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France's Courtois wins China International Match Race and WIM Series

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France's team skippered by Pauline Courtois
France's team skippered by Pauline Courtois

France's Pauline Courtois won the inaugural China International Match Race, part of the WIM Series, after defeating Sweden's Johanna Bergqvist 3-1 in the final.

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Racing on the fifth day took off in perfect racing conditions. Spectators along the shore of Dishui Lake could follow the matches as the sailors manoeuvred right in front of the docks under a sunny Shanghai sky.

Sailing in a steallar 12-15 knots of northerly wind there were no big surprises as Courtois gave few opportunities to her opponents to claim a convincing gold medal.

Despite losing to Clare Costanzo's team in the round robin, Courtois chose Costanzo's team as her opponent in the semi-finals during the draw at the morning briefing. This left the Swedes and the New Zealanders to fight in the other semi-final match.

Due to time constraints the semi-finals were shortened to the "best of three" matches and they both turned out to be two quick affairs. The Swedish Team Bergqvist, skippered by Johanna Bergqvist, knocked out the Kiwis, Edge Racing skippered by Celia Willison, 2-0 and in similar fashion the French Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team skippered by Pauline Courtois defeated Clare Costanzo's Team Fusion Australia 2-0. The two top-ranked teams invited to the regatta never gave their opponents a chance to pass in the semis.

The afternoon racing was all about the podium places with the petit final getting underway first. Willison's New Zealand team won the first race in a comfortable manner but in the second race of the petit final, the Australians were ahead and the match was still on until near the end of the last downwind leg when the Kiwis caught a puff and managed to pass and win by only one boat length to earn the third place step on the podium.

Willison was very happy with her team's performance and commented, "Our team's goal coming into the event was to make the semi-finals so to finish third in our second WIM event feels awesome. I'm really proud of how hard the girls have worked this week considering the close competition. It was upsetting to lose to Johanna and her team in the semi-final, but her team sailed really well. The girls bounced back like champions to finish in third place. Thanks to all the other teams for the close racing, and thanks to the race officials and volunteers for making it a great event."

This left the finals and one remaining question - Could the Swedes, ranked #3 in the world, give the French team who has been sitting at the top of the World ranking since 2018 a run for the top prize money?

In the first two matches of the final, the French team sailed with precision and did not give the Swedish team any opportunities to pass. After two losses, all of the pressure was on the Swedish team, they had to win, if not it would be over. In the third pre-start Courtois was in control until the last minute when Bergqvist managed to get out of the French teams grip and in the same move put a penalty on Courtois. After the intense start with both teams showing their emotions, the match became tight with Bergqvist ahead extending upwind and Courtois closing the gap downwind. But Bergqvist never let Courtois come close enough to offset her penalty. The game was still on!

In the fourth match Team Bergqvist again pushed hard in the pre-start and came off the line at the favoured end and with better speed. The French team showed better patience and made the tactical call of the match on the first upwind as they waited for the left shift in the breeze at the top of the course and passed the Swedes. They held on to the finish and took the win.

Again Courtois showed why she is world #1 and safely sailed into the finish as the winner of the first ever grade one match racing event for women in China. As a result her team takes home the top prize of $10,000 USD and some beautiful necklaces provided by Jenecca Fine Jewelry.

"An amazing day with good and fun matches," commented Courtois. "It has been intense all day long and we couldn't let up. Every meter was important and we are overjoyed about the way we sailed! We really enjoyed this great event on such nice boats against so many very good teams. We'd like to thank all the teams, but also the efficient race committee, WIMRA and the organisers."

With their victory in Shanghai, Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team secured their third consecutive WIM Series title. They are joined on the 2019 WIM Series podium by Team WINGS skippered by Anna Östling (SWE) in second place and fellow French team Matchmoiselles by Normandy Elite team in third.

