Teams from Italy's Prada Challenge and the USA's Oracle Challenge, two of the top contending syndicates for the next America's Cup, will face off in the finals of the Colorcraft Gold Cup on Hamilton Harbor tomorrow.
Gavin Brady, the New Zealand skipper who sails for Prada, today beat world match racing champion Magnus Holmberg and his Team Stora Enso from Sweden 3-0, while Peter Holmberg, afterguard member of the Oracle Challenge from San Francisco, California defeated Ed Baird from St Petersburg, Florida, the skipper of the Young America challenge at the last America's Cup, 3-1.
A big spectator fleet watched an afternoon of intense racing in front of the host Royal Bermuda Yacht Club on a soft, warm, overcast Bermuda afternoon, with shifty easterly breezes at six to eight knots. The Colorcraft Gold Cup is the third event on this year's nine-stop Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour.
Magnus Holmberg, who has been second twice in the Gold Cup and who first sailed in the event ten years ago, was expected to provide some stiff opposition for Brady, but the New Zealander and his crew have been improving all week and won with relative ease. Holmberg, who heads the Swedish Victory Challenge for the next America's Cup, looked strongest in his first race against Brady. He led for three legs only to lose when the Kiwi drew close at the last weather mark and then overtook on a tense run to the finish.
"Today we sailed better," Brady said. We struggled earlier in the week. We didn't feel we were going particularly fast. Last night we sat down as a group and tried to work on some things. I think that helped us out a lot. It really came down to who caught the first shift off the starting line."
Holmberg was philosophical. "I think we made it easier for Gavin and his team than we were hoping to," he said. "They sailed really, really well and they picked the right side of the course. Today was the type of day where if you went the wrong way, it seemed like you were a long, long way behind."
Peter Holmberg won his first two races against Ed Baird and controlled at the start of the third, only to lose ground in a big wind shift and drop steadily behind. He came back to win the fourth race. Baird congratulated his opponent for being prepared and doing a great job.
Holmberg described the light shifty airs as quite trying. "Its not necessarily match racing as much as it is being very smart about where you go," he said. "You don't have many chances to change and come back and do something different. For that reason the team makes a big difference and I'm pretty fortunate here. I owe a big thanks to Paul Cayard (sailing head of Oracle Racing Challenge) who stepped on our boat, took up a position that is not necessarily the most graceful and I appreciate him doing the bow and looking around and calling the shots."
Brady, who with two of his crew members, Carter Perrin and Sean Clarkson, sailed for Cayard in the AmericaOne Syndicate at the last America's Cup had the last word about the impending confrontation tomorrow.
"I'm sure it is going to be a very tough battle," he said. "We're watching our old boss standing there on the bow of Peter's boat and it's almost like he's standing on the bow of our boat. So we're looking forward to going out there against the old boss and trying to give him one."