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19 November 2004, 09:59 am
Pizza-La Sailing Team Completes 11-0 Run
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Nippon Cup © Event Media, Yes

Nippon Cup

Led by skipper Peter GILMOUR, the Pizza-La Sailing Team stormed through the round robin at Pizza-La Red Lobster Nippon Cup with a perfect record and claimed the top spot in the semifinals of the Nippon Cup.

Gilmour and crew Mike MOTL, Kazuhiko SOFUKU and Yasuhiro YAJI finished the round robin with an 11-0 record in their defense of the Nippon Cup. The crew is searching for its eighth victory at the 15th anniversary regatta, but hasn't announced who they'll pick as their opponent in the semis.

'In a single round robin you have to keep focusing on each race,' Gilmour said. 'It's so easy to drop one and then lose a few. It can unwind so quickly it's unpredictable. I have an idea of who I want to sail in the semis, but I want to talk with the boys before announcing it.'

The Pizza-La crew was assured of winning the round robin when they defeated American Ed BAIRD and Team Musto in Flight 22. Despite the loss, Baird and crew Andy HORTON, Piet Van Nieuwenhuyzen and Jon Ziskind finished second with a 9-2 record and advanced to the semis.

Jes GRAM-HANSEN and Dean BARKER each finished with 8-3 records and also qualified for the semifinal round. GRAM-HANSEN finished the round robin third on the basis of beating Barker in Flight 2.

'It doesn't matter who we face in the semis, all the teams are very good,' said GRAM-HANSEN, who's racing with Morten HELKIER, Christian KAMP and Rasmus KOSTNER.

Barker said yesterday that he and crewmembers James DAGG, Ray DAVIES and Jared HENDERSON would require help advancing to the semis, and they got it today when the BMW Oracle Racing crew, led by helmsman Gavin BRADY, unravelled.

After winning five of their first seven races, Brady and crew fell out of contention for the semis when they proceeded to lose three in a row to Michele IVALDI, Gilmour and Philippe PRESTI.

'Looking at the schedule this morning you wouldn't have expected that from Gavin,' said Gilmour.

Ivaldi, a member of Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge for the America's Cup, and Presti, helmsman of France's le Defi syndicate, will sail a best-of-three series tomorrow for fifth and sixth places.

Day 3 of the Nippon Cup produced more cold and rainy weather. The wind blew again from the north around 15 knots, and had wild shifts in as it blew offshore from the 1,000-foot Osaki headland at the top of the racecourse.

Aside from winning the round robin, Gilmour and crew were at the center of some of the closest racing today. Their three final matches against Brady, Gram-Hansen and Baird were packed with action and excitement.

In Flight 20, Brady received three penalties for incidents at the windward and leeward marks. The umpires' calls left Brady screaming, 'What was that for!' at the leeward mark. When told it was for contact, he reportedly accepted the verdict.

Against Gram-Hansen, Gilmour nearly took out the committee boat and then Gram-Hansen before starting slightly early. He then nearly hooked the committee boat's anchor line as he rounded the boat end to start properly.

'I was all roped up there,' said Gilmour. 'I had jumped up in the cockpit and one of my shoes fell off. Yaji couldn't stop laughing at me.'

Gram-Hansen immediately opened a five boatlength lead, an advantage he held around the leeward mark. But a knot in the Dane's spinnaker halyard led to a poor rounding and gave Gilmour an opportunity to split on the second windward leg. He closed to within one length at the windward mark.

On the run to the finish, Gilmour jibed to starboard and got to the right (looking downwind) of Gram-Hansen. He rode a puff down the course to cross the finish line overlapped with Gram-Hansen.

The Dane was awarded the win, but moments later received a penalty from the umpires which gave the race to Gilmour.

'We had to give him room at the pin end and as we both turned down to cross the line the leech of our spinnaker touched his spinnaker,' said Gram-Hansen. 'It was a bad mistake that could've been avoided.'

Against Baird, Gilmour did a good job of pushing the American away from the start line in a port-starboard with less than one minute to the start. That forced Baird to the right of Gilmour.

When Gilmour hardened up to approach the line, Baird was about three lengths to windward and outside the boat end. A right-hand shift helped Gilmour lay the boat end perfectly, and Baird was forced to follow behind.

Baird tried a series of 10 tacks within the first 2 minutes of the race hoping to break free of the cover, but Gilmour's crew was up to the task and opened a four-boatlength lead. Baird's trimmer Ziskind chided himself for not having one good tack in the group, and for losing a third winch handle this week.

Despite finishing with an admirable 9-2 record, Baird was completely drained at the end of the day. He suffered from a case of food poisoning after a dinner of bad sushi.

'I didn't have an option whether to race or not, if you can stand up you have to do it,' said Baird. 'My crew really pulled me through today.'

Sean McNeil
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