Final Standings - 2019 China International Women's Match Race
(skipper, crew; team name, country, WIM Series points, prize money):

1. Pauline Courtois, Maëlenn Lemaître, Louise Acker, Nathalie Corson, Claire Pruvot; Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team, FRA, 25, $10,000 USD

2. Johanna Bergqvist, Isabelle Bergqvist, Johanna Thiringer, Beata Törneman, Julia Carlsson; Team Bergqvist Match Racing, SWE, 22, $4,700 USD

3. Celia Willison, Charlotte Porter, Ruby Scholten, Paige Cook, Alison Kent; Edge Racing, NZL, 20, $3,900 USD

4. Clare Costanzo, Juliet Costanzo, Emma Harrison, Jessica Grimes, Anneliese Scholten; Fusion Australia, AUS, 18, $3,100 USD

5. Margot Riou, Clémentine Hilaire, Tiphaine Ragueneau, Marie Zugolaro, Blandine Jaffrain; APCC Women Sailing Team, FRA, 16, $2,700 USD

6. Ekaterina Chashchina, Daria Istratova, Anna Sannikova, Aleksandra Voloshenko, Aleksandra Shutafedova; Seven Feet Team, RUS, 14, $2,400 USD

7. Lea Richter Vogelius, Annette Strøm, Helle Jespersen, Sille Christensen, Joan Wester Hansen; Team Kattnakken, DEN, 12, $1,900 USD

8. Margot Vennin, Juliette Dubreuil, Clotilde Ponçon, Chloé Salou, Sophonie Affagard; Matchmoiselles by Normandy Elite Team, FRA, 10, $1,300 USD
9. Xiaowen Ni, Xufeng Huang, Xiaoni Li, Shuke Zheng, Tingting Pan; Team FAREAST Ladies, NZL, 8

10. Megan Thomson, Serena Woodall, Anna Merchant, Chelsea Rees, Rebecca Gmuer Hornell; 2.0 Women's Racing, CHN, 7

11. Eunjin Kim, Songeun Ku, Jiseon Moon, Yunseo Cho, Dongmin Kim; Team Ladies, KOR, 6

12. Yuting Lu, Li Li, Yangi Cui, Ziyi Wang, Yingda Li, Dan Sun; Team Join Sailing Ladies, CHN, 5

Results in the finals:
Pauline Courtois, FRA - Johanna Bergqvist, SWE 3 - 1
Results in the petit-finals:
Celia Willison, NZL- Clare Costanzo, AUS2 - 0
Results in the semi-finals:
Pauline Courtois, FRA - Clare Costanzo, AUS2 - 0
Johanna Bergqvist, SWE - Celia Willison, NZL2 - 0

2019 WIM Series Final Standings:
(Team, skipper - nationality, points)

1.Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team, Pauline Courtois - FRA, 70
2.WINGS, Anna Östling - SWE, 38
3.Matchmoiselles by Normandy Elite Team, Margot Vennin - FRA, 35
4.Team Bergqvist Match Racing, Johanna Bergqvist - SWE, 34
5.Team Kattnakken, Trine Palludan / Lea Richter Vogelius - DEN, 34
6.Team Emerson, Marie Björling Duell - SWE, 30
7.APCC Women Sailing Team, Margot Riou - FRA, 28
8.Team Mac, Lucy Macgregor - GBR, 25
9.L2 Match Racing Team, Marinella Laaksonen - FIN, 25
10.Mermaid Sailing Team, Claire Leroy - FRA, 22
11.Edge Racing, Celia Willison - NZL, 20
12.Fusion Australia, Clare Costanzo - AUS, 18
13.Dutch Match Racing Team, Renée Groeneveld - NED, 18
14.Seven Feet Team, Ekaterina Chashchina - RUS, 14
15.Vela Racing, Nicole Breault - USA, 10
16.No Name Sailing Team, Chloé Le Bars - FRA, 10
17.2.0 Women's Racing, Megan Thomson - NZL, 8
18.Team FAREAST Ladies, Xiaowen Ni - CHN, 7
19.Team Ladies, Eunjin Kim - KOR, 6
20.Swiss Women Match Racing Team, Alexa Bezel - SUI, 6
21.Team Join Sailing Ladies, Yuting Lu - CHN, 5

 

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