Stena Match Cup 2011 is currently underway in Marstrand, Sweden. The fifth stage World Match racing Tour event is held from the 4th July to the 10th July with a host of the world’s top female match racers doing battle on the waters of Marstrand Fjord.
This is the first time that the Women have raced alongside the Men, and also the first time that the class to be sailed in Olympic event has been used as part of an established professional Match Racing tour.
The women’s class racing kicked off the event with a showcase of skill and talent as the teams went head to head in the identical Elliott 6m yachts, the same boat that will be sailed at the London 2012 Olympics. The women’s division at Stena Match Cup Sweden provides the Olympic hopefuls with one of the most important opportunities to hone their skills in the run-up to the Olympic selection trials.
Six of the top seven countries overall from the recently completed ISAF World Sailing Cup are competing in Sweden, and if it becomes a regular feature of the professional tour the event will provide an important buildup leading into the 2012 Olympics in Weymouth.
Today’s Semi Finals saw American Olympic gold medallist Anna Tunnicliffe overcome Great Britain’s world number one female match racer Lucy Macgregor 3-0 in tricky, shifting conditions.
'We had a great day of racing today,' Tunnicliffe said. 'Conditions out there were pretty tough, racing was tight and a lot of fun. We have been sailing really well and we hope we can keep up our form going into the final tomorrow.'
Macgregor, who along with sister Kate and crew Annie Lush are currently the number one choice to represent Team GBR at the London Games, added: 'It is disappointing to lose in the Semis to Anna but it is all great training for the Olympics. Everything is very much on course for London 2012.'
Tunnicliffe will face world number two Claire Leroy from France in the Final tomorrow, after Leroy defeated last year’s women’s division winner Ekaterina Skudina from Russia in the other Semi Final match. You can watch all the action live between 2pm and 4pm local time (GMT +2) at the WMRT website.
Following the action from the women’s class it was time for the men’s teams to hit the water for a practice session ahead of the first qualifying session tomorrow. Fourteen teams – including all nine Tour Card Holders – will clash over 23 flights of four matches to determine which eight crews will progress through to the next stage of Stena Match Cup Sweden.
In a preview of the Mens event, World Match Racing Tour leader Francesco Bruni talks topping the standings, his competition in Marstrand and the pressure to perform.
Having made the finals of the last three Tour events and with a 23-point buffer at the top of the World Match Racing Tour standings, Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing is among the favourites for glory in Marstrand. Bruni has been the standout skipper on the Tour so far this season with impressive consistency and strike rate. However, life at the top is by no means easy.
'With three good results under our belt I think there is now quite a bit of pressure on us to win here in Sweden,' Bruni admitted. 'At the same time, the feeling that we are sailing well eases that pressure. It’s a good feeling to be ahead in the Tour, it was our goal but we didn’t expect to be this far ahead. We’re really excited about racing here in Marstrand, we want to do well and we’re putting all our energy into it.'
Among those looking to upset Bruni’s crusade will undoubtedly be the Swedish contingent of Tour Card Holder Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing, Tour regular Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team and Matthias Rahm (SWE) Stena Bulk Sailing Team. Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar comes to Marstrand off the back of a win at the Portimao Portugal Match Cup but the double match racing world champion has had no time to rest, travelling straight to Sweden from the American stage of the Extreme Sailing Series.
Bruni - Stena Match Cup Sweden 2010 - Loris von Siebenthal/myimage/WMRT