Women's Match Racing: Next stop Delta Lloyd Regatta for growing ranks

Competitors wait their turn to race aboard (BSport ISAF Womens Match Racing Worlds, Auckland)

With the new Olympic boat, the ISAF Elliott 6m making its debut at the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Sailing World Cup event in Kiel, Germany, in June and women's match racing events growing in number and participation throughout the world, our sport has never been stronger.

New teams are joining the ranks and established match racing teams are developing Olympic programmes.

The next stop on the ISAF Sailing World Cup, the Delta Lloyd Regatta, in Medemblik, The Netherlands, will feature women's match racing for the first time and currently has 24 teams registered from 13 countries. They will sail the 3-person Yngling for this year's event, but will switch to the Elliott 6m for 2010.

Through a joint agreement between Germany, Finland, and The Netherlands, Elliott 6ms from those three countries will be used by the 24 teams from 10 countries at the Kieler Woche event which will be holding women's match racing for the second consecutive year. A similar arrangement has been made between The Netherlands and Great Britain to have women's match racing held in the Elliott 6ms during the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta in September 2009 and the 2010 Delta Lloyd Regatta.

Over 70 Elliott 6ms will be built and distributed in 2009 to the 16 countries that requested them through the ISAF allocation plan. These countries include Israel and China where match racing programmes are being newly established as well as countries with long-standing match racing history.

Currently the WIMRA (Women's International Match Racing Association) Calendar lists over 60 ISAF Graded women's match racing events in 2009 in more than 20 countries with additional events being added every month. The calendar also list a number of youth and open match racing events where women are strongly encouraged to compete. Women competing in open events is becoming increasingly common as organizers see the media appeal of having women compete head to head with the men and the women are honing their match racing skills on the open circuit and taking advantage of multiple training opportunities.

A recent survey of the competitors from the last Olympic keelboat event suggests that their current match racing campaign budget is a fraction of their previous annual budget that was in the range of $250,000 to $350,000 even with an increased number of events on their schedules.

The growth of match racing in new areas has not been more evident as it is this year. WIMRA has been involved with match racing clinics already this year in Greece, El Salvador, and Mexico. These clinics have introduced match racing to sailors with strong racing backgrounds, including past Olympians in other events. These sailors are now competing on the international circuit and moving their way up the ISAF World Match Racing Ranking. More introductory clinics are being planned this year in countries such as China, Israel, Croatia, Peru, Korea, and South Africa.

SAF World Match Racing Ranking list for women has seen an increase of 24% since the ISAF Council voted to include match racing as an event in the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition in Great Britain. 2009 looks to be another milestone year that will by marked by even more growth.

For more information, please visit the Women's International Match Racing Association website: www.wimra.org or the International Sailing Federation website: www.sailing.org
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