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California’s Long Beach Yacht Club has announced the addition of two invitations for this year’s 59th edition of the Congressional Cup Regatta, April 24 to 28, 2024.

As the season-opening Championship event of the 2024 World Match Racing Tour, the Congressional Cup line-up will now feature twelve teams, including three qualifiers from the Ficker Cup Regatta, also hosted by LBYC, 18 to 21 April 2024.

The roster for this year’s Congressional Cup follows an unprecedented demand by eligible match racing teams from around the globe. The oldest continuously-held sailing match race regatta in the world, the Congressional Cup is the only match race regatta in the United States to qualify for World Championship status from World Sailing. As such, an invitation to compete in the Congressional Cup is one of the most sought-after in match racing, and a victory, the most revered. Many of the 29 skippers who have won – several, multiple times – and worn the esteemed Crimson Blazer have gone on to America’s Cup and SailGP. Now celebrating its 95th anniversary, LBYC and its members are proud to host and welcome the world to the Congressional Cup once again.

The 2024 roster includes defending champion Chris Poole (USA), 2009 Congressional Cup winner Johnie Berntsson (SWE), Eric Monnin (SUI), Jeppe Borch (DEN), Mati Sepp (EST), Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL) and Dave Hood (USA). Returning after a 12-year interval is four-time Congressional Cup winner Gavin Brady (USA); LBYC also announced five-time Congressional Cup winner Ian Williams (GBR) will join the line-up. Williams, sailing for Ningbo Team, was recently crowned the Match Racing World Champion for the seventh time. Three remaining spots will be awarded to the top trio of finishers hot off the Ficker Cup. With such incredible talent, the Congressional Cup promises to be a thrill!

2024 Confirmed Skippers for Congressional Cup Regatta

  1. Chris Poole, USA, Riptide Racing (WS Ranking #1)
  2. Eric Monnin, SUI, Capvis Swiss Match Racing Team (WS Ranking #2)
  3. Johnie Berntsson, SWE, Berntsson Sailing Team (WS Ranking #3)
  4. Jeppe Borch, DEN, Borch Racing (WS Ranking #4)
  5. Mati Sepp, EST, Clean Energy Match Race Team (WS Ranking #6)
  6. Nick Egnot-Johnson, NZL, Knots Racing (WS Ranking #7)
  7. Ian Williams, GBR, Ningbo (WS Ranking #11)
  8. Gavin Brady, USA, True Blue Racing (WS Ranking #14)
  9. Dave Hood, USA, DH3 Racing (WS Ranking #33)
  10. Qualifier from Ficker Cup 2024
  11. Qualifier from Ficker Cup 2024
  12. Qualifier from Ficker Cup 2024

World Sailing Ranking as of 1 January 2024

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St. Francis Yacht Club and Eastport Yacht Club are collaborating once again to host the top women’s match racing teams at back-to-back events. The events are part of the 2024 Women’s World Match Racing Tour. Following the success of the inaugural Casa Vela Cup at St. Francis Yacht Club, and the return of the popular Santa Maria Cup after ten years at Eastport Yacht Club last year, both clubs have coordinated their Grade 2 international women’s match racing events to run back-to-back for 2024.

The Santa Maria Cup at Eastport Yacht Club will open the 2024 women’s world tour season from 23-26 April, with the Casa Vela Cup at St. Francis Yacht Club to follow from 2-4 May. Both events will be held in the respective clubs provided fleets of J/22s. The travel window for teams to travel from East to West coast will be four days.

Celia Willison (NZL) and Edge Women’s Match Team winning the 2023 Casa Vela Cup (crew left to right: Celia Willison, Serena Woodall, Charlotte Porter, Alison Kent)Celia Willison (NZL) and Edge Women’s Match Team winning the 2023 Casa Vela Cup (crew left to right: Celia Willison, Serena Woodall, Charlotte Porter, Alison Kent)

The 2024 Casa Vela Cup and Santa Maria Cup will be a part of Season 3 of the Women’s World Match Racing Tour. The Women’s World Match Racing Tour is currently the world’s only global professional sailing series for women. Since it was re-launched in 2022, thirty-two teams and over 140 female athletes have competed on the first two seasons of the Women’s World Match Racing Tour. The events were held in the USA, France, New Zealand, Greece, and Denmark.

