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21 November 2004, 06:52 pm
Ed The Unstoppable
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2004 Nippon Cup

American Ed BAIRD, skipper of Team Musto, showed utter dominance when he won the ISAF Grade 1 Pizza-La Red Lobster Nippon Cup.

Baird (St. Petersburg, Fla.) notched his victory when he and crew Andy HORTON (Newport, R.I.), Piet Van NIEUWENHUYZEN (Valencia, Spain) and Jon ZISKIND (Newport, R.I.) won the final of the Nippon Cup, 3-0, over Jes GRAM-HANSEN and the Gram-Hansen Racing Team.

Gram-Hansen and his Danish crew Morten HELKIER, Christian KAMP and Rasmus KOSTNER held leads in all three races of the final, but light and shifty winds thwarted their bid for victory.

'Andy's doing a great job, and I have a lot of trust in what he's telling me,' said Baird of his tactician. 'My guys have worked hard all year.'

'It's hard to feel comfortable in the light stuff,' said Baird. 'One puff or shift can propel you to victory just as easily as it can take it away.'

'It's a nice early Christmas present,'
Baird said, 'but there's a lot of racing to do next year.'

In the Petit Final, Dean BARKER of Team New Zealand overcame a red flag penalty in the third and deciding race to beat Gilmour and the Pizza-La crew, 2-1.

Barker, sailing with Ray DAVIES, James DAGG and Jared HENDERSON, trailed by five boatlengths after being penalized for contact in a luffing incident after rounding the windward mark the first time. But they found a favorable windshift on the second beat after splitting with Gilmour and overcame the deficit for a eight boatlength lead.

Gilmour, sailing with long-time crewmembers Mike Mottl, Kazuhiko Sofuku and Yasuhiro Yaji, placed fourth in their bid for a record ninth Nippon Cup title.

The wind conditions for the final were far from consistent. A morning northerly between 6 and 8 knots died after Flight 1 and a three and a half hour postponement ensued before racing resumed in a light afternoon southerly of 5 knots.

Gram-Hansen and crew did a good job in the pre-starts, winning two outright. They won the first cross in all three races and led at the windward mark each time. Those small victories usually lead to an overall win, but not today.

'We're very disappointed,' said Gram-Hansen's headsail trimmer Kamp. 'We led in every race and got to chose where to go, but made the wrong decisions. It's disappointing to lose when you're leading.'

Despite the light conditions, Baird's headsail trimmer Ziskind managed to lose his fourth winch handle of the week, on the last beat of the last race when the winds were just 4 to 5 knots. 'That's $300 in winch handles,' Ziskind noted.

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