Matchracers prepare for battle at JPMorgan Asset Management Winter Challenge final 8/3/06

This weekend (10-12 March) some of the world’s top match racers will square up to compete at the JPMorgan Asset Management Winter Challenge Match Racing Final at Queen Mary Sailing Club, Staines.

Top seed, Ian Williams will lead the charge up the race course in the RYA’s J/80s. Ranked fifth in the ISAF world rankings, Williams and his crew were one of the first teams to book a berth in the final. Hailing from Hamble, Southampton the 28 year-old match racing veteran is the one to watch at this event.

After dominating the sixth qualifying event, Mathieu Richard one of the four French nationals is back to compete in the final. Richard is currently ranked sixth in the world after finishing in the top five at a number of international match racing events.

Sweden’s Bjorn Hansen also joins the competitive line-up. Travelling from Stockholm, Hansen, ranked 13th, will hope to use his Swedish Match Tour experience to help propel him to the top spot.

Surrey-based Mark Campbell James has become a familiar face at the JPMorgan Winter Challenge Series. Current National Match Racing Champion and ranked 16th in the world, Campbell James and his team will hope to repeat their recent success, including a win at the 2005 Knickerbocker Cup.

Also representing Sweden in the Final is Johnie Berntsson, who after finishing third in the qualifiers gained a slot in the much anticipated final. Ranked 17th, Berntsson will enter the event as the fifth seed.

Great Britain’s Andrew Cornah ranked 46th in the world will have to fight hard to make it to the top in the JPMorgan Winter Challenge Final. From West Kirby, the 24 year-old finished as the runner up at two of the JPMorgan Winter Challenge qualifying events, proving that he too has what it takes to win the final.

Seventh seed Mads Ebler earned his place in the final by finishing third at the second qualifying event just behind Mark Campbell James and Iain Percy (who was unable to attend the final event). Ebler and his team will represent Denmark in the final.

Frenchman, Vincent Biarnes and Damien Iehl will each lead a team in the run for the Winter Challenge Champions title. Ranked 49th and 74th in the world respectively, they will have to remain focused and flawless in their performance if they are to finish at the top.

Claire Leroy, the top ranked female match racer is also set to compete. After winning the JPMorgan Asset Management Women’s Winter Challenge Match Racing Final in windy conditions, Leroy and her team will be the only all female boat to compete in the final.

Race organiser David Campbell James enthused. “With nine teams ranked in the world’s top 75 and the women’s number one, I expect that this weekend we will see some top level match racing on the water. This is the pinnacle event of the series so there is a lot on the line for these sailors. At this point we are hoping for good conditions and I look forward to watching the racing unfold.”

Competitors and ISAF RankingsM

Ian Williams, GBR 5

Mathieu Richard, FRA 6

Bjorn Hansen, SWE 13

Mark Campbell James, GBR 16

Johnie Berntsson, SWE 17

Andrew Cornah, GBR 46

Mads Ebler, DEN 47

Vincent Biarnes, FRA 49

Damien Iehl, FRA 74

Claire Leroy, FRA 145