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13 September 2007, 11:32 am
SPITHILL On Fire!
Image of James SPITHILL
James SPITHILL leads in Italy

Latium Match Cup 2007
Fiumicino, Italy

The first day of the ISAF Grade WC Latium Match Cup belonged to James SPITHILL (AUS), with the Aussie on fire at stage 12 of the World Match Racing Tour.
The Luna Rossa helmsman posted five straight wins to top his group and secure his place in the quarter-finals.

The Latium Match Cup, the 12th stage of 15 in the 2007 Tour, is being held in Fiumicino, 25 km west of Rome. At stake is $270,000 (App. €200,000) in prize money, with $74,000 going to the winner. The event is held in conjunction with the Civitavela Sail Show, a marine exhibition.

The 12 teams have been divided into two groups for round robin racing in the first stage of the event. Just before midday racing got under way in a light westerly wind of 6-8 knots.

Group A completed their first three flights with Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) and Sebastien COL (FRA) on two wins. Sten MOHR (DEN) and Ian AINSLIE (RSA) on one win each and Jure OREL (SLO), in his first Tour event, yet to score.

Group B then took to the water as the sea breeze, know locally as the 'Ponentino', built to 12 knots. SPITHILL attacked the day leaving all his opponents to wonder what they will have to do to beat him. SPITHILL said, 'It's great to be in Rome. Italy feels like a second home and I always seem to do well when I sail here. It's also great racing with the guys again [referring to Joe NEWTON, Michele IVALDI, Magnus AUGUSTSON, Andy FETHERS].'

Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE) slid into the quarter-finals with three wins including victory against Paolo CIAN (ITA) following a close gibing duel down the last run. HOLMBERG credited the win to his spinnaker trimmers for getting downwind so quickly. 'We struggled with boat speed to begin with but changed the set up and things got better. We were lucky to get three wins and a few lessons were learnt today,' said HOLMBERG.

The third place in the Round Robin went to CIAN who chalked up three wins. 'Today was a good day and we are happy to get through. We lost to Magnus as he had better speed downwind. The conditions today were great for match racing,' said CIAN.

Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) is fast becoming the repechage man after going down the same route in St Moritz last month. 'Maybe it's not too bad being in the repechage as you have more sailing and practice, though we did not plan to do it this way. We hope we can come back and make the quarter-finals,' said RICHARD. A high risk strategy indeed but there have been occasions at other Tour events when a fight through the repechage has spurred a team on to overall victory. Only time will tell.

Tomorrow Group A will complete their round robin and the bottom three will join RICHARD, Victor LANIER (FRA) and Michael HESTBEK (DEN) in the repechage scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Yvonne Reid (As Amended By ISAF)
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