World number one Claire Leroy heads an all-star cast as no fewer than six of the top 10 ranked females in World match racing are poised to fight it out for the RYA Women’s Winter Challenge Championship crown this weekend (22 – 24 February).
Leroy, who received the prestigious ISAF World Sailor of the Year in November after claiming both the World and European match racing titles during 2007, will arrive at Queen Mary Sailing Club desperate to wrestle back the Winter Challenge title she first won in 2006 having finished as runner-up at last year’s Women’s Final.
On that occasion it was Silja Lehtinen who upset the odds to see off the challenge of Leroy in the final to land the main prize and the Finnish helm, seventh at last week’s Yngling World Championships in Miami, will be in no mood to relinquish her crown easily.
Yet both women are set to face a stern test from a host of sources, both from overseas and home territory.
World number two Lotte Meldgaard Petersen (Den) will want to get one over on Leroy, the woman who has kept her off the top of the rankings for almost 18 months, while Swede Jenny Axhede, World ranked sixth, is another sailor with the potential to ensure the Challenge crown returns to Scandinavia for the second year running.
Gemma Farrell and Josie Gibson, ranked 14th and 15th respectively, head up the Great Britain challenge while reigning RYA Women’s National Match Racing champion Lucy Macgregor, fresh from crewing Skandia Team GBR’s Team Shirley Robertson to eighth at the Yngling Worlds, is also turning her hand back to match racing at Queen Mary.
The Women’s Winter Challenge gets underway at 10am on Friday 22 February with the finals scheduled for Sunday 24 February.
The winner of the event will also secure their spot in the RYA Winter Challenge Match Racing Series Grand Final at Queen Mary on 7-9 March. RYA Women’s Winter Challenge Match Racing Championship entry list:
Claire Leroy (FRA) (ISAF Ranking 1)
Lotte Meldgaard Petersen (DEN) (2)
Jenny Axhede (SWE) (6)
Silke Hahlbrock (GER) (7)
Linda Rahm (SWE) (9)
Silja Lehtinen (FIN) (10)
Gemma Farrell (GBR) (14)
Josie Gibson (GBR) (15)
Camilla Ulrikkeholm (DEN) (16)
Lucy Macgregor (GBR) (23)
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