|The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) is delighted to announce the line up of skippers who will contest the Grand Final of the 2009 ISAF Nations Cup, to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil from 23-28 March. |
The ISAF Nations Cup is a global competition to find the world's top match racing nation and develop match racing infrastructure around the world. Just one week remains until the start of the 2009 Grand Final in Porto Alegre, where the winners of the 2009 ISAF Nations Cup will be decided in both Open and Women's events.
Nelson Ilha (BRA), chairman of the Organizing Committee in Brazil, said "We are looking forward to welcoming some of the world's best match racers to Porto Alegre for the Grand Final of the ISAF Nations Cup. We have a fantastic team in place and everyone has been working incredibly hard to make sure 2009 is a memorable event.
A series of worldwide Regional Finals has narrowed the competition down to ten nations and the line up of skippers announced today features some of the world's leading match racing talent.
France currently holds both Nations Cup titles having swept the board at the Grand Final of the 2006 ISAF Nations Cup held in Crosshaven, Ireland. As the reigning champions, the French gained an automatic entry to the Grand Final and feature two world-class skippers who will defend their titles this year. Damien Iehl, the #7 ranked skipper in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, will lead the Open team, whilst the all-conquering Claire Leroy, two-time and reigning World Champion and world ranked #1 since May 2005, heads up the Women's team.
As the host nation, Brazil also gained automatic entry to the Grand Final. The Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro's rising star Henrique Haddad, just 22 years old, will lead the open team, whilst 21 year old Juliana Senfft is the women's skipper. The Brazilian skippers were selected after two very fiercely fought national qualification regattas and both represent the new wave of young sailing talent coming from South America.
Ilha explains that the Grand Final will have a positive impact in Brazil that extends far beyond the competition itself. "One of the legacies of the event will be the creation of the first match race training centre in Brazil for women's match racing. This is fantastic news for Brazil, especially with Women's Match Racing selected as one of the sailing events for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The remaining eight nations in each event have earned the right to be represented at the Nations Cup Grand Final after winning through at the qualifying events. In total, eight Regional Finals were held in Argentina, France (two), India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and the USA from October to December 2008.
Amongst the Open entries a strong challenge looks set to come from the Danish team of Mads Ebler, who where clear winners of the Regional Final in Ireland and have since risen into the top 10 of the World Rankings. Spanish skipper Manuel Weiller Vidal is also flying high in the ranking list and is having an impressive season to date. Three-time Olympian Alvaro Marinho of Portugal may be best known for his exploits in the 470 dinghy, where he is the current World Championship silver medallist, but he is also a highly accomplished match racer who could well spring a surprise in Brazil. Other teams represented are India with Mahesh Ramchandran, Finland with skipper Jon Eriksson, the USA lead by Dave Perry, Argentina with Juan Diego Figueroa behind the wheel and New Zealand with skipper Adrian Short.
The Women's entry is perhaps the strongest ever assembled in the Nations Cup. Leroy has proven herself a formidable competitor, but even she will have her work cut out to defend the title she won three years ago. Lucy Macgregor of Great Britain is the reigning European Champion and the form sailor on the women's circuit having made major strides up the rankings to her current position at #3. Denmark's Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen is right behind Macgregor in the rankings at #4 and also on top of her game having won the first Women's Match Racing event of the ISAF Sailing World Cup at the Rolex Miami OCR in January. Nicky Souter of Australia is another top 10 ranked competitor set to line up in Brazil.
Another star performer is Beijing Olympic gold medallist Anna Tunnicliffe of the USA. Tunnicliffe won gold in the one person Laser Radial dinghy, but is also a highly skilled match racer, having won the US national title last year. Another Olympian joining the line up in Brazil is Italy's Giulia Conti. Conti is a former world #1 in the Women's 470 Rankings who also has a strong match racing background and she recently finished an impressive second at the World Cup event in Miami. Completing the women's line up are Rita Goncalves of Portugal, Ayesha Lobo of India and Argentina's Cecília Ruiz Barlett.
Racing will be hosted by the Veleiros do Sul sailing club, on the Cristal Bay of Guaíba river. Competition will be in J/24 keelboats with a crew of four. Along with the award of the ISAF Nations Cup to top teams in each division, the first, second and third place finishers will receive ISAF Medals in gold, silver and bronze respectively.
(Nation - Skipper - ISAF World Match Race Ranking)
Host Nation, Brazil - Henrique Haddad - 80
Defending Nation, France - Damien Iehl - 7
Denmark - Mads Ebler - 11
Spain - Manuel Weiller Vidal - 23
Portugal - Alvaro Marinho - 30
India - Mahesh Ramchandran - 35
Finland - Jon Eriksson - 36
USA - Dave Perry - 37
Argentina - Juan Diego Figueroa - 52
New Zealand - Adrian Short - 67
(Nation - Skipper - ISAF World Match Race Ranking)
Host Nation, Brazil - Juliana Senfft - 58
Defending Nation, Claire Leroy - France - 1
Lucy Macgregor - Great Britain - 3
Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen - Denmark - 4
Nicky Souter - Australia - 10
Giulia Conti - Italy - 36
Rita Goncalves - Portugal - 18
Anna Tunnicliffe - USA - 37
Ayesha Lobo - India - 214
Cecília Ruiz Barlett - Argentina - 235
Find out more about the ISAF Nations Cup at www.sailing.org/nationscup.