Tour moves to Croatia

Sean McNeill looks at the form for the latest Swedish Match Tour event

Tuesday May 18th 2004, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: Mediterranean
Can he be stopped? Can any of the world class competitors on the Swedish Match Tour halt or at least interrupt Peter Gilmour’s relentless march toward the Tour Championship?

That’s the question being asked heading into the third to last event of the 2003-4 Swedish Match Tour schedule, the ACI HTmobile Cup, 24-29 May, in Split, Croatia.

Having amassed 97 points after five events, Gilmour’s Pizza-La Sailing Team seems destined to win the Tour Championship. With crewmembers Rod Dawson, Mike Mottl, Kazuhiko Sofuku and Yasuhiro Yaji slated to sail in Croatia, they hold a 48-point lead heading into the final three events.

The crew has placed in the top four at every event they’ve attended, and history would suggest that they’ll fare well in Croatia. Gilmour is the event’s most decorated champion with four titles to his credit (1993, ’94, ’95 and ’97).

Featuring a prize purse of $40,000, and $12,000 for the winner, the ACI HTmobile Cup is one of the oldest events on Tour. Founded in 1987, the event is full of repeat winners.

The organizing authorities are the Yacht Club Croatia-Opatija and the Adriatic Croatia International Club of Opatija. This year marks the 18th edition of the event, but the list of winners is just 10 names long. Five skippers have won it a total of 12 times.

“I remember the local people really enjoying participation by everybody during the event,” Gilmour said. “I remember their genuine warmth and hospitality.”

Gilmour’s goal of a fifth title won’t be easy. Sweden’s Magnus Holmberg and the SeaLife Rangers crew, placed second on the Tour, and New Zealand’s Gavin Brady of the Oracle BMW Racing crew, who is placed third, are looking to close some ground on the Tour leader. They trail Gilmour by 48 and 52 points, respectively.

The line-up features Denmark’s Jes Gram-Hansen, (third overall on last year’s Tour), Team New Zealand’s Kelvin Harrap (looking to add a top finish to his pair of fifths on the Tour), and Italian Paolo Cian (who is lined up with the fledgling Italian Challenge for America’s Cup 2007).

France will be well represented by Bertrand Pacé (the 2000 Swedish Match Tour champion), and Mathieu Richard (fourth at last year’s match-racing world championship).

Sweden’s Mattias Rahm (eighth at the Congressional Cup) and Finland’s Staffan Lindberg (eighth at the Nippon Cup last November) also will be on hand.

A pair of Croatians, Franco Brate and Mate Arapov, plan to defend the locals’ honor against the foreigners.

Racing will be conducted in Jeanneau One-Design 35s, designed in the early 1990s by Daniel Andreiu for Jeanneau Yachts. Racing will consist of a double round-robin, followed by semifinals, final and petit final.

“We’re looking forward to going there,” said Gilmour. “The ACI Marina is what the event is all about. They’re a fabulous conglomerate of marinas along the Adriatic coast. They really give you a great sense of what Mediterranean sailing is about.”

Gilmour and Brady recently have been the two most active skippers on Tour. Both competed in the Congressional Cup last month and the Toscana Elba Cup – Trofeo Locman two weeks ago.

Gilmour placed fourth and second, respectively, and has a combined 32-10 record in those events. Brady scored a pair of thirds and a combined 30-12 record. Head-to-head, Brady owns a 3-1 advantage, including two straight dating back to the Petit Final of the Congressional Cup.

After Croatia, the Swedish Match Tour rolls into Germany for the penultimate event to the 2003-’04 schedule, Match Race Germany, June 8-14, on Lake Constance in Langenargen, Germany.

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