Five of them in the run for podium places
The Carlos Aguilar Match Race, the 5th and final event of the 2016 WIM Series, is just about to begin in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Wednesday saw the twelve competing teams practising on the waters of Charlotte Amalie harbour, offering the usual testing sailing conditions:
“Offshore direction made the wind extremely shifty, but it was really nice to be back in a boat again, in such a wonderful place,” says Renée Groeneveld of The Netherlands.
The Dutch skipper is one in a group of five, fighting for the podium positions behind superb 2016 WIM Series winner Anna Östling. The Swede secured her title already in the latest event in Busan, Korea, by finishing fourth there. Having won all three events before that, she’s now in St. Thomas to show that this year’s success wasn’t a coincidence:
“Our goal is to round of the season with a top result here in the Carlos Aguilar Match Race. It’s been fun practising here today, on a beautiful venue and in boats that are new to us,” she says.
Östling’s compatriot and fellow member of the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club, Caroline Sylvan, is in third place in the 2016 WIM Series standings, with the runner-up position within reach. She learned a lot from her first time on U.S. Virgin Island waters:
“We sailed the similar J/24 back home in Sweden last week, but today’s practise in the IC 24 was a far better session. I think we were superfast today!”
WIM Series manager Liz Baylis has in the past competed herself in the Carlos Aguilar Match Race, and she knew it would be an amazing venue for the final WIM Series event in 2016:
“All of the venues we have visited this year have been fantastic, with a great variety of conditions, but what could be better than ending the season in a tropical paradise?” she asks rhetorically.
“Verian Aguilar Tuttle and her team have worked tirelessly to prepare for this year’s event, and we’re looking forward to not only fantastic racing close to the spectators in Charlotte Amalie harbour, but also the warm hospitality that you can only find on this welcoming island.”
American Stephanie Roble is almost to be considered a local hope, having spent so much time in St. Thomas for the last few years, highlighted by a 2nd place finish in last year’s open division of the Carlos Aguilar Match Race. Currently 4th in the overall standings, she’s aiming to climb to the podium through this regatta:
“It was really fun out there today. We worked on some specific things, and accomplished them, so we’re looking forward to begin racing Thursday,” she comments.
An unexpected newcomer as a WIM Series skipper for the St. Thomas event is Josefine Boel Rasmussen, normally main sail trimmer and tactician in Danish Team Ulrikkeholm, winner of the 2014 WIM Series. With regular skipper Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby at home in Copenhagen, looking after her new-born son, team member Trine Palludan was supposed to fill in at the helm. However, just having arrived to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Palludan immediately had to head back to Denmark again, due to a family emergency. As a substitute for the substitute skipper, Josefine Boel Rasmussen will now need all the preparation she can possibly get:
“Well, I haven’t helmed for about ten years, so maybe I don’t even remember how to do it” Josefine laughs.
The Carlos Aguilar Match Race/2016 WIM Series Finale is a World Sailing Grade One event. The format features a full round robin of all teams, followed by knockout quarterfinals for the top eight, and then knockout semi-finals, petit-finals, and the finals on Sunday December 4.
Standings in the 2016 WIM Series after four events out of five (skipper, country, WIM Series points):
1. Anna Östling, SWE, 93
2. Pauline Courtois, FRA, 60
3. Caroline Sylvan, SWE, 58
4. Stephanie Roble, USA, 54
5. Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby, DEN, 54
6. Renée Groeneveld, NED, 49
7. Katie Spithill, AUS, 25
8. Lucy Macgregor, GBR, 22
9. Anne-Claire Le Berre, FRA, 22
10. Marinella Laaksonen, FIN, 21
11. Claire Leroy, FRA, 20
12. Lotte Meldgaard, DEN, 18
13. Samantha Norman, NZL, 14
14. Sanna Häger, SWE, 14
15. Diana Kissane, IRL, 14
16. Alexa Bezel, SUI, 12
17. Rikst Dijkstra, NED, 12
18. Nicole Breault, USA, 10
19. Johanna Bergqvist, SWE, 10
20. Antonia Degerlund, FIN, 10
21. Elizabeth Shaw, CAN, 8
22. Susanna Kukkonen FIN, 8
23. Milly Bennett, AUS, 6
24. Gyeong Jin Lee, KOR, 5
25. Sanna Mattsson, SWE, 5
Skippers in the Carlos Aguilar Match Race, the 5th and final event of the 2016 WIM Series, in St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (name, nationality, world ranking November 16):
Anna Östling, SWE, 1
She started match racing on foredeck, but 32 years old Anna Östling of the Royal Gothenburg YC soon began to helm. After her Olympic debut in Weymouth 2012, she finished 2nd in the 2013 inaugural WIM Series. In 2014 Anna became a mother for the first time, and just a few weeks later she took the World Championship title. She finished runner-up in the 2014 WIM Series, and secured an early 2016 WIM Series title by winning the first three events and finishing 4th in Busan. Östling is the reigning World Champion and World #1.
