With 14 out of 19 flights raced on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour the team from Finland skippered by Silja LEHTINEN is tied with Australian Nicky SOUTER for top place after day two of the BSPORT ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship.
LEHTINEN and SOUTER both have nine wins and only two losses to their credit and are closely tailed by defending champion and world #1 Claire LEROY of France.
Boat speed is the main reason for her early success, says LEHTINEN, who is greatly enjoying having a keen edge over her rivals.
“Tactics are easier when you have boat speed,” she says.
LEHTINEN is also enjoying her mastery of the fresh and gusty conditions. Like her home ground in Finland, the geography is confined and the breeze is shifty. But unlike her home ground, the tide and currents are strong, and so was the breeze today: after a long delay due to lack of wind this morning, racing started at lunchtime in a 16-22 knot northerly that made for great spectator viewing and very close finishes, such as her last race against Katie SPITHILL (AUS).
“We were both very close upwind and we both had bad bottom roundings but we managed to go a little faster downwind and finish a few boat lengths ahead of her,” she recounts.
If that victory was a highlight of the day’s racing, a disappointment was losing to American Liz BAYLIS after sailing around the wrong mark – a mistake LEHTINEN is philosophical about. “It was our own fault,” she says.
SOUTER’s day was also a steady stream of five wins, punctuated by one loss against Lotte MELDGAARD PEDERSEN of Denmark after misjudging a layline to hit a mark. She judges that time spent on the boats and experience racing in Auckland are both valuable assets to have in this regatta, benefiting the New Zealand and Australian entrants in particular. “We’ve done a lot more sailing in these boats than some of the other girls,” she says.
Flights 15 to 19 in the round robin will be sailed tomorrow, with the top six teams qualifying for the quarter finals, and the remaining eight skippers sailing a Repecharge round, of which the best two will go through.
The points tally remains very close amongst the top skippers and while there are three days of racing still to go, this round robin is not without its surprises. Currently sitting out of contention for automatic qualification to the quarter finals are three of the top four ranked sailors: world #2 MELDGAARD-PEDERSON is in seventh place, world #3 SPITHILL holds eighth, and world #4 Christelle PHILIPPE of France sits in 12th. The three top skippers will be looking for big improvements in the final flights, or the Repecharge will be their last hope.
The BSPORT ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championships are hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and sponsored by BSPORT, Giltrap City Toyota and Auckland City Council.
Racing starts at approximately 10:00 each day on the inner Waitemata Harbour, concluding on Sunday 6 April.