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2016 WIM Series Buddy Melges Challenge - Day 4

by Joakim Hermansson 25 Sep 2016 12:06 BST 21-25 September 2016
Dutch skipper Renée Groeneveld and her crew Lobke Berkhout and Mijke Lievens has qualified for the semi finals of the Buddy Melges Challenge © Niklas Axhede / WIM Series

Stephanie Roble and her Epic Racing kept their firm grip of the Buddy Melges Challenge, the 3rd event of the 2016 WIM Series and also the Women's World Match Racing Championship, through Saturday's racing. The US team won the round-robin stage 14 – 2, and then their quarter final against compatriot Nicole Breault 3 – 0:

"We had some really even starts, but our speed and boat handling was the advantage we could capitalize on today" Roble comments.

Renée Groeneveld, NED, Anna Östling, SWE and Anne-Claire Le Berre, FRA, all won their quarters 3 – 1. One of them will be picked by the Americans for the semis.

Saturday's racing, on the waters just outside Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, offered the sailors sunshine from a partly cloudy sky, and a quite stable south-easterly breeze of 10 – 12 knots, slowly decreasing throughout the day. In relatively flat waters this would have been the most easily managed conditions any sailor could have asked for, but a lot of swell during all eight hours of racing completely changed the impression:

"It was really tricky, tough and frustrating out there today," Stephanie Roble admits, giving her crew Maggie Shea and Janel Zarkowsky a lot of credit, "They kept me into the game, no doubt about that."

Fellow semi finalist Renée Groeneveld, who finished runner-up in the round-robin stage on a 13 – 3 record, backs the American skipper in her opinion on the sailing conditions: "It was a long day on the water, and we fought hard to keep our speed up. Sometimes the boat went sideways in the steep and choppy sea. We made a few mistakes but are generally happy" the Dutch skipper says.

Groeneveld and her crew Lobke Berkhout and Mijke Lievens raced Pauline Courtois of France, in a tough quarter final round that went to four matches and finished 3 – 1 in Dutch favour. They are now looking forward to Sunday's racing, predicted to bring a lot of breeze to Lake Michigan:

"We like heavy wind, but it's going to be tough as the others know that well too" Groeneveld says.

Despite somewhat upset stomachs during the last few days, Swedish twin sisters Annie and Linnea Wennergren managed to help their skipper, World #1 Anna Östling, to finish the round-robin on third place with a 12 – 4 score. Then Kiwi Samantha Norman gave the Swedes a hard time in their quarter final, narrowly winning the first match: "We gave away that one as we got the spinnaker under our boat when rounding the mark. The boat stopped completely, and that's a mistake you simply can't afford in this competition" says Annie Wennergren.

"In the following matches we found some patches of better pressure, enough to gain momentum and avoid the worse stops in the swell" the Swedish skipper fills in.

Being back on WIM Series after her maternity leave, French skipper Anne-Claire Le Berre came to Sheboygan with her crew Mathilde Geron and Alice Ponsar, determined to make a top result. After fourth place in the round-robin and their 3 – 1 win over Swedish Caroline Sylvan in the quarter final, they're now well on their way to reach their goal:

"We're here to sail the final" Le Berre declares, also explaining why, "We know these boats very well, and we're also used to the new rules, as we sailed under them before our break" she concludes.

The semi finals and the final will be decided Sunday.

Quarter Final Results:

Stephanie Roble, USA – Nicole Breault, USA, 3 – 0
Renée Groeneveld, NED – Pauline Courtois, FRA, 3 – 1
Anna Östling, SWE – Samantha Norman, NZL, 3 – 1
Anne-Claire Le Berre, FRA – Caroline Sylvan, SWE, 3 – 1

Double Round-Robin Stage Results:

1. Stephanie Roble, USA, 14 – 2
2. Renée Groeneveld, NED, 13 – 3
3. Anna Östling, SWE, 12 – 4
4. Anne-Claire Le Berre, FRA, 11 – 5
5. Caroline Sylvan, SWE, 7 – 9
6. Samantha Norman, NZL, 6 – 10
7. Pauline Courtois, FRA, 5 – 11
8. Nicole Breault, USA, 4 – 12
9. Elizabeth Shaw, CAN, 0 – 16