Beijing Olympian Sally Barkow of the USA swept aside reigning World Champion and world #1 Claire Leroy to win the Busan Cup Match Race in Korea, the first-ever ISAF Grade 1 women's match racing event held in Asia.
Eleven skippers from Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania competed in Busan, but the competition was dominated by Sally Barkow (USA) and Claire Leroy (FRA), both two-time winners of the ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship title.
A big crowd turned out on Saturday to watch the final stages on Suyeong Bay held in the newly built Bakewell 30 yachts. After the round robin held earlier in the week, the semi-finals pitted Barkow against Susanne Ward (DEN), whilst Leroy took on Katie Spithill (AUS).
At the start of the regatta, flukey winds had made conditions challenging for Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio (USA), but for the final day 8-9 knots across the bay made for ideal match racing conditions. Barkow and Leroy continued their domination by sweeping their way to 3-0 semi-final wins to set up an intriguing final.
Despite her success on the match racing circuit (including World Championship wins in 2004 and 2005), Barkow’s main focus over the past four years was her Olympic campaign in the three-person Women’s Keelboat – Yngling event. In contrast, Leroy decided against an Olympic campaign and has instead focussed on a match racing campaign which, over the past couple of seasons, has made her the undisputed top women’s match racer in the world, won her the 2007 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award and resulted in her being named as one of the nominees for the 2008 Award. However, with the change in the Olympic sailing programme for 2012, which will include Women’s Match Racing for the first time, Leroy is set to face a renewed challenge to her status as the world’s leading female match race skipper.
Barkow hammered home that point in Busan. The American skipper took a 2-0 lead in the final and then made the most of an unlucky break for Leroy in the third race, when her spinnaker blew up in a big puff off wind at the upwind mark, to win the inaugural Busan Cup Match Race with a 3-0 sweep of the final.
In the petit-final Spithill defeated WARD 2-1 to take third place in the event. Liz Baylis (USA) was best of the rest in fifth place, with Maiko Sato (JPN) sixth and best-placed of the Asian skippers. Final Results
1. Sally Barkow (USA)
2. Claire Leroy (FRA)
3. Katie Spithill (AUS)
4. Susanne Ward (DEN)
5. Liz Baylis (USA)
6. Maiko SATO (JPN)
7. Katarzyna Tylinska (POL)
8. Samantha Boyd (AUS)
9. Pallavi Naik (IND)
10. Li Xue (CHN)
11. Lim HwaEun (KOR) www.sailing.org