Stephanie Roble, USA, 3
26 years old Stephanie Roble started sailing dinghies and scows out of Lake Beulah YC. Later she picked up match racing, and together with Maggie Shea she became in 2012 the first woman to win both the US Women’s and the Open Match Racing Championships. In 2014 Stephanie Roble won the Etchells Worlds and the US Women’s Match Racing Championships. 2014 and 2015 she finished third in the World Championships, and last year she and her Epic Racing Team took the WIM Series title.
Caroline Sylvan, SWE, 4
As “everybody else” in Sweden, 27 years old Caroline Sylvan began her sailing career in the Optimist and Europe dinghies, participating in Nordic and European as well as World Championships. After twice becoming national champion in Laser Radial, she began match racing in 2010 and immediately won the Youth National Championships. Last year she took her second consecutive 4th place in Lysekil and finished 5th on the WIM Series. For this year Sylvan is aiming for the WIM Series runner-up spot after compatriot Östling.
Pauline Courtois, FRA, 5
27 years old sport teacher Pauline Courtois from Brest started sailing at seven and racing at nine. She has been in match racing on different positions since 2011. In 2013 she finished runner-up when calling the tactics for Julie Bossard in the WIM Series event in Saint-Quay-Portrieux, and took a bronze medal in the French championships. Pauline made her skipper debut on the WIM Series in 2014, and opened the 2016 WIM Series season as runner-up in Helsinki in June, followed by 6th place in Lysekil in August.
Nicole Breault, USA, 7
A history teacher with a Masters in Teaching and a Masters in Education, and a tutoring practice called the Salty Professor, 44 years old Nicole Breault from the St. Francis Yacht Club also finds some time to go match racing. At the beginning of her career she did bow or main and tactics, but nowadays she’s a successful helmsman. In 2015 Nicole won the US Women’s Match Racing Championship in Newport, as well as the prestigious Nations Cup in Vladivostok, Russia. In 2016 she defended her US Champion title.
Renée Groeneveld, NED, 8
In the 2012 Olympic Games in Weymouth, now 29 years old Renée from Haarlemsche Jachtclub close to Amsterdam, reached the quarter finals. After a break from match racing since then, the Dutch skipper made her debut on WIM Series last year, posting 4th places in Sheboygan and Busan. At the 2016 opening event in Helsinki she reached the podium, following up with the same score at the World Championship in Sheboygan. When not sailing, Renée looks after customer service and planning at Vopak.
Antonia Degerlund, FIN, 13
Living in small town Grankulla just west from Finnish capital Helsinki, 29 years old Antonia Degerlund represents NJK, the yacht club that introduced matchracing in the country. Antonia is a management consultant at world-renowned company Accenture, also managing her own match racing team since a couple of years. Being newcomers on the WIM Series, Antonia and her crew states that in their boat the purpose of sailing is to have fun. In the 2016 Finnish Match Racing Nationals they finished 4th, and the USVI event is their 2nd on WIM Series.
Johanna Bergqvist, SWE, 17
Team X Match Racing was born last year as a Swedish team from Gothenburg. Skipper Johanna Bergqvist has already, at age 20, competed at several international regattas in different dinghy classes. Members of Team X are between the ages of 19 and 22. Most of them have a background in dinghies, but some also have experience in keel-boat racing. Johanna has really advanced from last year’s 117th place on the world ranking, aiming for further climbing as she’s now on her 2nd 2016 WIM Series event.
Linnea Floser, SWE, 20
Living in the Swedish capital Stockholm, and representing the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, 24 years old Linnea Floser is coming to St Thomas for her first WIM Series event. She has raced several dinghy classes and is working as the head coach for local sailing club Boo SS, and as skipper at match racing centre At Sea Events. Floser’s match racing career started in 2015, with fast climbing to her current ranking position. Linnea Floser is a certified personal trainer, and has studied science and meteorology at the Stockholm University.
Morgan Collins, USA, 48
Living in Port Washington, New York, 28-years old Morgan Collins is a sailing coach at the State University of New York Maritime College, taking every opportunity to be on the water and develop both the students’ and her own sailing skills. With a dinghy background in 420 and Laser Radial, Collins went into J/22 and J/24 to do some successful keelboat racing. In 2015 she entered the match racing scene, with a podium finish in her first US Women’s Match Racing Championship. The Carlos Aguilar Match Race is her 2nd WIM Series event.
Sandy Hayes, USA, 97
58 years old Sandra Hayes from Scituate, Massachusetts, is a true old-timer within women’s match racing, representing the Satuit Boat Club and the Bayview Yacht Club. Three wins in the Rolex Women’s Match, and a triumph in Match Race Brasil, are just a few examples from her track record. Sandy is a bachelor of science working as an aviation consultant, trying to find time for at least a couple of match racing events each year. Her favourite boats are the Swedish Match 40 for match racing and the STP 65 for big boat sailing.
Josefine Boel Rasmussen, DEN, –, (substituting Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby)
26 years old Josefine started Optimist sailing at a very young age, later competing in the Nordic and European Championships. As a teenager she was on the Danish National European Dinghy Team, continuing with Laser Radial for one year, before taking a year off to attend University and to travel. She fell in love with match racing when racing with an all male team. Now she’s been with Team Ulrikkeholm for some years, earning two World Championship silver medals and the 2014 WIM Series overall triumph.