WInner to be decided

For the first time the Swedish Match Tour winner will be decided at the final event reports Sean McNeill

Wednesday June 1st 2005, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: Scandinavia
With one stage remaining in the 2004-’05 Swedish Match Tour Ed Baird and Peter Gilmour are tied at the top of the Championship Leaderboard, setting up a winner-take-all final event.

Whoever places higher at the season-concluding Swedish Match Cup on Marstrand, Sweden, on 4-10 July will be crowned champion of the sixth Swedish Match Tour.

Baird, of Team Alinghi, has been at or near the top of the leaderboard since winning the season-opening Portugal Match Cup last July. And after winning the Nippon Cup last November he carried a 20 point lead into the winter recess.

Gilmour, of the Pizza-La Sailing Team, trailed Baird by 23 points when the Tour’s sixth season resumed at the beginning of May. But after two firsts and a second in the mad month of May, compared with a fifth and two fourths for Baird, the Aussie overhauled and opened a 10 point advantage on the American in cumulative points.

Since Gilmour has sailed in all seven stages of the 2004-’05 season he discards his worst finish, a fifth at the Portugal Match Cup. The loss of 10 points has created the tie for the championship, each with 102 points.

Baird, who has three career victories on the Tour, is seeking his first Swedish Match Tour championship. Gilmour, the Tour’s reigning champion and career victories leader, is bidding to become its first repeat champion. He set records for most cumulative points, net points and best championship scoreline in dominating last season.

Never in the history of the Swedish Match Tour has the championship come down to the final event, and never has more been at stake. The Tour champion will win $60,000 of the $200,000 bonus purse awarded by the Tour, a BMW 545i Touring, provided by Tour partner BMW, and the official Swedish Match Tour championship trophy, from Tour sponsor Wedgwood.

“This season has been outstanding for the Swedish Match Tour,” said Director Scott MacLeod. “We signed new partners BMW and Sebago, have increased the television exposure and value of the Tour, and now we’re capping it with a winner-take-all finale. We couldn’t have scripted a better ending.”

Baird and Gilmour are the only two in the running for the championship. Russell Coutts is third, 32 points in arrears. Regardless of what happens between Baird and Gilmour, Coutts can’t win the championship.

Swedish Match Tour scoring regulations count a skipper’s six best events. Depending on the number of events they’ve raced, that allows them to discard as many to two events (not including events marked as “Did Not Compete”). If a skipper does all eight events, he’s awarded two discards. If he does seven events, he’s allowed one discard.

“We don’t believe there’s an opportunity for skippers, the younger ones in particular, to compete at every Tour event,” MacLeod said. “Counting six events allows a skipper to gain the top eight or win the championship without having to do all of the events.”

At the conclusion of Sweden, Gilmour will get a second discard (for competing in all eight stages of the 2004-’05 Tour) and Baird will get one discard (for competing in seven stages). The tie remains with the additional discards.

Baird and Gilmour will be battling at the Swedish Match Cup amid another competitive lineup. As was the theme at the past three events, the field of 16 includes nine skippers representing syndicates entered in the 32nd America’s Cup.

Swedish Match Cup Entries (as of June 1, 2005)
Ed Baird (USA) Team Alinghi – Tied for Swedish Match Tour Championship
Dean Barker (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand – Two-time Swedish Match Cup champion (2000, ’02)
Johnnie Berntsson (SWE) – Local qualifier
Russell Coutts (NZL) Coutts Racing – Placed 3rd on Swedish Match Tour Leaderboard
Peter Gilmour (AUS) Pizza-La Sailing Team – Tied for Swedish Match Tour Championship
Kelvin Harrap (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand – Placed 9th on Swedish Match Tour Leaderboard
Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge – Past Swedish Match Tour champion (2001)
Peter Holmberg (ISV) Team Alinghi – Past Swedish Match Tour champion (2002)
Staffan Lindberg (FIN) – Placed 6th on Swedish Match Tour Leaderboard
Lars Nordbjerg (DEN) – Nordic Match-Racing Champion
Bertrand Pacé (FRA) BMW Oracle Racing – Placed 8th on Swedish Match Tour Leaderboard
Iain Percy (GBR) +39 Challenge – Competing in second Swedish Match Tour event
Philippe Presti (FRA) – Placed 5th on Swedish Match Tour Leaderboard
Jesper Radich (DEN) Desafio Espanol – Past Swedish Match Tour Champion (2003)
James Spithill (AUS) Luna Rossa Challenge – Placed 7th on Swedish Match Tour leaderboard
Ian Williams (GBR) – Competing in second Swedish Match Tour event

Swedish Match Tour Standings
(After 7 of 8 stages)
1. Ed Baird (USA) 102 points
T. Peter Gilmour (AUS) 102 points
3. Russell Coutts (NZL) 70 points
4. Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) 45 points
5. Philippe Presti (FRA) 44 points
6. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) 38 points
7. James Spithill (AUS) 35 points
8. Bertrand Pacé (FRA) 34 points

Swedish Match Tour partners include Swedish Match, BMW and the Match Race Association. Swedish Match Tour Official Sponsors include Musto, Sebago, Travel Places, Trident Studio and Wedgwood.

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