The sixth JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge event took place last weekend at Queen Mary SC
The sixth JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge weekend saw six top-50 ISAF Match Racers as well as three of the five weekend winners; Simon Shaw (first weekend winner), Mark Campbell-James (second weekend winner) and Ian Williams (fourth weekend winner); go head-to-head in the last weekend of the series to involve male skippers, before the women-only weekend on 26/27 February, and the final in March.
The Challenge took place in the Royal Yachting Association’s fleet of J/80s at Queen Mary Sailing Club in Sunbury, with a total of ten teams taking part, including international teams from Finland, Germany and the United States.
The round robin stage of the competition started on Saturday in shifty north-westerly winds of 10-16 knots. Mark Campbell-James (GBR), 28th in the ISAF world rankings, came in ahead of three ISAF Match Racers ranked above him to win the round robin with four wins on the Saturday followed by three wins on Sunday. Sunday’s high wind chill factor and north-north westerly winds gusting up to 22 knots saw an interesting finish to the round robin with Staffan Lindberg (FIN), number 12 in the world rankings, coming in second on six wins and two losses, and world top ten Ian Williams (GBR), number seven in the world, chasing behind in third with five wins and three losses after count back.
Although with the same number of wins, Mason Woodworth (USA) beat Ian Budgen (GBR) when they met and therefore took fourth place in the round robin.
The semi-finals on Sunday afternoon were perhaps the closest to date, with Williams beating Lindberg 2-1. There was confusion in the second semi-final as Woodworth thought he had finished fifth during the round robin and was consequently racing in the fifth/sixth place sail-off. He arrived late on the water in the wrong position, and Campbell-James went on to win. Woodworth, however, claimed redress and was awarded re-sail and went on to win the semi-final 2-1. Woodworth nearly pulled out after Saturday’s racing with an injured ankle, but his crew spurred him on to reach the final of the weekend.
The real fifth and sixth sail-off was a battle between the two ex ex-full-time GBR Challenge sailors, Shaw and Budgen. Shaw went on to beat his team-mate 2-1 taking fifth place overall, leaving Budgen in sixth.
The overall final between Woodworth and Williams saw a close couple of races, but it seemed that the last male Final spot would go to the underdog. Woodworth, 84th in the ISAF world rankings, had the edge with better wind speed upwind and took his place in the March Final by beating the top-ten ranked Williams 2-0 in the sixth JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge weekend.
The petit-final for third and fourth place saw rankings finally win the day with Lindberg beating Campbell-James 2-0.
Winning helmsman, Mason Woodworth, was relieved to be in the Final commenting: “It was surprising how the semi-final was decided, but it would have been a poor way to go out of the event. I was pleased that it was decided by sailing and not because of a misunderstanding and consequent penalties. The weather and location made this a challenging sail, as it was very heard to predict where the shifts were. I felt we were quicker upwind than the competition, but not sure where the extra speed came from. The continual good starts and huge effort from the crew gave us the edge.”
The JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge Final will take place on the 4-6 March 2005 where Woodworth will re-race Mark Campbell-James, Ian Williams and Simon Shaw, as well as other winners from the Series. In conjunction with the RYA, the race weekends are being held at the Queen Mary Sailing Club, Sunbury. More than 250 sailors from across Europe are expected to enter into one of the seven JPMorgan Fleming Winter Challenge race weekends, in the lead up to the must-see March Final.
1, Mason Woodworth, Fiona Lockwood, David Brown, Simon Hamilton
2, Ian Williams, Mark Nicholls, Joe Llewelyn, Mark Williams
3, Staffan Lindberg, Daniel Wahlberg, Martin Krite, Nils Bjerkas