Twelve of the world’s best match racing skippers from nine countries head to the City of Shenzhen, China next month for the final event of the 2023 World Match Racing Tour from 12-17 December.
The winner of the event will be crowned 2023 Match Racing World Champion and take home a share of the USD 200,000 purse.
The twelve skippers have qualified for the Shenzhen final after counting their best four results from 14 events on the tour since April. Highlighting the line-up is defending match racing world champion Nick Egnot-Johnson/ Knots Racing (NZL), six-time match racing world champion Ian Williams/ Chinaone.Ningbo (GBR), and current leader of the WMRT leader-board Chris Poole/ Riptide Racing (USA).
Poole narrowly missed out on the world title last year in Sydney against Egnot-Johnson, but impressively won the tour’s opening event undefeated at the 58th Congressional Cup in April at Long Beach Yacht Club, CA.
Winning his second Bermuda Gold Cup title last month, also undefeated, 51-year-old Swede Johnie Berntsson is no stranger to the World Match Racing Tour and joins the China line-up alongside fellow Swede and ‘Master of Marstrand’ Björn Hansen.
After a break from match racing, Hansen clinched his seventh win of GKSS Match Cup Sweden in Marstrand in July, conveniently sailing the same Far East 28R boats that will be sailed in Shenzhen for the championship final.
Also returning to the Tour this year is 49-year-old Gavin Brady representing his True Blue Racing Team (USA). Brady gained his qualification to the WMRT Final after finishing second at the Oakcliff International in New York, the concluding event of the 2023 US Grand Slam Series, and 7th at the Bermuda Gold Cup.
Brady has been busy managing campaigns across Maxi 72’s, TP52’s, Pac 52’s and MOD70s and admits he has found it hard to fit back into the match racing scene, but has his sights firmly set on the title with a reliable Kiwi crew of Dave Swete, Nick Blackman and Tom Powrie.
Completing the line-up is Switzerland’s Eric Monnin/ Capvis Swiss Match Racing Team, currently 3rd on the WMRT leaderboard, Denmark’s Jeppe Borch/ Borch Racing, Estonia’s Mati Sepp/ Clean Energy Racing, Italy’s Rocco Attilli/ RBYC, and Ireland’s Ruari Finnegan/ Craic’n Racing.
New Zealand’s Megan Thomson features as the sole female skipper at this year’s WMRT Final. Fresh from her 2.0 Racing team’s win at the New Zealand Women’s Match Racing National Championship this month, Thomson heads to China with a mixed crew of Leo Takahashi, Nicholas Heiner and Niall Malone.
“We are really looking forward to the WMRT Finals in China” commented Thomson, “It has been a pretty cool season so far, I’ve been lucky enough to sail on both the women’s tour and the open tour this year which has allowed the team to sail in a range of boats and venues, and we hope that experience will give us an advantage in Shenzhen!”
The WMRT Final is being jointly hosted by the World Match Racing Tour, China Yachting Association, the Shenzhen Municipal Administration of Culture, Media, Tourism and Sports, and the People’s Government of Bao’an District of Shenzhen. It is the second time the tour final has been hosted in China (previously in 2017), and this year’s event is being staged in the centre of the Bao’an District of Shenzhen, one of the ten districts comprising the city of Shenzhen and with a 49km coastline.
The event marks a major step in the tour’s strategic development to expand and promote sailing and match racing in China, as WMRT Executive Director James Pleasance explains;
“We are excited to finally be hosting the WMRT Final in Shenzhen after the country remained closed after the pandemic until earlier this year. We are very grateful for the support of the People’s Government of Bao’an District of Shenzhen for hosting the WMRT Final which will be a great boost towards promoting and developing the sport in China.”