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11 October 2006, 08:12 am
SPITHILL Favourite For Second Gold Cup
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King Edward VII Gold Cup 2006
Hamilton, Bermuda

As competitors took to the water for the practice rounds of the ISAF Grade WC King Edward VII Gold Cup, dockside talk centred on who might be the favourite. The answer was easy: defending champion James SPITHILL (AUS).
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The 27 year old Australian is the reigning event champion. Last year he rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Russell COUTTS (NZL), the event's all time leading winner with seven victories. The year before that he lost to COUTTS, 2-1, in a series shortened by a tropical storm.

'That was nice to get one on COUTTS,' said SPITHILL. 'We owed him from the year before.'

Rapid Rise To The Top

SPITHILL was a raw 19 years old when in 2000 he became the youngest man ever to helm an America's Cup Class sloop. Now he is the helmsman of Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge, considered among the top three challengers for next year's Cup, and in August he was awarded the Yachting Australia Male Sailor of the Year award for the first time.

This week he is sailing with Magnus AUGUSTSON, Torben GRAEL and Christian KAMP, all members of Luna Rossa. AUGUSTSON crewed for SPITHILL in last year's win. SPITHILL, however, does not see himself as a favourite.

'We haven't done a match race since Brazil in March,' said the skipper. 'I don't consider us favourites. I felt a little rusty out there in practice.'

GRAM-HANSEN Leads Challengers

One team capable of making a run at SPITHILL is Jes GRAM-HANSEN's (DEN) crew from Italy's Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia syndicate. GRAM-HANSEN won the event in 2004 when he was tactician for COUTTS.

This week he is sailing in his seventh Gold Cup with Pierluigi DE FELICE and long-time crewmembers Rasmus KOSTNER and Chresten PLINIUS.

'There are good guys here,' said KOSTNER. 'It may not be the top of the line, but it will be tough racing especially if the conditions are light.'

There are plenty of other skippers with a chance to pull off the victory. Sailors such as Chris LAW (GBR), Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), ISAF Nations Cup winner Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) and Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) have experience and talent to make a run. LINDBERG (third), RICHARD (sixth) and WILLIAMS (eighth) all placed in the top eight last year.

Then there is Bermuda's own Paula LEWIN and Blythe WALKER hoping to make a run at the championship.

The Gold Cup is stage four of the 2006-2007 World Match Racing Tour. The events of the World Tour determine the ISAF Match Racing World Champion.

The Forecast

Light winds and rain showers dominated yesterday's practice rounds of the Gold Cup, but the wind is expected to pick up as the week progresses. Forecasters at Bermuda weather predict south westerly winds between eight and twelve knots into the weekend, ideal conditions for match racing.

'The best match racing is in eight to twelve knots,' said American Jon SINGSEN, competing in his second Gold Cup. 'After that it's just damage control. The boats are cool when it pipes up, but it can be wild downwind.'

The 58th annual running of the professional match racing regatta on Hamilton Harbour has 16 teams entered from around the world. Ten nations are represented this week, not including the two Bermudians, with the most entries, three, coming from the USA. Australia and Great Britain have two entries each.

Racing is scheduled to start daily at 0900 on Wednesday and Thursday will see the two round robins completed. The 16 teams have been split into two groups of eight. Each will sail a single round robin with the top four from each group advancing to the quarter-finals. The quarter-finals are scheduled for Friday, the semi-finals on Saturday and the final and petit-final on Sunday.

Junior Gold Cup

Running concurrently with the Gold Cup is the Junior Gold Cup for junior sailors from around the world. 37 sailors, including twelve from overseas, will sail four races per day from 12-14 October on Great Sound. The final day on Sunday 15 Octoberr will see the championship sailed on Hamilton Harbour during the final rounds of the King Edward VII Gold Cup.

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club is a private club and is the third oldest club holding a Royal Warrant outside the British Isles. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club was established on 1 November 1844. There are now approximately 850 resident and non-resident members.

The Bermuda Department of Tourism is an Official Host Sponsor of the Gold Cup. Event sponsors include Renaissance Re, Max Re, BTC, Bermuda Premium Spirits Ltd., local distributors of BACARDI rum, and Oleander Cycles.

World Match Racing Tour Leaderboard
(After Stage Three)
Pos Skipper Nation ISAF World
Match Race
Ranking
Team Pts
1 Sébastien COL FRA 1 Areva Challenge 29
2 Jes GRAM-HANSEN DEN 16 Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia 27
3 Paolo CIAN ITA 2 Team Viano Mercedes Benz 25
3 Chris DICKSON NZL 4 BMW ORACLE Racing 25
5 Ed BAIRD USA 10 Alinghi 20
5 Jesper BANK DEN 56 United Internet Team Germany 20
5 Magnus HOLMBERG SWE 41 Victory Challenge 20
8 Staffan LINDBERG FIN 11 Alandia Sailing Team 16

World Match Racing Tour Schedule
(2006-2007 Season)

Stage Event Venue Date
Stage 1 Portugal Match Cup Cascais, Portugal 18-23 July 2006
Stage 2 Danish Open Copenhagen, Denmark 9-13 August 2006
Stage 3 St. Moritz Match Race St. Moritz, Switzerland 15-20 August 2006
Stage 4 Bermuda Gold Cup Hamilton, Bermuda 10-15 October 2006
Stage 5 Allianz Cup San Francisco, USA 24-29 October
Stage 6 Monsoon Cup Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia 28 November-3 December 2006
Stage 7 Match Race Germany Langenargen, Germany 23-28 May 2007
Stage 8 Portugal Match Cup Cascais, Portugal 01/07/2007
Stage 9 Danish Open Copenhagen, Denmark 01/08/2007
Stage 10 St. Moritz Match Race St. Moritz, Switzerland 01/08/2007
Stage 11 ACI Adris Match Race Cup Rovinj, Croatia 01/09/2007
Stage 12 Locman Cup - Elba Island Porto Azzurro, Elba Island, Italy 01/09/2007
Stage 13 Brasil Sailing Cup Angra dos Reis, Brazil 01/10/2007
Stage 14 Bermuda Gold Cup Hamilton, Bermuda 01/10/2007
Stage 15 Monsoon Cup Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia 20 November-2 December 2007

The World Match Racing Tour is an ISAF Special Event. Skippers earn points towards the World Championship at the nine events of the World Tour and the highest scoring skipper at the end of the season is the ISAF Match Racing World Champion.

The World Tour Partner and Official Car is BMW AG (Munich, Germany). World Tour sponsors include Sebago (Rockford, USA), the Official Footwear Supplier, Travel Places (West Sussex, Great Britain), the Official Travel Partner and Wedgwood (Cheshire, Great Britain) the Official Trophy Supplier.

For more information on the World Match Racing Tour, its competitors and events, visit the official World Tour website - www.WorldMatchRacingTour.com. World Match Racing Tour television programmes may be viewed on demand by clicking on the television icon on the home page of the website.

For all the news on the World Match Racing Tour CLICK HERE.

Sean MCNEILL (As Amended By ISAF). Image, James SPITHILL is favourite for the title in Bermuda:© Wander ROBERTO/Brasil Sailing Cup
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