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18 November 2004, 09:42 am
Pizza-La Sailing Team Undefeated
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© Tsuyoshi Suzuki

2004 Nippon Cup
Hayama Marina

Peter GILMOUR (AUS) has taken control of the ISAF Grade 1 15th anniversary Pizza-La Red Lobster Nippon Cup. Gilmour and his Pizza-La crew (Mike MOTTL, Kazuhiko SOFUKU and Yasuhiro YAJI) have won eight races without a defeat, and head the leaderboard.
With three races still to sail, they seem assured of advancing to the semifinals, but their road isn't easy.

The Pizza-La crew still has to race Ed BAIRD, Gavin BRADY and Jes GRAM-HANSEN, whom they're scheduled to race tomorrow. Due to the structure of the schedule, Baird (4-1), Brady (3-2) and Gram-Hansen (4-1) didn't race today.

"It's such a fine line," said Gilmour, who has posted three fifth-place finishes on the current Swedish Match Tour after running away with last year's championship. "When the going's tough you have to stand tall. When it's running you have to run with it."

Dean BARKER, skipper of Team New Zealand, and his crew (James DAGG, Ray DAVIES and Jared HENDERSON) finished their round robin with an 8-3 mark, but they're not assured of advancing to the semifinals.

"It's going to be tough," said Barker, who's competing in his first Swedish Match Tour event since last year's Nippon Cup. "We lost to Gilly, Gavin and Gram-Hansen, so we're going to need some help to advance."

Day two of the Nippon Cup produced blustery north winds around 15 knots, with slightly higher gusts and a heavy rain. With the wind from a northerly direction, the windward mark was placed under Osaki headland on Sagami Bay, which made for more shifty conditions.

"The toughest thing was the conditions," said Barker. "You had to keep your wits about you. No lead was safe. But the good thing is that no race was over."

Barker's only loss in six matches today was to Gilmour. The Aussie started to the left of Barker, and when Barker tacked to port off the line Gilmour covered. They got to the right side of the course and Gilmour crossed to the inside of Barker after the Kiwi had tacked back to starboard. Gilmour took a 1.5-boatlength lead around the windward mark and kept a close cover on Barker the rest of the way.

Barker lamented yesterday's loss to Brady, whom he led down the first run. Sailing in light winds, Brady closed up at the leeward mark and then Barker received a red-flag penalty from the umpires, which still had him confused 24 hours later.

"They jibed to port and took our transom," Barker explained. "As we approached the leeward mark on the inside, they heated up on starboard to try and keep us out of the two-length zone. I thought we were in it, but the umpires saw it differently. They gave us the red flag because they thought it was a professional foul."

Although the semifinalists aren't yet decided, it's likely there won't be any Japanese in the mix. The three Japanese skippers, Yasutaka FUNAZAWA (4-4), Takumi NAKAMURA (1-7) and Kazuo SEKI (1-10) showed good form in today's racing.

Gilmour trailed both Funazawa and Nakamura during their matches today, before he wriggled out of the jams. And Seki, who won Japan's first-ever sailing medal, a bronze in the men's double-handed dinghy, 470, at the 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition in Athens last August, won his first match race when he came from behind to defeat Nakamura. Seki, an accomplished dinghy sailor, is racing in big boats for the first time.

"It was a very good experience being able to sail against top notch sailors from around the world,"Seki said of his competition through an interpreter. "Everyone's into speed and trimming. I was impressed how they never stopped their boat. We stopped ours a few times."

"I'm very impressed with well the Japanese sailors are going,"
said Gilmour. "We almost got cleaned out by Funazawa and Nakamura."

While the competitors were on and off the water, the umpires were out all day long. And they were put to work. They issued a total of 64 flags today (compared with seven yesterday), including nine penalties on the blue boat, four penalties on the yellow boat, and 51 green flags. "A lot of those greens came on a run where one boat kept insisting on calling proper course," said chief umpire Marianne MIDDELTHON.

Six flights are scheduled for Thursday to complete round robin racing.
Sean McNeill (As Amended by ISAF)
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