Reigning Women’s World Champion Claire Leroy and her team showed why they’ve dominated the women’s game for nearly two years now, taking the top women’s prize at Match Cup Sweden Saturday. In an otherwise all-Swedish field of Semi-Finalists, Leroy is the first non-Scandinavian to win this event.
To get to the Finals, Leroy and her team of Marie Riou, Claire Pruvot, Elodie Bertrand, Annie Lush, and Magane Gautier first dispensed with local-based Linda Rahm (wife of Tour skipper Mattias Rahm) and her Stena Bulk team in three straight victories.
For the Finals, Leroy met a new sailing sensation making her debut at this event, Anna Kjellberg from Gothenburg, who is sailing in her first World Match Racing Tour event. And while Anna surprised Leroy and delighted the thousands of spectators on shore cheering her on by winning the first match, the World Champion rebounded to take the next three races and the top prize.
While there is no cross-over in points or prizes between the Women’s and Open events being held here concurrently at Match Cup Sweden, there is still some synergy between the two groups. In some cases, it is observational: both Katie Spithill (AUS) and Sandy Hayes (USA), who finished seventh and eighth respectively, have been on the bleachers watching the action, as well as many other women’s skippers and their crews.
'This is an awesome opportunity for us to watch and learn from the men,' said Hayes. 'There are so few chances we get to do this, and I’ve been learning a lot of moves we’ve not seen.' Hayes is competing next week at the Mayor’s Cup, a Grade 2 women’s match race event in Long Beach, USA, sailed in similarly-sized 37-foot boats, and Spithill will be returning to Sweden in a few weeks to compete in the DS 37’s again at the Women’s Grade 1 Lysekil Women’s Match event held just north of Marstrand.
And in some cases there might even be a bit of coaching: Linda Rahm admitted they were having some problems with her team’s performance, but that all improved today when she won two straight matches against Jenny Axhede in the Petit Finals.
'Yesterday we had a chat with my husband Mattias, and we agreed to try a more aggressive style today,' said Mrs. Rahm. 'It worked out and we will bring this to Lysekil Women’s Match. Third place is almost as good as first place. To get back and win after the Semi-Finals is a great feeling.'
Racing for the Semi-Finals and Finals will resume tomorrow here in Marstrand. With attendance now estimated to be close to or beyond a record-breaking 130,000 visitors, this will be the largest edition of this fourth-stage Tour event yet.
Claire Leroy and crew celebrate at Match Cup Sweden 2008. Image © Dan Ljungsrik - WMRT?nid=46107