Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sweden’s Östling Conquers J/80 Women Match Race Helsinki

J/80 match race (Helsinki, Finland)– The first event of the 2016 Women’s International Match Racing Series (WIM Series) was hosted by Nyländska Jaktklubben (NJK) – the yacht club that brought the exciting sailing discipline of match racing to Finland 25 years ago. The women sailed matched J/80s using symmetric spinnakers and poles.  The teams came from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Netherlands and Ireland.

Former World Champion (2014) Anna Östling of Sweden ruled the Finnish waters when the Helsinki Women’s Match rounded up Friday. Winning this opening event of the 2016 WIM Series, also takes her to the top of the Series’ leader board: “It was so nice. We felt absolutely unstoppable today,” the Swedish skipper says with a broad smile, praising her crew Malin Källström, Marie Berg and Annika Carlunger.

The final day of the Helsinki Women’s Match, the opening event of the 2016 Women’s International Match Racing Series, started off in the morning with some sunshine in-between the clouds, but flat water and very little breeze off Hernesaari (Ärtholmen).

As winner of the round-robin, Dutch match-racing ace Renée Groeneveld picked Pauline Courtois (FRA) as her semifinal opponent, a choice Groeneveld may have regret later. In a very exciting semifinal series, which went all the way to five thrilling matches, the French skipper finally secured her first spot ever in a WIM Series event final: “Obviously we found a speed advantage against Renée, who was a little bit slower,” Courtois analyses.

“Boat speed was the key today, and unfortunately we didn’t have much of it,” sighs Groeneveld, not happy at all with her semifinal result.

Scandinavian sparring partners World #1 Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby (DEN) and Anna Östling fought each other in the second semi final, won by the latter 3 – 1: “We had a slightly poor starting sequence against Camilla in the third match, but except for that we sailed just fine,” the Swede says.

“Some small mistakes in tactics and boat handling ruined our day. In this competition you can never afford even the smallest mistakes,” Ulrikkeholm Klinkby reflects.

Due to lack of wind and time, the Race Committee had to shorten the final and the petit final to “first scoring 2 points” instead of the “first scoring 3 points” that was initially scheduled. Immediately after that call, a little more pressure filled in over the racecourse, allowing fair racing, but still in rather light conditions under a bright sun from a clear blue sky.

In the final Östling took command already in the pre-start duels, controlling her French opponent as they both struggled to get the advantageous starting position. In the second race, the Swede even forced Courtois to a premature start. When Courtois had turned around the leeward buoy and back over the starting line, very slowly in the light wind, Östling was already a couple of boat lengths up the first beat, and with good speed ahead.

The Swedes won second final match triumph with apparent ease, the victory in the Helsinki Women’s Match also puts them in the top spot of the 2016 WIM Series leader board:  “Such a great feeling! Everything fell into place and we had perfect flow in the boat. We’ve done everything better each day, exactly according to plan. To be the best crew on the last day is what counts,” Anna Östling said grinning from ear to ear.

“We really didn’t expect anything, but I’m very disappointed on our pre-starts in the final matches. My feeling is that we never gave it a chance. But on the other hand, we never gave up either,” Pauline Courtois explains.

Renée Groeneveld from the Netherlands defeated Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby from Denmark 2 – 0 to finish on the podium.  For more Women’s International Match Race Series sailing information