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Strangford Lough Sailor Wins Match Racing World Championships

22nd December 2023
The Ian Williams GBR Chinaone.Ningbo crew (left to right) Richard Sydenham, Jon Gundersen from Strangford Lough, Gerry Mitchell and Ian Williams
The Ian Williams GBR Chinaone.Ningbo crew (left to right) Richard Sydenham, Jon Gundersen from Strangford Lough, Gerry Mitchell and Ian Williams Credit: Ian Roman

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

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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About Match Racing

A match race is a race between two competitors, going head-to-head.

In yacht racing, it is differentiated from a fleet race, which almost always involves three or more competitors competing against each other, and team racing where teams consisting of 2, 3 or 4 boats compete together in a team race, with their results being combined.

A match race consists of two identical boats racing against each other. With effective boat handling and clever use of wind and currents, a trailing boat can escape the grasp of the leader and pass. The leader uses blocking techniques to hold the other boat back. This one-on-one duel is a game of strategy and tactics.

About the World Match Racing Tour

Founded in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) promotes the sport of match racing around the world and is the longest running global professional series in the sport of sailing. The WMRT is awarded ‘Special Event’ status by the sport’s world governing body – World Sailing – and the winner of the WMRT each year is crowned World Sailing Match Racing World Champion. Previous champions include Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR), Taylor Canfield (USA), Peter Gilmour (AUS), Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Peter Holmberg (ISV), Adam Minoprio (NZL), Torvar Mirsky (AUS), Bertrand Pace (FRA), Jesper Radich (DEN), Phil Robertson (NZL) and Ian Williams (GBR). Since 2000, the World Match Racing Tour and its events have awarded over USD23million in prize money to sailors which has helped to contribute to the career pathway of many of today’s professional sailors