The full schedule for the 2024 Women’s World Match Racing Tour will be announced in late January. The events are planned in the USA, France, Sweden, and Denmark. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting event for women’s sailing!

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An Irish Match Racing Association looks set to be introduced with the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) on January 23, 2024.

Match racing is gaining popularity in Ireland, with more and more people showing interest in the discipline, according to promoters.

The discipline of match racing is steadily gaining popularity in Ireland, with the National Yacht Club's Elliott 6m boats playing a pivotal role. These boats are regularly in use, providing sailors with the perfect platform to hone their skills and compete at the highest level.

The commitment to multiple series, including the Student Match Racing Event in April 2023 and the Dun Laoghaire Cup in October, reflects the interest in the discipline. These series’ play a pivotal role in developing match racing and have encouraged teams to seek competition elsewhere such as Adam Leddy and his team competing in Copenhagen in December and Andrew Smith and his UCD team competing in an RYA Winter Warmer Event early in 2023.

Some match racers have gone further afield such as Tom Higgins who in the past year has competed in the prestigious Governors Cup in California as well as the Match Racing Youth World Championships in Sydney, Australia.

Ruairi Finnegan from Waterford competing in the World Match Racing Tour Finals in China Photo: Ian Roman/WMRT Ruairi Finnegan from Waterford competing in the World Match Racing Tour Finals in China Photo: Ian Roman/WMRT 

Ruairi Finnegan has been competing on the World Match Racing Tour for a number of years. Finnegan’s 2023 season has seen him compete in WMRT Events in Poland, Montenegro, Italy, America as well as the World Match Race Tour
Finals in China.

As we look ahead to an exciting year, the association has already laid out plans for the Match Racing Nationals and other Match Racing events, which will all be discussed at the AGM later this month.

The AGM is open to all however, those wishing to receive the Agenda and Proposed Constitution can fill in this form to receive them. 

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It’s 6,000 miles from Strangford Lough Yacht Club in the small hamlet of Whiterock on the western shore of the Lough in County Down, to Da Chan Bay in Shenzhen, China. And it is very different racing for Jon Gundersen on the SLYC River Class keelboat Moyola to competing – and winning - the World Match Racing Championships with Ian Williams in a twelve-boat fleet of FarEast 28Rs recently. Williams, from Exeter, is a seven-time winner of the World Match Racing Championships. The other crew members were Richard Sydenham and Gerry Mitchell.

Jon is a New Zealander and, could we say, an ‘adopted Irishman’? He is the second SLYC member to draw attention recently in sailing circles, Phil Quinn having just taken over as Skipper of Qingdao in the Clipper Round the World Race.

Jon is delighted with the win; “It was great to win the Match Racing World Championship; the last time I sailed in a final was 26 years ago in Sweden when I was 22 and trimming for Ed Baird. That time, we were beaten by the Australian Peter Gilmour in the final”.

Ed Baird is an American sailor, a coach of the 1995 America’s Cup-winning Team New Zealand, and a helmsman for the winning Alinghi syndicate.

Jon continues, “We have been living in Whiterock since 2021. My wife Sarah worked for Artemis Racing for about 15 years, so we lived in Valencia, San Francisco and Bermuda while they chased the America's Cup. She is now part of the Senior Management team at Artemis Technologies in Belfast”.

Jon and Sarah joined SLYC when they arrived in Northern Ireland, and their nine-year-old son Ollie has been heavily involved in junior sailing and starting to race his Optimist. Jon says he himself loves sailing with his mates on the River Class keelboat Moyola.

