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30 May 2007, 08:14 am
SPITHILL Lifts The Cup
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BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup 2007
Annapolis, USA

Australia's Katie SPITHILL claimed the ISAF Grade 1 BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup in Annapolis, USA yesterday, defeating Giulia CONTI (ITA) in a dramatic final. Perfect conditions meant racing went down to the wire, in a classic match racing duel pitting great tactical knowledge against superb boat speed.
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The Chesapeake Bay made up for all its lack of wind yesterday, with wind in spades. The semi-finals and final were run in breezes from 16-20 steady with gusts up to 25 knots plus.

The semis were shortened to the first to two points. The fact that it took only two races for two teams to move forward belied the action that occurred. Both semi-final matches were close affairs, with lots of action, protest flags, and close finishes. In the end, CONTI and SPITHILL advance to the finals, with 2002 ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champion Liz BAYLIS (USA) and number eight in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA) in the petit-finals.

Racing Intensifies

BAYLIS and PHILIPPE took the tone of the semi-finals and ratcheted it up a notch. This first to two points series went all the way to the wire, taking the full three races to decide a winner. The two teams were never more than a few metres apart, with protest flags, and umpires being tested to their fullest.

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The winners in action
© Walter COOPER

BAYLIS won the first, and PHILIPPE the second, and then in the deciding race, BAYLIS was behind by a couple of boat lengths at the top mark. With flawless crew work, and using all her tactical advantage, BAYLIS slide by PHILIPPE at the finish by less than a metre.

The Final

The final, a first to three points affair, had all the same features. Both teams were out to win, and using the rules to their advantage and their boats as foils, SPITHILL and CONTI went at it hard. After two very close races, SPITHILL had taken a 2-0 lead that seemed insurmountable, but CONTI fought back, and over the next two races drew even with SPITHILL using superior boat speed to her advantage.

The penultimate race saw it all - at the end of the third leg, SPITHILL picked up a penalty, but with great tactical acumen, was able to inflict a penalty on her opponent, and leave her struggling. But then, as the two teams attacked each other down the next leg, the umpire boat broke down, causing it to crash hard into the side of CONTI as she fought to get away from SPITHILL and try to head down the course to beat her.

Rematch For The Title

The umpires held a hearing, and decided that their interference was serious enough to warrant redress, which came in the way of a re-sail of that race - so on came race six of the series.

Race six did not disappoint. The teams worked each other hard, SPITHILL's match race skills keeping her in the race against CONTI's blazing speed. Again, SPITHILL picked up a late penalty, but was able to hold CONTI off at the weather mark to the point that she was able to take her turn, and still stay ahead at the last weather mark.

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The winning Australian crew
© Walter COOPER
The two teams were so wary of each other, that spinnakers were left in the bag for the first third of the leg, to keep up manoeuvrability, and stay as flexible as possible.

SPITHILL managed to stay just in front of CONTI, to become just the fourth non-American to win the event. It was a terrific win for the Australian, her second in a ISAF Grade 1 event and her first outside of Oceania.

BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup Results

Final

Katie SPITHILL (AUS) d. Giulia CONTI (ITA), 3-2

Petit-Final

Liz BAYLIS (USA) d. Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA), 2-1

Semi-Finals

Katie SPITHILL (AUS) d. Liz BAYLIS (USA), 2-0
Giulia CONTI (ITA) d. Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA), 2-0

Round Robin Standings

1. Liz BAYLIS (USA), 11-3
2. Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA), 10-4
3. Giulia CONTI (ITA), 9-5
4. Katie SPITHILL (AUS), 9-5
5. Katy PILLEY-LOVELL (USA), 9-5
6. Carol CRONIN (USA), 7-7
7. Deb CAPOZZI (USA), 6-8
8. Jo Ann FISHER (USA), 5-9
9. Lorenza MARIANI (ITA), 3-11
10. Jen PROVAN (CAN), 1-13

For a complete list of all the news about the BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup CLICK HERE.

Jeff BORLAND (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Action from yesterday's final:© Walter COOPER
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