Coutts, Holmberg, Law and Nordbjerg through

At the end of the knock out series at the Swedish Match Cup

Friday July 9th 2004, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: Scandinavia
Two escape acts that would make Houdini proud were the feature of the day at the Swedish Match Cup, the final event of the 2003-’04 Swedish Match Tour.

Peter Gilmour’s (AUS) Pizza-La Sailing Team and Jesper Bank’s (DEN) crew advanced to the quarterfinal round after narrowly averting defeat in the Stage 2 knockout series held today.

Russell Coutts (NZL), Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Chris Law (GBR) and Lars Nordbjerg (DEN) also advanced to the quarterfinal round, scheduled for tomorrow. Karol Jablonski (POL) and Ed Baird (USA) advanced straight to the quarterfinals after winning the Group A and B round robins, respectively.

“If you can get to the quarterfinals here, there are all good teams,” said Baird, who won the Group B round robin this morning with a 7-0 mark. “If the conditions suit your strong points you’re going to do well. But you have to go with whatever comes.”

Conditions for today’s racing took a turn for the worse compared to the first two days. An easterly wind blew between 8 and 15 knots for most of Stage 2, and the air temperature was in the low 60s with intermittent rain.

While the poor weather kept the usually large spectator crowd small, there was plenty of excitement thanks to Bank and Gilmour.

Gilmour’s Pizza-La Sailing Team (Rod Dawson, Mike Mottl, Kazuhiko Sofuku, Yasuhiro Yaji), already the Tour champions, are looking to add to their haul of accolades, but they had to pull off a 270-degree penalty turn at the final windward mark of their deciding match against Gavin Brady and the BMW Oracle Racing Team (Dirk de Ridder, Ross Halcrow, John Kostecki, Brad Webb) to do so.

With the score tied 1-1, Pizza-La rounded the leeward mark overlapped to the outside of BMW Oracle and forced them to tack away, giving Gilmour the left side of the racecourse where the puffs seemed to be more favourable. Gilmour crossed on port at the first meeting on the second beat, but gave up the left side. About two minutes later Gilmour tacked to port on Brady’s leebow but was penalised by the on-water umpires for tacking too close.

“He was altering his course which should’ve negated the situation,” said Gilmour. No worries for the cool Aussie. With Brady off on the left side, Gilmour used starboard tack to try and hunt Brady and offset the penalty. Brady seemed to freeze momentarily, not wanting to risk losing the penalty advantage.

Brady luffed head to wind and Gilmour gybed away to port, clearing his penalty. As he performed his turn, a left-hand puff came in and lifted both crews well above the windward mark. That allowed Gilmour to keep his inside position and round the mark in the lead, and claim the narrow win.

“The umpires took a long time to decide he was going to get a penalty, which slowed us from making our next move,” Brady said. “We were trapped on the left side of him and were reluctant to tack and cross. It was bad timing.”

Bank and crew (Henrik Blakskjaer, Morten Halkier, Thomas Jacobsen, Time Nielsen) also pulled a similar escape job against Peter Holmberg and his Alinghi crew (Richard Bouzaid, Lorenzo Mazza, Will McCarthy, Dean Phipps).

Engaged in a tacking duel with Holmberg, Bank was penalised for tacking too close, a call he didn’t agree with. When the tacking duel continued he flagged Holmberg for tacking too close, and got the negating call. “My crew asked me why I was flagging because they didn’t think it was too close,” Bank said. “But it worked.”

Still, Bank trailed Peter Holmberg by one boatlength beginning the run to the finish of the deciding contest. But the three-time Olympic gold medalist from Denmark rode a puff up to Holmberg and the game was back on. After the two split gybes in the last 50 metres, Bank eked out the win by less than 5 seconds.

“I got lucky with the wind in the end,” said Bank.

In other Stage 2 matches, Chris Law beat Luc Pillot 2-0, in another match fraught with penalties and excitement. Law, the event’s defending champion, gave full credit to his Swedish crew (Oscar Angervall, Daniel Bjorndahl, Anders Dahlsjo, Henrik Valderyd). “We were behind two times but they made me feel very comfortable.”

Local favorite Magnus Holmberg and the SeaLife Rangers (Martin Krite, Lars Linger, Oskar Ljung, Stefan Rahm) won their Stage 2 match 2-0 over compatriot Bjorn Hansen, and Coutts’ crew (Michael Arnhild, Jes Gram-Hansen, Christian Kamp, Rasmus Kostner) defeated another Swede, Johnie Berntsson, 2-0.

Nordbjerg’s team from Denmark (Jeppe Blak, Niels Gramkov, Thomas Hartvig, Henning Lambertsen) defeated Mattias Rahm (SWE), 2-1.

The quarterfinal matches are set and are scheduled to take place tomorrow. They feature Nordbjerg against Law, Gilmour versus Jablonski, Coutts versus Bank and Magnus Holmberg against Baird.

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