The world’s number one woman match racer, Claire Leroy from France, has become the first overseas competitor to win the Harken Women’s International Match Racing Regatta, which wrapped up on Sydney Harbour this afternoon.
With two races apiece in the best of five finals, Leroy and Australia’s Nicky Souter went into the starting sequence for the sudden death final race and immediately following the start gun, a second signal was sounded and Souter was recalled for being OCS (On Course Side).
After their costly error Souter and her Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club team threw everything they had at Leroy but the current ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year wasn’t about to give up the early advantage and ran away with the win by 10 boat lengths in the shifty ESE breeze.
Following on board celebrations, Leroy and her crew of Elodie Bertrand, Marie Riou and Claire Pruvot abandoned their Elliott 6 for a dip in Sydney Harbour - until the foreigners suddenly remembered Australia’s reputation for somewhat unfriendly marine life and quickly clambered back aboard.
A delighted Leroy commended Souter on the standard of competition she provided. 'She is a great opponent and a very good chance for the Worlds,' said Leroy dockside at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia this afternoon.
'She gave us very close matches. She didn’t give us many opportunities and I had to think very differently sailing against her'.
While Leroy believes she pushed the two-time winner and defending champion over at the start in the final race, the RPAYC skipper judged it her error. 'We got our line wrong,' Souter acknowledged. 'I’m a little disappointed because it was so close at the end'.
The final podium place went to Katie Spithill and her RPAYC crew who beat Lotte Melgaard Pedersen (DEN) 2-0 in the petite final to finish third.
'We made some mistakes yesterday. We can’t change that, we’ve just got to learn from our mistakes and use that knowledge for the Worlds,' Spithill said.
Race three of the finals provided some interesting challenges for Leroy and Souter when the Middle Harbour Yacht Club and Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club’s afternoon race fleets suddenly converged on the Harken Women’s course off Shark Island.
PRO Denis Thompson monitored the situation closely and was ready to abandon the race if the large keel boats looked like they might affect the final outcome but the two skippers managed to weave their Elliotts up to the Rose Bay top mark without interference.
CYCA Commodore Matt Allen was aboard one of the spectator boats, commenting 'Congratulations to Claire and to all the teams. It was great to see Australia so well represented in both the petite finals and finals'.
The majority of the teams contesting this grade 2 regatta will shortly head across the Tasman to Auckland for the ISAF World Women’s Match Racing Championship to be hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s from 1-6 April.
Having won the New Zealand Women’s Match Racing Championship and now the Harken Women’s International, Leroy is aiming for a hat trick at the Worlds before returning to Europe for the summer.
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