Jon is a Professional Sailor, normally as Jib Trim on TP52s. He has raced on Andy Soriano’s Alegre in the Super Series and on Robert Hughes’ Heartbreaker. A seasoned World Championship competitor, he has been racing with Ian Williams on the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) for the last two years. Jon says, “We have been doing just a few events a year - mainly for fun, as the amount of prize money available these days is not what it used to be!”

Jon says he has known all the crew since they were teenagers and in their early 20s. “Richard and I raced against each other in the semi-finals of the Diet Coke Cup Youth Match Racing Regatta in Auckland - he was on the RYA team, and I met Ian at the same event when he competed the next year. Around the same time, Gerry did the Whitbread on Dolphin/Youth, and I met him in Auckland. So, we are having much fun getting back into Match Racing and taking on the young guys. In 2022, we won the Congressional Cup in Long Beach and now the Worlds”.


Ian Williams (46, Lymington, England)/ Chinaone.Ningbo – seven-time Open Match Racing World Champion (2007, ’08, ’11, ’12, ’14, ’15,’23)
Crew: Jon Gundersen, Richard Sydenham, Gerrard Mitchell

Gavin Brady (49, Auckland, New Zealand)/ True Blue Racing USA – World No. 38 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Nick Blackman, Tom Powrie, Dave Swete

Megan Thomson (25, Auckland, New Zealand)/ 2.0 Racing – World No. 4 Women’s Match Race Rankings, No. 15 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Leo Takahashi, Nicholas Heiner, Niall Malone

Johnie Berntsson (52, Stenungsund, Sweden)/ Berntsson Sailing Team – World No. 4 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Filip Karlsson, Emil Wolfgang, Rasmus Alnebäck

Björn Hansen (56, Gothenburg, Sweden) – World No. 30 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Philip Kai Guhle, Mathias Bredin, Nils Bjerkås

Eric Monnin (47, Immensee, Switzerland)/ Capvis Swiss Match Racing Team – World No. 3 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Simon Brügger, Marc Monnin, Jean-Claude Monnin, Hugo Feydit

Nick Egnot-Johnson (25, Auckland, New Zealand)/ KNOTS Racing – World No. 8 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Sam Barnett, Bradley McLaughlin, Zak Merton

Chris Poole (34, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, USA)/ Riptide Racing – World No. 1 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Joachim Aschenbrenner, Tomas Dietrich, Bernardo Freitas

Jeppe Borch (25, Copenhagen, Denmark)/ Borch Racing – World No. 2 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Thor Malthe Andersen, Mathias Rossing, Gustav Wantzin

Rocco Attili (26, Rome, Italy)/ RBYC – World No. 9 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Giulio Tamburini, Gianluca Perasole, Ludovico Mori

Ruairi Finnegan (27, Co. Waterford, Ireland)/ Craic’n Racing – World No. 36 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Noah Fisher, Daniel Little, Ryan Fitzgerald

Mati Sepp (55, Tallinn, Estonia)/ Clean Energy Match Race – World No. 5 Open Match Race Rankings
Crew: Karl Kolk, Janno Hool, Ago Rebane

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Action-packed and filled with unexpected turns, day four of the 2023 World Match Racing Tour Final in Shenzhen, China, saw the emergence of the final four.

The conclusion of the last two flights of the round-robin phase set the stage for the top eight to progress to the quarter-finals. Among them, New Zealand's Megan Thomson clinched the final spot in the top eight, triumphing over Denmark's Jeppe Borch and Italy's Rocco Attili on countback. Thomson, steering 2.0 Racing, capitalised on their eighth-place finish, dethroning the regatta's reigning champion.

In a classic selection process, first-place finisher Sweden's Björn Hansen chose to race eighth-place finisher Thomson in the quarter-finals. The day's conditions on the water presented a stark contrast to earlier races, with a shift in wind direction, substantial gusts, and consistently stronger breezes.

On the selection, Thomson wasn't surprised, "We were expecting to get picked by the first-place finisher since we only just scraped through to the quarter-finals."

