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23 May 2005, 10:49 am
The Battle Begins
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ACI H1 Match Race Cup 2005
Split, Croatia

A northerly wind between six and eight knots blows over Split, Croatia this morning and is providing ample racing conditions for the start of the 19th annual ISAF Grade 1 ACI H1 Match Race Cup.
The wind is predicted to shift to the northeast, and blow up to ten knots. Event Director Emil TOMAŠEVIÆ told the skippers at this morning's briefing to expect a long day. He intends to complete as much racing as possible. The ACI Cup utilizes a double round robin, followed by semi finals and final. Mattias RAHM (SWE) has not entered the race meaning their will be eleven skippers in Split. Therefore each team could sail as many as 20 races before the semi finalists are determined.

Racing in Split begins today in the initial round robin and continues through the week with the finals due to be sailed on Saturday.

The top two in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings are in Split, and look set for a battle that could prove vital when the next Rankings are released on 22 June. In the last month Rankings' number two, Peter GILMOUR (AUS) has had the edge over his rival Ed BAIRD (USA), but the American will be looking to set the record straight in Croatia and defend his number one spot.

After winning the ISAF Grade 1 Marseille International Match Race back in March BAIRD, sailing for America's Cup Defenders, Team Alinghi (SUI) looked comfortable as number one in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings. However a second place in the ISAF Grade 1 Toscana Elba Cup, followed by a victory in the ISAF Grade 1 Match Race Germany means GILMOUR and his Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS), now look like the inform team on the circuit. With BAIRD finishing fifth and third in these two events, his number one position when the Rankings are next released on 22 June could be under serious threat if GILMOUR manages to out do the American again in Croatia.

GILMOUR knows what it takes to win the ACI Cup. He finished second here last year and won the Cup four times in the 1990s. With matters so delicately poised between the two, the drama is further heightened by the scheduled, which sees BAIRD and GILMOUR kept apart until the final flight of the round robin.

BAIRD and GILMOUR headline the field of twelve in Croatia. They are joined by the event's reigning champion Bertrand PACÉ (FRA), of BMW Oracle Racing (USA). PACÉ won last year's ACI Cup with a victory in the final over GILMOUR and most recently finished fourth, losing to BAIRD in the petit final, of Match Race Germany.

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The crews on the water in yesterday's
practice session
© Event Media
Four more skippers will be representing America's Cup syndicates: Ian AINSLIE (RSA), of Team Shosholoza (RSA), Flavio FAVINI (ITA), of Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA), Kelvin HARRAP (NZL), of Emirates Team New Zealand, and Mattias RAHM (SWE), of Victory Challenge (SWE). A fifth, Philippe PRESTI (FRA), is being considered for China Team.

The field also includes ISAF World Match Race Rankings' numbers four, ten and thirteen, Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), Staffan LINDBERG (FIN) and Björn HANSEN (SWE) respectively. Looking to give the home fans something to shout about is Croatia's young match racer, Dario KLIBA.

The ACI Cup is celebrating its 19th edition this year, and there are three past champions in the field, GILMOUR (1993, 1994, 1995, 1997), PACÉ (2004) and PRESTI (2002). Formerly called the ACI HTmobile Cup, the name has changed to ACI H1 Match Race Cup to reflect new sponsor H1, a telecommunications company.

ACI H1 Match Race Cup Entrants
(America's Cup team - ISAF World Match Race Ranking)

  • Ed BAIRD (USA), Team Alinghi (SUI) - 1
  • Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS) - 2
  • Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) - 4
  • Philippe PRESTI (FRA), China Team - 6
  • Staffan LINDBERG (FIN) - 10
  • Bjorn HANSEN (SWE) - 13
  • Bertrand PACÉ (FRA), BMW Oracle Racing (USA) - 29
  • Kelvin HARRAP (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand - 46
  • Dario KLIBA (CRO) - 130
  • Flavio FAVINI (ITA), Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA) - 271
  • Ian AINSLIE (RSA), Team Shosholoza (RSA) - 382

Round 1
Line ups for first four flights

Flight 1

Match 1: Ed BAIRD (USA) vs. Flavio FAVINI (ITA)
Match 2: Peter GILMOUR (AUS) vs. Ian AINSLIE (RSA)
Match 3: Philippe PRESTI (FRA) vs. Kelvin HARRAP (NZL)
Match 4: Staffan LINDBERG (FIN) vs. Dario KLIBA (CRO)
Match 5: Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) vs. Bertrand PACÉ (FRA)
Bye: Björn HANSEN (SWE)

Flight 2

Match 1: Björn HANSEN (SWE) vs. Philippe PRESTI (FRA)
Match 2: Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) vs. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN)
Match 3: Flavio FAVINI (ITA) vs. Kelvin HARRAP (NZL)
Match 4: Bertrand PACÉ (FRA) vs. Ian AINSLIE (RSA)
Match 5: Dario KLIBA (CRO) vs. Ed BAIRD (USA)
Bye: Peter GILMOUR (AUS)

Flight 3

Match 1: Staffan LINDBERG (FIN) vs. Philippe PRESTI (FRA)
Match 2: Kelvin HARRAP (NZL) vs. Ian AINSLIE (RSA)
Match 3: Peter GILMOUR (AUS) vs. Dario KLIBA (CRO)
Match 4: Björn HANSEN (SWE) vs. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA)
Match 5: Bertrand PACÉ (FRA) vs. Flavio FAVINI (ITA)

Flight 4

Match 1: Kelvin HARRAP (NZL) vs. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA)
Match 2: Philippe PRESTI (FRA) vs. Bertrand PACE (FRA)
Match 3: Flavio FAVINI (ITA) vs. Peter GILMOUR (AUS)
Match 4: Ian AINSLIE (RSA) vs. Ed BAIRD (USA)
Match 5: Dario KLIBA (CRO) vs. Björn HANSEN (SWE)
Bye: Staffan LINDBERG (FIN)

Sean McNeill (As Amended By ISAF). Image, PACÉ on his way to victory last year:© Bob Grieser/Outside Images
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