set out his stall by winning all bar the one match against Hansen setting the weekend up for some great competition.
Unfortunately for the sailors unseasonable weather set in for the rest of the weekend, which although was fantastic for sunbathing there was not a breath of wind and only one more flight of races could be sailed.
Instead of the planned double round robin, semi-finals and finals, only one round robin was achieved but this was enough for Iehl to secure his place in the Series Final.
With the 2007 Series winner Andy Green (GBR) also clinching the chance to defend his title with Qualifier Four victory, Iehl said he was looking forward to the chance to do battle against the reigning champion at the Series Final on March 7-9.
The big guns of World women’s match racing, including newly-crowned ISAF World Sailor of the Year Claire Leroy and defending champion Finland’s Silja Lehtinen, will be out in force in a fortnight for the RYA Women’s Winter Challenge event at Queen Mary.
RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series qualifier 5 results:
1. Damien Iehl (FRA), Fred Guilmin, Francois Verdier, Mikael Mergui
2. Bjorn Hansen (SWE), Pontus Meijer, Mathias Almstedt, Anders Jonsson
3. Ian Williams (GBR), Richard Sydenham, Mark Nicholls, Gerry Mitchell
4. Jure Orel (SLO), Mitja Beltram, Karlo Hmeljak, Alex Boznik
5. Rasmas Viltoft (DEN), Peter Langen, Morten Flamand, Martin Olsen
6. Johnnie Berntsson (SWE), Daniel Wallberg, Bjorn Lundgren, Johan Backman
7. Nick Cherry (GBR) Nick Houchin, Connor Myant, Jonathon Myant
8. Mark Campbell-James (GBR), David Mason, Andrew Yates, Nick Pearson
2007-08 RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series Dates:
Women’s Winter Challenge (Grade 2) 22 - 24 February
Winter Challenge Final (Grade 2) 7 - 9 March 2008