But never discount an underdog. Thomson has sailed well this regatta with her crew of Leo Takahashi, Nicholas Heiner and Niall Malone. Throughout the week, the team has made smart decisions on the water, and some of their losses on the scoreboard were much closer in competition than a simple '1-0'.

The quarter-finals, where the first team to reach two points would advance, saw Hansen secure the initial victory before Thomson levelled the score in the second race. The last race between the two would determine the semi-finalist. It was close, with a tight second top mark rounding, including last-minute gybes and strong gusts. Hansen had an issue with his kite halyard, which led to it dropping completely in the water and ultimately, Thomson kept her lead and secured the final win to advance to the semi-finals.

"The goal was to make the top eight, and we achieved that, so anything is a bonus from here," says Thomson. "We're just happy to be here and racing against the best. We're going to focus on having fun tomorrow."

Thomson's advancement to the semi-finals isn't just a personal triumph; it's a watershed moment for the sport. She is the first female skipper to be in the top four of a World Match Racing Tour Final.

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Ireland's Tom Higgins, Jamie McMahon, Fiona Ferguson, Xavier McLachlan and Riley Evans from Dun Laoghaire's Royal St. George Yacht Club have finished fifth overall at the Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship in Australia.

In a thrilling final between Ben Tylecote from GBR representing Rutland Sailing Club and Zac West from AUS representing the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, West took the first 2 wins in a best-of-five finals showdown. Tylecote returned with true determination in a neck-and-neck race to take race 3. Race 4 had both teams switching positions, West with a 2-point lead only needed one more race win to take the championship. Every decision counted!

West inched ahead to take the win and the celebrations started!

Both West and Tylecote fought hard throughout today's races, winning by the smallest of margins through their respective Semi-Final matches with straight wins against Frewin from NZL and Kemp from Australia to make it to the final.

Pittwater stayed true to its form, making racing tricky for all competitors with its flicky weather. Competition was close across all teams, with the smallest of errors costing them the win.

Principle Race Officer, Ted Anderson claimed the 29th Harken International Youth Championship as his best event ever, not from just the skill of the teams, the quality of umpires, and his champion team on water but from the comradery and mateship of all involved in the event.

Chief Umpire Richard Slater who umpires America Cup events, Sail GP and advisers many classes on rules stated that "Ümpiring for the Harken Event this week with his fellow umpires has been an absolute joy, all the teams showed exceptional sportsmanship, took on our feedback and rulings without dispute. Truly made it a pleasure to be a part of the event".

2023 Overall Places

10th Place: Hugo Butterworth (AUS)
Bayley Taylor
Walter Tuite
Josh Paulson
Annabelle Sampson

9th Place: Mia Lovelady (AUS) Matilda Rowell
Rosie Rowell
Drina Bucktin
Sophie Townes

8th Place: Rory Sims (NZL)
Ella Arnold
Ethan Fong
Harry McMullen
Sam Scott

7th Place: Richard Rychlik Jr (CAN)
Jack Porter
Cameron Bruce
Rachel Green
Josh Hyde

6th Place: Nicolas Bernal (BRA)
Marcos Arndt
Bruna Patricio
Carolina Witsiers
Gabriel Michaelis

5th Place: Tom Higgins (IRL)
Jamie McMahon
Fiona Ferguson
Xavier McLachlan
Riley Evans

4th Place: Jack Frewin (NZL)
Oliver Gilmour
Oliver Lloyd
Sofia Higgott

3rd Place: Daniel Kemp (AUS)
William Hough
Lachlan Wallace
Charlie Verity
Isabella Holdsworth

2nd Place: Ben Tylecote (GBR) Freya Pembury
Jamie Tylecote
Finian Morris
Terry Hacker

1st Place &
Champions Zac West
Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (AUS) Jameson Prescott
James Hayhoe
Emily Keg
Katina Casimaty

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County Waterford sailor Ruari Finnegan will be one of twelve of the world’s best match racing skippers from nine countries who 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.

Finnegan, who is World No. 36 in the Open Match Race rankings, will be crewed by Noah Fisher, Daniel Little and Ryan Fitzgerald.

