France wins Kiwi title before Women’s World Champs

Published on November 6th, 2022

Pauline Courtois (FRA) beat Celia Willison (NZL) to win the 2022 New Zealand Women’s Match Racing National Championship held November 4-6 in Auckland, New Zealand. Ten teams competed in Elliott 7m sportsboats, with entries from Australia, France, Sweden, and USA also using the event as training for the 2022 Women’s Match Racing World Championship to be held at the same venue on November 11-16.

RNZYS report:
Four-time World Champion Pauline Courtois and her dominant Match in Pink by Normandy Elite team have won the New Zealand Women’s Match Racing Championship regatta on November 6th 2022, continuing their fine form from a long string of match racing regattas.

The World Sailing #1 ranked team had a tougher path to victory than usual after qualifying second from round-robin racing behind Anna Ostling’s WINGS crew and having to fight off a fast-finishing Celia Willison’s hometown Edge Women’s Match crew to take the final 3-2.

Edge almost pulled off an incredible comeback after finding themselves 2-0 down early in the final, but the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Performance Programme crew clawed their way back into the final with a bit of strategic placement using the petit final boats to gain some space around the top mark in race 3, and picture-perfect match racing to run away from Courtois in race 4 downwind.

The final race of the NZWMRC saw lead changes at each of the turns, and while Willison had the lead halfway down the final stretch the Match in Pink team rediscovered their consistently excellent boat speed and was able to secure the regatta victory by a boat length over the locals.

Due to being the top-finishing New Zealand team in the regatta, Willison and the Edge team had the consolation prize of being named the NZ National Women’s Match Racing Champions for 2022. After competing on the Women’s World Match Racing Tour this year, being able to compete against and take races away from favourite Courtois and beat Ostling for the first time this year are incredibly positive signs for Willison and Edge heading into this week’s Barfoot & Thompson Women’s Match Racing World Championship.

Megan Thomson and her RNZYS Performance Programme 2.0 Racing crew were able to make the most of a spinnaker handling mistake by Ostling and the WINGS team to claim 3rd in a 2-1 petit final. The 2.0 team have improved immensely throughout the year with great performances in the World Match Racing Tour US Grand Slam and showed their familiarity and boat handling superiority aboard the Elliott 7’s to carry their form into the World Championships.

The Swedish World ranked #2 WINGS crew had a fantastic day two of the regatta going unbeaten and with a good handle on the Elliott 7’s in the lighter wind but had costly spinnaker issues in the semi-finals and petit final with the stiffer finals’ day breeze. Despite these tough mistakes, the two-time World Champion crew were expectedly world-class throughout the regatta including qualifying as the top seed out of the very congested round robin.

2020 NZWMRC Champions Samantha Norman and her Sailing Mums team defeated the impressive Brooke Wilson-helmed Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron team 3-0 for the final Barfoot & Thompson Women’s Match Racing World Championship wildcard spot – all in front of their support team of partners and children on the water.

Despite not match racing together since the 2020 regatta, Norman’s crew consistently improved and were a tough matchup for every crew, including a victory over finalist Willison and taking a win off Courtois in the quarter-finals – an incredible effort, especially with one of the crew members only having had a baby sixteen weeks ago.

Wilson was unlucky to miss a World Championship berth after finishing one place away at both the Australian and New Zealand qualifying regattas, but the visiting Royal Sydney crew showed tactical and practical prowess with a statement win over Ostling in the round-robin.

The round round-robin racing and quarterfinals showed how competitive this year’s NZWMRC field was, with WINGS qualifying as the top seed from the round robin on 7-2 due to their victory over Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team who qualified 2nd. The seeding for the quarterfinals was a logjam both for the top four spots, and the competition for the final spot.

Edge, Nicole Breault’s Vela Racing and 2.0 all finished 6-3 with the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron team on 5-4, the Sailing Mums team on 4-5 and Sophia Fyfe’s Mastercard Youth Training Programme team making up the quarterfinals with a 2-7 record due to a victory over Thomson’s 2.0 Racing.

2.0 and Match in Pink both had to come from one race down to beat the American Vela Racing squad and Samantha Norman’s The Sailing Mums 3-1 respectively, while Willison’s Edge team beat out the Royal Sydney team 3-1 and Ostling and the WINGS team continued their great form on day two to beat Sophia Fyfe’s YTP team 3-0.

The YTP crew of Fyfe, alongside the South Island team of Ella Willcox and the fellow YTP team of Brooke Adamson, sailed far better than their position at the foot of the rankings showed but each walked away happy with their weekend’s efforts. These crews are still developing their skillset to the standard of the more experienced teams around them but showed really encouraging signs for the future of New Zealand’s women’s sailing.

The 2022 NZWMRC was an extremely competitive regatta even without the addition of eight more international teams for this week’s Barfoot & Thompson Women’s Match Racing World Championships, which is a credit to all the crews, race officials and umpires involved on the water and the talent depth of local women’s sailing.

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is ready to host the world’s best women’s sailors in top-tier competition starting this Thursday, and the three New Zealand crews in Edge Racing, 2.0 Racing, and The Sailing Mums would love your support either on the water outside Westhaven Marina, from the Squadron, from Westhaven breakwater or on the RNZYS social media channels.

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