Match racing stars descend on Marstrand

Grand finale once against for Swedish Match Tour

Monday June 28th 2004, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: Scandinavia
The Swedish Match Tour is aiming for the eighth and final event of the 2003-’04 season, the Swedish Match Cup on the picturesque island of Marstrand, Sweden.

16 teams are slated to compete at the 11th annual event, 5-11 July, for a share of the SEK 849,000 prize purse (approximately $112,000) and a final chance at points on the 2003-’04 Tour.

The Swedish Match Cup typically draws a large and enthusiastic crowd. More than one million people have visited since the inaugural event in 1994, with a record 150,000 spectators in 2001.

As one of the most popular events on the Swedish Match Tour, this year’s line-up includes five of the top eight on the Tour Championship leaderboard, and 11 of the 25 who have scored points on the current tour.

Five-time victor Peter Gilmour (1994, ’95, ’97, ’98 and ’99) of Australia and the Pizza-La Sailing Team (Rod Dawson, Mike Mottl, Kazuhiko Sofuku and Yasuhiro Yaji) were among the first to accept their invitation.

Although Gilmour and crew have already clinched the Tour championship, a first or second in Marstrand will give them all firsts and seconds in their final scoreline, an unequalled feat in Tour history.

Last year’s winner of the Swedish Match Cup, British veteran Chris Law, has also accepted an invitation to compete. Law hasn’t been active on the Tour this year, but will have last year’s crew of Swedes, including Daniel Bjorndahl, Anders Dahlsjo, Oscar Angervall and Henrik Valderyd, to help defend their title.

New Zealander Gavin Brady from the BMW Oracle Racing syndicate, No. 2 on the Tour Leaderboard, and Sweden’s most accomplished match-racer Magnus Holmberg, No. 3 on the leaderboard, have a score to settle. A scant 6 points separate these skippers.

Last year’s runner up in the Swedish Match Cup and the world No. 1-ranked match-racer, Karol Jablonski from Poland, Denmark’s Jesper Bank, a co-helmsman with Holmberg in the Victory Challenge for America’s Cup 2003, and Frenchman Luc Pillot, ninth on the Tour leaderboard, have accepted invitations.

The reigning match-racing world champion Ed Baird of the US will skipper the SKF Racing team. The No. 11-ranked match-racer, Björn Hansen from the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, will be on hand, along with Finn Staffan Lindberg from the Åland Islands between Sweden and Finland, and Sweden’s Johnie Berntson.

Switzerland’s America’s Cup champion Team Alinghi will be in Marstrand, led by new helmsman Peter Holmberg of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Holmberg was Tour champion in 2002.

New Zealander Russell Coutts, who has won the America’s Cup three times and the Swedish Match Cup in 2001, has also said he’ll attend.

Kiwi Dean Barker withdrew from the lineup to concentrate on his Finn campaign for the Olympics, and Michael Dunstan from the OzBoyz Challenge took his place. The Australian will be sailing in his third Swedish Match Tour event, after placing 10th and 11th in Germany and Italy, respectively.

The two final entries were determined at a qualifier regatta, the Öresund Match Race in Malmö, Sweden, 10 days ago. Swede Mattias Rahm, 17th on the Tour leaderboard, and Dane Lars Nordbjärg placed first and second, and won the invites for the Swedish Match Cup.

The Swedish Match Cup is the eighth and final event on the 2003-’04 Tour. Previous stops included Skovshoved, Denmark (Aug. 2003), Hamilton, Bermuda (Oct. ’03), Hayama, Japan (Nov. ’03), Long Beach, Calif. (April 2004), Porto Azzurro, Italy and Split, Croatia (both May ’04) and Langenargen, Germany (June ’04).

The 2004-’05 Swedish Match Tour begins the last week of July with the Portugal Match Cup (July 27-31) in Cascais, Portugal. Event No. 2 is scheduled 10 days later in Skovshoved, Denmark (Aug. 10-15). Seven other events are tentatively set to follow.

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