County Waterford match racer Ruari Finnegan will compete in the final event of the 2023 World Match Racing Tour in Shenzhen, ChinaCounty Waterford match racer Ruari Finnegan will compete in the final event of the 2023 World Match Racing Tour in Shenzhen, China

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.

The City of Shenzhen, China, is where the final event of the 2023 World Match Racing Tour will be held from 12-17 DecemberThe City of Shenzhen, China, is where the final event of the 2023 World Match Racing Tour will be held from 12-17 December

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!"

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Royal St. George's Tom Higgins will compete this December at the 2023 International Youth Match Racing Championship in Australia.

It has been an action-packed season for the ILCA ace from UCD that saw him compete at the USA's Governor's Cup in July as well as a historic team race win at BUSA in April and last weekend's 75th ITRA title on home waters,

The Harken-sponsored Championship will once again host some of the World’s best youth match racing talent, with competitors travelling from across the world, including UK and Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and Brazil, as well as a strong representation from across Australia.

After receiving over 20 applications from teams to compete, the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club in Newport, NSW, had a tough decision to select the final 10 teams. The 2023 lineup sees an exciting mix of developing and experienced Match Racing teams, looking to have their name etched on the Rockin’ Robin Perpetual Trophy.

The 2023 International Youth Match Racing Championship Rockin’ Robin Perpetual TrophyThe 2023 International Youth Match Racing Championship Rockin’ Robin Perpetual Trophy

The 2023 edition sees five skippers taking part in their first event at RPAYC. International entrants include Nicolas Bernal from Santo Amaro Yacht Club in Brazil, Ben Tylecote from Rutland Sailing Club in Great Britain, Jack Frewin from Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Tom Higgins from Royal Saint George Yacht Club in Ireland, and Richard Rychlik Jr from Oakville Yacht Squadron in Canada.

RPAYC’s Senior Head Instructor commented on the lineup of teams for this year's Championship. 'The excitement is building as we look forward to welcoming emerging youth match teams from all over the world to Pittwater. To have 6 different nations, and nine clubs represented is a testament to the global recognition of this world-class event'.

The 2023 lineup sees an exciting mix of developing and experienced Match Racing teams compete int he RPAYC’s fleet of Elliott 7 yachtsThe 2023 lineup sees an exciting mix of developing and experienced Match Racing teams compete int he RPAYC’s fleet of Elliott 7 yachts

Leading the local talent competing this year are two teams from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. Daniel Kemp finished in 5th position in the 2022 edition of the Youth Match Racing Championship. 'After competing last year, it is awesome for myself and the team to have the opportunity once again to represent our home club RPAYC at this prestigious event – we can not wait for the racing to begin!'.

Hugo Butterworth, also from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, was a crew member in last year's event, but is now stepping up to lead a team. 'This year’s will be my first Grade 3 event as a Skipper, and the suspense is very intense! As a team, we are super excited about the fierce competition and experience that lies ahead of us'.

Not only will the 2023 Championship attract sailors from across the world, but RPAYC is also thrilled to once again welcome an experienced Race Management and an international cast of Umpires, with club stalwart Ted Anderson returning as Race Officer, and Richard Slater heading up the Umpire team.

The regatta commences with official proceedings on Monday 4th, December, with four days of Match Racing on the RPAYC’s fleet of Elliott 7 yachts from Tuesday 5th to Friday 8th December.

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Swedish skipper Johnie Berntsson today won the King Edward VII Gold Cup, the championship trophy of the Bermuda Gold Cup match racing tournament, for the third time since 2008.

Hosted by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the Bermuda Gold Cup is a World Championship event of the World Match Racing Tour.

The Berntsson Racing Team—including Herman Andersson on tactics, Björn Lundgren on mainsail trim and Patrik Sturesson on headsail trim—finished the regatta with a perfect score of 11-0 and won $25,000 of the $75,000 prize purse.

