The first event of the 2016 Women’s International Match Racing Series (WIM Series) is beginning tomorrow on the Finnish waters of Helsinki. A dozen teams will fight in the Helsinki Women’s Match, for their share of the valuable WIM Series points: “We’re really happy to be here, and to get this WIM Series season rolling,” says long-time World #1 Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby from Denmark.
Hosting the Helsinki Women’s Match is Nyländska Jaktklubben (NJK) – the yacht club that brought the exciting sailing discipline of match racing to Finland already some 25 years ago. In 2011 the European Women’s Match Racing Championship was sailed in Helsinki, in 2014 the club hosted the Youth Match Racing World Championship, and finally the turn has now come to the WIM Series: “We have put a lot of effort in developing an active match racing community, especially for women, within NJK. Therefore it’s a great honour for us to welcome the WIM Series and the world’s foremost female teams to our home waters,” says Peik Åström, Center Manager of the NJK Sailing Center.
The welcome to this land of the Midnight Sun could, however, have been just a little more warm and gentle. With heavy showers from a dark grey sky, and temperatures far from what you’d expect this close to summer solstice, the participating teams had quite a rough practise Monday on the waters close to Hernesaari (Ärtholmen), on the southern shores of Helsinki:
“The weather will be far better when racing starts tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll be able to offer good sailing conditions to the teams, as well as a really enjoyable show for the spectators” promises Georg “Tusse” Tallberg, Olympic bronze medallist in 1980 and now working hard together with all the other volunteers to make the first Helsinki Women’s Match a success.
“We’re aiming on making this an annual event, and we already know that it’ll have World Championship status next year” Peik Åström reveals.
Former World Champion Anna Östling of Sweden and Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby fought each other in several tight practise matches Monday afternoon, both satisfied with their performances: “We’ve been sailing M32 catamarans recently, and will now try to take the tempo from that type of sailing and combine it with our keelboat match racing routine. Hopefully it pays off during the week,” the Swedish skipper smiles.
“To be well prepared for the challenges we’ll face here in Finland, we’ve done a lot of practise in our home club’s J/80’s. It’s mostly been light weather, but I can still say we’re quite confident,” Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby comments.
Home sailor Susanna Kukkonen is the lowest ranked skipper in the field, but that’s definitely not what it seems to be. Although she’s been out of match racing for a while, instead sailing in the X-35 Cup as well as in ORCi handicap boats, she’s now racing with the very skilled crew of compatriot Nina Ramm-Schmidt, who will not participate in Helsinki this time: “To race with Nina’s experienced crew was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I certainly think we’ll be able to give the other teams a good fight,” Kukkonen states.
Reigning WIM Series champion, American Stephanie Roble and her Team Epic Racing, will not participate in Finland due to job obligations. But they’ll be back on the coming events, and cannot be counted out already. Four events out of the five on the 2016 WIM Series will count in the total standings, so you can drop out of one and still have the chance of winning.
Since the inaugural season in 2013 the WIM Series have seen half a dozen Volvo Ocean Race sailors, 26 Olympic sailors (including the 2012 Women’s Match Racing Gold Medallists), multiple National Champions and one World Sailor of the Year. To this date, sailors from 23 nations have participated in the WIM Series.
Teams in the Helsinki Women’s Match, June 27 – July 1, the first event of the 2016 WIM Series:
TEAM Ulrikkeholm, DEN
Camilla Ulrikkeholm Klinkby, Trine Palludan, Josefine Boel Rasmussen, Joan Vestergård Hansen
Team Anna, SWE
Anna Östling, Malin Källström, Marie Berg, Annika Carlunger
New Sweden Match Racing Team, SWE
Caroline Sylvan, Helena Gustavs Formgren, Louise Kruuse af Verchou, Malin Holmberg
Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team, FRA
Pauline Courtois, Berenice Delpuech, Claire Berthoux, Juliette Le Friec
Team Laaksonen, FIN
Marinella Laaksonen, Marianna Kontulainen, Henna Holopainen, Noora Tams
Stockholm Match Racing Team, SWE
Sanna Häger, Caroline Schramm, Klara Häger, Karin Flinkenberg
Matchrace Team Netherlands, NED
Renée Groeneveld, Annemieke Bes, Lobke Berkhout, Mijke Lievens
Team She Sails, NED
Rikst Dijkstra, Fettje Osinga, Milah Wouters, Luisa Schumann
Team Ireland Women's Match Racing, IRL
Diana Kissane, Lizzy McDowell, Isabella Morehead, Ellen Cahill
Team Sköna Vibbisar, FIN
Antonia Degerlund, Carla Westersund, Janina Lindgren, Lisa Gerkman
Swedish Women’s Match Racing Team, SWE
Sanna Mattsson, Sarah Rosell, Stina Eriksson, Nellie Lindnér
Team Kukkonen, FIN
Susanna Kukkonen, Daniela Rönnberg, Heidi Uusivirta, Päivi Järvinen
The racing begins Tuesday with the round-robin on the waters at Hernesaari (Ärtholmen), to be followed by quarterfinals, semi finals and then the conclusion with the final on Friday, July 1.