America's Cup halfway house

Top skippers including Barker, Holmberg, Gilmour and many more will be taking part in the Swedish Match Cup next week

Thursday June 28th 2001, Author: Shawn McBride, Location: United Kingdom
Less than a month after heads of state converged on Gothenburg to discuss world military policy, the leaders of seven America's Cup syndicates will gather to decide match racing supremacy. At the Swedish Match Tour's Championship Final, the Swedish Match Cup, held off Sweden's craggy coast at Marstrand, just south of Gothenburg, 16 of the world's top skippers representing seven America's Cup syndicates will do battle from July 2-8. With the Swedish Match Cup occurring at the midway point between the conclusion of the 2000 America's Cup and the start of the 2002 Louis Vuitton Challenger Series, the event's results will serve as a mid-term report card for the highly-financed and increasingly competitive America's Cup teams in attendance. Attesting to this point, four of the leading syndicates are sending two match racing teams into competition.

Joining defending Swedish Match Cup champion Dean Barker, of America's Cup holder Team New Zealand, is his finals opponent from a year ago and new team-mate for the Kiwi defence, Bertrand Pace. Regardless of the event's result, Pace will be passing the torch from his Swedish Match Tour Year One Championship to the new Swedish Match Tour Year Two Champion Magnus Holmberg of Team Stora Enso and the Swedish Victory Challenge syndicate.

Although Holmberg has already clinched the Swedish Match Tour Year Two championship - his lead is now unassailable - he is hungry for more and would like nothing more than to cap his year by winning his hometown regatta. Holmberg will see many familiar faces on his home waters including, for the first time since joining the Victory Challenge, team-mate Jesper Bank of Denmark, who will be helming an entry of his own in the regatta.

Also with two entries in the event are Craig McCaw's Seattle-based OneWorld Challenge and Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi Challenge from Switzerland. The OneWorld Challenge will send five-time Swedish Match Cup champion Peter Gilmour and his Team Pizza La match race crew as well as young Aussie James Spithill and his team to the shores of the Swedish resort island. The Swiss Challenge counters with Kiwi ex-patriot Russell Coutts who won the only other event he contested on the Swedish Match Tour, the Colorcraft Gold Cup, last October in Bermuda, and Jochen Schumann who finished second at the recent Match Race Lake Constance in Langenargen, Germany.

Other America's Cup skippers and teams competing in Marstrand include Gavin Brady of the Prada Challenge who is currently in third place in the Swedish Match Tour Championship standings following runner-up finishes at the Steinlager Line 7 Cup, Sun Microsystems Australia Cup and ACI Ronhill Cup, as well as Chris Dickson of the Oracle Racing Team who sits in sixth place overall, and Andy Green of the GBR Challenge.

Also competing at the Swedish Match Cup are Luc Pillot of France, ranked fourth in the world by ISAF, Danes Jesper Radich and Jes Gram-Hansen, ranked sixth and tenth respectively, 12th ranked Bjorn Hansen of Sweden and 23rd ranked Johnie Berntsson of Sweden.

madforsailing will be reporting directly from Marstrand next week...

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