“I can recall being over the moon the first time I won this trophy. I never thought it would happen. Now it’s happened a third time, and I’m super grateful,” said the 51-year-old Berntsson from Stenungsund, Sweden, a medical IT consultant. “Sailing with Patrik, Herman and Björn, they pushed me all around the course. The tactics were excellent, the trimming was excellent, and it all helped me grow as a helmsman and build our confidence.”

For Berntsson it is the third time that he has won the coveted gold trophy that was first awarded in 1907, having previously captured it in 2008 and ’14. He also finished runner-up four times (2011, ’12, ’18, ’19) and has the second-most finals appearances behind the event’s all-time winner Russell Coutts of New Zealand, who won the trophy seven times between 1990 and 2004 and finished runner-up twice.

“I’m so proud to be part of the history of the King Edward VII Gold Cup,” said Berntsson. “There have been so many great sailors racing and winning here. I’m really proud to be part of that nice, successful group of sailors. It’s very good feelings.”

The King Edward VII Gold Cup dates to 1907 and is the oldest match racing trophy in the world for a competition involving one-design yachts. It is one of the most coveted championships in match racing. The regatta has been run in its current format, as a ladder-style tournament on the confines of Hamilton Harbour, since 1985.

The Berntsson Racing Team won the title as much for their work in the Qualifying Round as for the Knockout Rounds. After two days of racing on Tuesday (Oct. 3) and Wednesday (Oct. 4), which saw the completion of the Qualifying and Quarterfinal rounds, the regatta was postponed Thursday (Oct. 5) and Friday (Oct. 6) due to the passage of Tropical Storm Philippe. Saturday's strong winds of 25 to 35 knots in Hamilton Harbour (below) forced the cancellation of the Semifinal and Final rounds.

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Sweden’s WINGS match racing team led by Anna Östling has been x after winning the final stage of the tour at the KDY Women’s Match Race in Skovshoved Harbour.

New Zealand’s Celia Willison/ EDGE Women’s Match finished the world tour season in second place, with New Zealand's Meghan Thomson/ 2.0 Racing in third overall.

Östling and crew of Anna Holmdal, Linnea Wennergren, Annika Carlunger, Jenny Axhede and Marie Grusmark arrived in Denmark this week just one point behind Celia Willison’s EDGE Women’s Match team on the tour leaderboard. Östling had to finish higher than 4th at the event to overtake Willison on points and secure the world tour title.

Using their years of experience sailing the DS37 boats at home in Sweden, WINGS managed to sail a strong regatta with a flawless 3-0 semi-final win over Denmark’s Camilla Ulrikkeholm before going on to defeat Denmark’s Lea Richter Vogelius 3-0 in the final.

2nd place overall - 2023 Women's World Match Racing Tour - EDGE Women's Match Team (from left to right, Fiona Mulcahy, Louise Acker, Alison Kent, Charlotte Porter, Ruby Scholten, Celia Willison) Photo: sailing pics2nd place overall - 2023 Women's World Match Racing Tour - EDGE Women's Match Team (from left to right, Fiona Mulcahy, Louise Acker, Alison Kent, Charlotte Porter, Ruby Scholten, Celia Willison) Photo: sailing pics

3rd place overall - 2023 Women's World Match Racing Tour - Megan Thomson (NZL) 2.0 Racing (second from right) pictured from the Normandie Match Cup, Le Havre Photo: Patrick Deroualle3rd place overall - 2023 Women's World Match Racing Tour - Megan Thomson (NZL) 2.0 Racing (second from right) pictured from the Normandie Match Cup, Le Havre Photo: Patrick Deroualle

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Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - FAQS

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are geographically defined maritime areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

MPAs can be found across a range of marine habitats, from the open ocean to coastal areas, intertidal zones, bays and estuaries. Marine protected areas are defined areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources.

