Gram Hansen and Spithill on top

After first day of the ACT HTmobile Swedish Match Tour event in Split, Croatia

Wednesday May 28th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Brilliant Mediterranean sunshine greeted the 11 skippers taking part in the first day of the Swedish Match Tour’s ACI HTmobile Cup in Split on Croatia's Dalmatian coast.

After the first day of racing, Swedish Match Tour leader Jes Gram-Hansen of Team Victory Lane and Australia’s James Spithill, former helmsman for the OneWorld Challenge, top the leaderboard with unblemished records of 3-0.

The morning was spent waited for the sea breeze to fill in and the first flight got underway in 12-knot winds from the southwest after lunch.

The liveliest matches of the day came from Chris Law's "rum drinking and guitar playing" team, The Outlaws. In their first match they were dispatched by young Australian America's Cup helm, James Spithill, after a neck and neck match. During this, Law's team caught a penalty due to an overlap infringement. They were luckier in the second flight when they picked up a small gust to roll past Italy's Paolo Cian of the Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team on the first run.

A surprise result in the second flight, held in much the same conditions as the first, came when Allan Coutts dispatched former Swedish Match Tour winner and victor at the last Swedish Match Tour event in Elba, Magnus Holmberg. Coutts, who has a famous uncle in Alinghi skipper and triple America's Cup winner, Russell Coutts, is representing Alinghi and four of his five crew were part of the winning America's Cup team. The fifth, Bruce Curson, campaigned a 49er with Coutts during the Sydney Olympics.

"It's a great opportunity to put into practice some of the skills we learned sailing with Russell, Brad (Butterworth) and Jochen (Schumann) during the Cup," commented Coutts, for whom the ACI HTmobile Cup is his first ever event on the Swedish Match Tour.

The third and final flight today saw a massive windshift as an ugly black squall passed over the fleet doubling the wind strength in a matter of seconds. In his match against Swedish Match Tour leader Jes Gram Hansen of Team Victory Lane, Coutts said that they had been behind off the line and when the shift came through it became a case of "following my leader".

The drama also returned with “The Outlaws” sailing against Poland's Karol Jablonski.

In a protest-laden match, Dobbs Davis, tactician for “The Outlaws,” described the decisive moment following the big shift. "He [Karol Jablonski] took his spinnaker down and put his jib up and our Croatian guys did a great job of flying the spinnaker on a close reach, so we rolled over Karol." At this point the Outlaws had a protest outstanding. They just managed to rid themselves of the penalty prior to crossing the finish line. "We had to tack, bear away and then gybe to get to the line - we had to do a full 360," said Davis. "But the wind was blowing so strong that we couldn't turn. We only just got around. That was a nervous moment."

The two teams showing form at the end of the first day of the ACI HTmobile Cup are James Spithill and Jes Gram-Hansen, neither of whom have dropped a match. Gram-Hansen is looking particularly confident. In the second flight against Sweden's Mattias Rahm he was almost a leg ahead at the finish after he had driven Rahm into a windless zone beneath the cliffs here off Split.

At 17:26 local time the race committee decided to finish racing for the day.

The weather for tomorrow looks set to be light, once again relying on the sea breeze to provide enough wind for racing.

ACI HTmobile Cup Round Robin Results

W L Sailed
James Spithill 3 0 3
Jes Gram Hansen 3 0 3
Jesper Radich 2 1 3
Magnus Holmberg 2 1 3
Chris Law 2 1 3
Karol Jablonski 1 1 2
Mattias Rahm 1 2 3
Allan Coutts 1 2 3
Paolo Cian 0 2 2
Johnie Berntsson 0 2 2
Frano Brate 0 3 3

Flight 1
Karol Jablonski def. Johnie Berntsson
James Spithill def. Chris Law
Jesper Radich def. Allan Coutts
Magnus Holmberg def. Mattias Rahm
Jes Gram-Hansen def. Frane Brate

Flight 2
James Spithill def Johnie Berntsson
Chris Law def Paolo Cian
Allan Coutts def Magnus Holmberg
Jes Gram-Hansen def Mattias Rahm
Jesper Radich def Frane Brate

Flight 3
James Spithill def Paolo Cian
Chris Law def Karol Jablonski
Jes Gram-Hansen def Allan Coutts
Magnus Holmberg def Jesper Radich
Mattias Rahm def Frane Brate

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