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9 May 2005, 09:57 am
COUTTS Retains Title
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Toscana Elba Cup 2005
Porto Azzurro, Elba Island, Italy

Russell COUTTS (NZL) and his team have won the fourth edition of the ISAF Grade 1 Toscana Elba Cup - Trofeo Locman for the second year running. In a replay of last year, the Kiwi skipper beat Australia's Peter GILMOUR of his Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS) in the final.
In the final for third place Luna Rossa's (ITA) James SPITHILL (AUS) beat Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE) of Victory Challenge (SWE). Team Russell Coutts and Pizza-La Sailing were the only two teams in the competition not from an America's Cup syndicate meaning SPITHILL won the battle of the America's Cup teams' helms.

Once again hundreds of sailing fans crowded the piers and beaches in Porto Azzurro Elba Island, Italy to witness the spectacular final racing day. Also present for the occasion were Vincenzo ONORATO, patron of Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA), and Patrizio BERTELLI, Head of the Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA) syndicate.

Team Russell Coutts (NZL) featured Denmark's Michael ARNHILD (bow), Jes GRAM-HANSEN (tactics), Christian KAMP (headsails) and Rasmus KOSTNER (mainsail). They finished the match-race regatta with a 13-8 record.

GILMOUR's multi-national team included New Zealander Rod DAWSON (mainsail and tactics), Australian Mike MOTTL (headsails), and Kazuhiko SOFUKU (bow) and Yasuhiro YAJI (cockpit) of Japan. They finished the event with a 12-5 record.

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the fourth edition of the Toscana Elba Cup - Trofeo Locman. With ISAF World Match Race Rankings' number one, Ed BAIRD (USA) knocked out by COUTTS in the quarter final, GILMOUR and SPITHILL, numbers two and three in the Rankings, had the perfect opportunity to gain ground on their American rival.

In the best of three Petit Final, SPITHILL started yesterday with a one nil lead over HOLMBERG. He took the next flight to beat HOLMBERG 2-0 and place third overall.

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Toscanb Elba Cup winners,
Team Russell Coutts
© Event Media
The final of the Toscana Elba Cup lacked the drama on the racecourse that had marked the earlier rounds of the highly competitive event. COUTTS and GILMOUR, the two most experienced match-racers in the world, plied their trade in the four-minute pre-start sequence, and that generally decided the race. The team that got the right side of the racecourse off the start line won each match.

'When I woke up today I knew the starts were going to be vital,' COUTTS said. 'There was more wind out the bay, and the lead boat had a tremendous advantage. He judged the starts excellently in the first two races, and in the last two races I had nice position and good speed.'

The final started on Saturday afternoon with COUTTS rallying from behind to take a 1-0 lead. GILMOUR led around the first lap and tacked to port cover COUTTS coming out of the leeward mark, but with the wind dying from windward COUTTS sailed around the outside of GILMOUR and on to the win.

The series resumed yesterday morning with an 18-knot southeasterly and a two to three foot swell running down the Bay of Porto Azzurro. GILMOUR started to the right of COUTTS in flights two and three to score big wins. COUTTS returned the favor in flight four to even the score and set up the winner-take-all final race.

Entering the pre-start with the starboard-tack advantage, GILMOUR felt he let an opportunity get away in the final flight. After the two entered the start box, GILMOUR dialed COUTTS into a luffing match.

The two remained luffing for much of the sequence and even began drifting backwards. GILMOUR did a great job of holding his position to the right of COUTTS, which put pressure on COUTTS not to foul.

With about 35 seconds to the start, GILMOUR bailed out and jibed to starboard towards the pin end of the start line. COUTTS let him get away, opting to fall off on port and then tack to starboard.

When GILMOUR jibed around he gave COUTTS an easy opportunity to claim the right side of the racecourse. With the right being so dominant, the race was pretty much over as soon as it started.

'I should've waited a bit longer in that pre-start, I should've been more patient,' GILMOUR said. 'If I'd waited a bit longer I could've just hardened up on port and cleared the start line.'

COUTTS disagreed: 'They allowed us to do that pre-start,' said the New Zealander. 'He should've bailed with two minutes or a minute and a half to go. Once he sat there that long we had control.'

They had control, and the series followed. COUTTS also beat GILMOUR in last year's final, 2-1. Similar to last year, COUTTS sailed the maximum number of races possible in the event, 21. After placing fourth in the six-race round robin, he won two races in the repechage round to advance to the quarterfinals.

After beating BAIRD 2-1 in the quarterfinals COUTTS went on to beat SPITHILL 3-2 in the semifinals, the same score as the final.

'Well, it wasn't the same as last year,' COUTTS noted. 'We didn't win a race in the first three days last year.'

Results

Pos Nation Skipper Team
1 NZL Russell COUTTS Team Russell Coutts (NZL)
2 AUS Peter GILMOUR Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS)
3 AUS James SPITHILL Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA)
4 SWE Magnus HOLMBERG Victory Challenge (SWE)
5 USA Ed BAIRD Alinghi Team (SUI)
6 RSA Iain PERCY +39 Challenge (ITA)
7 NZL Gavin Brady BMW Oracle Racing (USA)
8 GBR Ian AINSLIE Team Shosholoza (RSA)
9 ITA Francesco DE ANGELIS Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA)
10 NZL Hamish PEPPER Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA)
11= GBR Ben AINSLIE Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)
11= FRA Thierry PEPONNET K-Challenge (FRA)
11= ISV Peter HOLMBERG Alinghi Team (SUI)
11= POL Karol JABLONSKI Desafio Español (ESP)
Andrea Lanzarotto/Sean McNeill/swedishmatchtour.com (As Amended By ISAF). COUTTS wins again in Elba:© Event Media
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