The world's first MPA is said to have been the Fort Jefferson National Monument in Florida, North America, which covered 18,850 hectares of sea and 35 hectares of coastal land. This location was designated in 1935, but the main drive for MPAs came much later. The current global movement can be traced to the first World Congress on National Parks in 1962, and initiation in 1976 of a process to deliver exclusive rights to sovereign states over waters up to 200 nautical miles out then began to provide new focus

The Rio ‘Earth Summit’ on climate change in 1992 saw a global MPA area target of 10% by the 2010 deadline. When this was not met, an “Aichi target 11” was set requiring 10% coverage by 2020. There has been repeated efforts since then to tighten up MPA requirements.

Marae Moana is a multiple-use marine protected area created on July 13th 2017 by the government of the Cook islands in the south Pacific, north- east of New Zealand. The area extends across over 1.9 million square kilometres. However, In September 2019, Jacqueline Evans, a prominent marine biologist and Goldman environmental award winner who was openly critical of the government's plans for seabed mining, was replaced as director of the park by the Cook Islands prime minister’s office. The move attracted local media criticism, as Evans was responsible for developing the Marae Moana policy and the Marae Moana Act, She had worked on raising funding for the park, expanding policy and regulations and developing a plan that designates permitted areas for industrial activities.

Criteria for identifying and selecting MPAs depends on the overall objective or direction of the programme identified by the coastal state. For example, if the objective is to safeguard ecological habitats, the criteria will emphasise habitat diversity and the unique nature of the particular area.

Permanence of MPAs can vary internationally. Some are established under legislative action or under a different regulatory mechanism to exist permanently into the future. Others are intended to last only a few months or years.

Yes, Ireland has MPA cover in about 2.13 per cent of our waters. Although much of Ireland’s marine environment is regarded as in “generally good condition”, according to an expert group report for Government published in January 2021, it says that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are of “wide concern due to increasing pressures such as overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change”.

The Government has set a target of 30 per cent MPA coverage by 2030, and moves are already being made in that direction. However, environmentalists are dubious, pointing out that a previous target of ten per cent by 2020 was not met.

Conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment has been mandated by a number of international agreements and legal obligations, as an expert group report to government has pointed out. There are specific requirements for area-based protection in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the OSPAR Convention, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Yes, the Marine Strategy Framework directive (2008/56/EC) required member states to put measures in place to achieve or maintain good environmental status in their waters by 2020. Under the directive a coherent and representative network of MPAs had to be created by 2016.

Ireland was about halfway up the EU table in designating protected areas under existing habitats and bird directives in a comparison published by the European Commission in 2009. However, the Fair Seas campaign, an environmental coalition formed in 2022, points out that Ireland is “lagging behind “ even our closest neighbours, such as Scotland which has 37 per cent. The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025, and “at least” 30 per cent by 2030.

Nearly a quarter of Britain’s territorial waters are covered by MPAs, set up to protect vital ecosystems and species. However, a conservation NGO, Oceana, said that analysis of fishing vessel tracking data published in The Guardian in October 2020 found that more than 97% of British MPAs created to safeguard ocean habitats, are being dredged and bottom trawled. 

There’s the rub. Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environment protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore.

Current protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited to measures taken under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives or the OSPAR Convention. This means that habitats and species that are not listed in the EU Directives, but which may be locally, nationally or internationally important, cannot currently be afforded the necessary protection

Yes. In late March 2022, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that the Government had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Yes. Environmental groups are not happy, as they have pointed out that legislation on marine planning took precedence over legislation on MPAs, due to the push to develop offshore renewable energy.

No, but some activities may be banned or restricted. Extraction is the main activity affected as in oil and gas activities; mining; dumping; and bottom trawling

The Government’s expert group report noted that MPA designations are likely to have the greatest influence on the “capture fisheries, marine tourism and aquaculture sectors”. It said research suggests that the net impacts on fisheries could ultimately be either positive or negative and will depend on the type of fishery involved and a wide array of other factors.

The same report noted that marine tourism and recreation sector can substantially benefit from MPA designation. However, it said that the “magnitude of the benefits” will depend to a large extent on the location of the MPA sites within the network and the management measures put in place.

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