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30 June 2005, 04:10 pm
Stars Set To Do Battle
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Swedish Match Cup 2005
Marstrand, Sweden

The 12th annual ISAF Grade 1 Swedish Match Cup returns next week, 4-10 July, to the small island of Marstrand off Sweden's west coast for more furious action. It will be the final major match racing event before the next release of the ISAF World Match Race Rankings and the issuing of invitations for the 2005 ISAF Match Racing World Championship.
The top eleven skippers in the next release of the Rankings on 13 July will receive invites for the ISAF Match Racing World Championship being held in Calpe, Spain from 12-17 September. This includes defending World Champion, Ed BAIRD (USA), at number two after he was toppled from his long time lead in the last Rankings' release by Peter GILMOUR (AUS). The twelfth competitor for the ISAF Worlds will be selected by the host club, Club Náutico de Calpe and the Real Federación Española de Vela.

The remaining top five look assured of retaining their top eleven status and therefore of receiving an invite for the ISAF Worlds. Neither number three, Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), nor number four James SPITHILL (AUS) are competing in Marstrand but World number five and defending Swedish Match Cup Champion, Russell COUTTS (NZL) is. With the three times America's Cup winner only currently counting seven of a possible eight events in his Rankings' points total, a repeat victory next week combined with poor results for other sailors could see him putting the pressure on GILMOUR for the top spot.

Away from the battle of the tour's biggest names seven sailors, between six and 17 in the Rankings, know that a good result in Marstrand could secure them an ISAF Worlds' invite. Philippe PRESTI (FRA), Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE), Björn HANSEN (SWE), Bertrand PACÉ (FRA) and Lars NORDBJERG (DEN) will have the added pressure off knowing any slip ups could be twice as costly.

The popularity and prestige of the Swedish Match Cup ensures it also attracts a field of star America's Cup names to join the top ranked sailors. Held in the confines of the western approach to Marstrand Harbour, the Swedish Match Cup is an incredible story of success.

Founded in 1994 by Sweden's massively successful match racer, Magnus HOLMBERG, in conjunction with the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club, the Swedish Match Cup has grown into one of the foremost match racing regattas in the world.

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Magnus HOLMBERG in Marstrand
last year
© Dan Ljungsvik
'If the event was to have a chance to develop into a long term success, we couldn't start out small and grow from there,' HOLMBERG said. 'We didn't want the event's economy to rely on ticket sales, so it was decided not to charge an admission fee.'

The free admission and strong lineup were the decisive reasons why the 1994 premier drew around 30,000 spectators to Marstrand. That number pales in comparison with the record crowd of 150,000 people in 2001, but it was far above expectations.

From the beginning the Swedish Match Cup has always attracted the skippers from the very top of the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, and this year is no different. Of the 16 teams entered six are headed by top ten Ranked sailors and four more sailors come from places eleven to 20. Nine of the teams represent syndicates entered in the 32nd America's Cup. Their resumes are an incredible list of success, having won three America's Cup matches, two Louis Vuitton Cup titles, three Olympic medals and eleven match racing World Championships.

There are also four skippers who have won ten of the previous eleven Swedish Match Cups between them. GILMOUR leads the pack with five victories (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999). Dean BARKER (NZL), of Emirates Team New Zealand, and COUTTS, of Coutts Racing, have two victories each, and Bertrand PACÉ, of BMW Oracle Racing (USA), has one. BAIRD is a four time runner up at the event (1994, 1995, 1997, 1999), each time to GILMOUR.

COUTTS is the reigning champion. Sailing with Danish crewmembers Michael ARNHILD, Jes GRAM-HANSEN, Christian KAMP and Rasmus KOSTNER, Coutts Racing out dueled GILMOUR's Pizza-La Sailing Team to win the championship 2-1 in 2004.

Marstrand's tight racecourse will become more restricted with the use of the Swedish Match 40, replacing the DS 37 that has been used in the previous eleven editions. A consortium of companies has purchased a fleet of boats for the event.

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Maire BJÖRLING on her way
to victory last year
© Dan Ljungsvik
The Swedish Match Cup also hosts a women's event concurrent with the open regatta. A field of eight teams is slated to compete, including the top three sailors in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings. Leader in the Rankings, Claire LEROY (FRA) finished third last year and is under pressure from World number two Marie BJÖRLING (SWE), after the Swede won the ISAF Grade 1 BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup at the beginning of the month. BJÖRLING (SWE) is also the defending champion and will be aiming for her fourth title in a row, a result that could well see her regain the top spot in the Rankings that she held for so long.

The women's lineup also features a strong Danish presence with number ten in the Rankings, Lotte MELDGAARED PEDERSEN (DEN), who finished runner up last year, and number three in the Rankings, Nina BRAESTRUP (DEN). World number six, Malin KÄLLSTRÖM (SWE) and winner of the ISAF Grade 4 Swedish Match Cup Qualifier, Linda RAHM (SWE) add to the home challenge. Christelle PHILIPPE (FRA) joins team mate LEROY whilst America's Sandy HAYES completes the lineup.

Swedish Match Cup Entrants

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

  • Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS) - 1
  • Ed BAIRD (USA), Alinghi (SUI) - 2
  • Russell COUTTS (NZL), Coutts Racing - 5
  • Philippe PRESTI (FRA), Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA) - 6
  • Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) - 8
  • Staffan LINDBERG (FIN) - 9
  • Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE) - 14
  • Björn HANSEN (SWE) - 15
  • Bertrand PACÉ (FRA), BMW Oracle Racing (USA) - 16
  • Lars NORDBJERG (DEN) - 17
  • Dean BARKER (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand - 37
  • Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE) Victory Challenge (SWE) - 42
  • Kelvin HARRAP (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand - 48
  • Peter HOLMBERG (ISV) Alinghi (SUI) - 72
  • Jesper RADICH (DEN), Desafío Español (ESP) - 96
  • Iain PERCY (GBR), +39 Challenge (ITA) - 120

(ISAF World Match Race Ranking)

Sean McNeill (As Amended By ISAF). Image, COUTTS and GILMOUR battling for last year's title:© Dan Ljungsvik
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