Match racing returns to Newport
Leading the way is local favorite, Newport-native Ken Read, skipper of Team Dennis Conner's 2003 Stars & Stripes challenge. This is Read's fourth Swedish Match Tour event and he has performed well, most recently finishing third at April's Congressional Cup, while splitting his time between his duties for North Sails, where he is a vice president, and training in Long Beach, CA, home of Team Dennis Conner.
Read's knowledge of the local waters will be put to the test by, among others, two crews from fellow US-based syndicate OneWorld Challenge. OneWorld Challenge skipper Peter Gilmour, involved in his fourth America's Cup, will bring his Pizza La match race team to Newport while junior helmsman James Spithill will lead a second crew. Spithill won the Trombini Match Race earlier this month in Ravenna, Italy, when he and his Australian crew sailed a penalty-free regatta.
The two Italian syndicates, Prada Challenge and Mascalzone Latino, will be contesting the UBS Challenge off Goat Island as well. Native-Kiwi Gavin Brady, a five-time runner-up in Swedish Match Tour events, will helm the Prada entry while 'Little Rascal' Paolo Cian will lead the Mascalzone Latino syndicate's crew.
Le Defi Areva, the French syndicate in the upcoming Louis Vuitton Challenger Series, has entered helmsman Luc Pillot in the UBS Challenge. Pillot has competed in several Swedish Match Tour events, most recently calling tactics during teammate Philippe Presti's win at May's ACI Ronhill Cup in Spilt, Croatia.
Pharmaceutical billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli's Swiss Alinghi Team is sending a crew to Newport as well. Jean Claude Monnin will drive the Alinghi entry, hoping to better the result of his boss, Alinghi Team skipper Russell Coutts, who finished second at the Swedish Match Cup the first week of July.
The GBR Challenge, Great Britain's hope for the 2003 America's Cup, will be represented by helmsman Andy Green in Newport. Green's most recent Swedish Match Tour result was a fourth at the Congressional Cup.
Dawn Riley, CEO of the K-Challenge for the 2006 America's Cup will also be leading a team. The French team is a co-ed challenge with 16 of the 41 team members being female, all united across cultures in the quest to win the Cup.
Four non-America's Cup-affiliated crews are confirmed to compete at the UBS Challenge Finals as well. Danish skipper Jes Gram-Hansen and his Victory Lane match race team, third place overall finisher on last year's Swedish Match Tour Rankings, will be joined by fellow Dane Jesper Radich and his crew. Radich, an aggressive helmsman, won May's Match Race Germany event and was runner-up in Ravenna to Spithill two weeks ago.
American Ed Baird, skipper of the New York Yacht Club's Young America Challenge for the 2000 America's Cup will lead his Team Musto. Baird, while not affiliated with an America's Cup syndicate this time around continues to be one of the world's top match racing skippers, with a second at Match Race Germany, a third at the Swedish Match Cup and a fifth at the Trombini Match Race, most recently.
Great Britain's Chris Law who 'retired' from competition two years ago is back and leading his Team Outlaws. Law has committed to contest all the Swedish Match Tour regattas for 2002/3, and as the rust shakes off, will no doubt see strong results in upcoming events.
The three remaining competitors in the UBS Challenge Finals will be the top three finishers from this weekend's UBS Challenge U.S. Championships. The UBS Challenge U.S. Championships pit the six amateur regional regatta winners against last year's top finishers from the U.S. Match Racing Championships as well as several top collegiate racers.