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17 July 2006, 01:42 pm
French Bring A Different 'Cup' Home
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Mayor's Cup 2006
Long Beach, California, USA

World number one Claire LEROY (FRA) won a tightly contested ISAF Grade 2 Mayor's Cup in Long Beach, California, USA, edging out rising Australia star Katie SPITHILL in a final flight shoot out.
After an extremely slow start to the day due to lack of wind, the third and final day of Mayor's Cup got underway with unlimited blue sky and light winds.

Final Day Action

In a very slow and steady flight eleven, SPITHILL and Louise BIENVENU (USA) found themselves above the start/finish line and over early. Both dipped the line and continued on up the course and SPITHILL to her first win of the day.

In match one of flight 13, Caroline BÉJAR (BRA) faced off against Charlie ARMS (USA). BÉJAR had a wonderful start and was able to use the committee boat as a pick, forcing ARMS to go above the line. ARMS was able to dip the starting line and power back into clear air and then later won the match.

In match four, LEROY and Sandy HAYES (USA) battled for position at the start. When the horn sounded, it appeared that Hayes had the upper hand, but the tenacious Leroy pushed the boat hard over onto starboard and attacked Hayes. Hayes was caught by surprise, was forced to tack, and Leroy steamed off in clear air in front, and on to her third win of the day.

Going into the final flight of the regatta, number 14, and it appeared that SPITHILL had clenched the title having sailed an impressively consistent regatta, and sitting at 13-1. All she needed to do was beat LEROY.

The Crunch Match

SPITHILL and LEROY parried beautifully in pre-start and when the horn sounded it was a dead heat with a slight advantage to SPITHILL. She led the way around the first windward and leeward legs but rounded only three quarters of a boat length ahead of LEROY at the last windward mark.

The two jibed down wind, SPITHILL always able to keep LEROY at bay. But LEROY was patient; she knew that if she kept the heat on eventually there would be a mistake to capitalize on. In one of the few times during the regatta, SPITHILL gave her just the opportunity she needed.

LEROY commented, 'We were just to leeward and we needed to jibe at the right moment. We had to be really patient. I think she did well the first few jibes, but the last, she timed her jibe wrong, and we took just one or more seconds more to make our jibe, and we had the speed to get by her.'

LEROY made this move a mere 50 meters from the finish line powering past SPITHILL and blanketing her wind. She was able to gain at least three boat lengths in the short space and stunned all to take her points total to 12-2, and forcing SPITHILL to 12-2 as well.

Because of the lack of a finals, and in the format of a double round robin, it went to the score cards, and in the tiebreak, to the skipper who beat the other skipper the last time they sailed each other. The final match turned into a true final as LEROY's victory over SPITHILL broke the tie.

A Word From The Finalist

SPITHILL and crew were disappointed in their loss, but a class act in their response to the French crew's win. As LEROY and crew celebrated, team SPITHILL sailed by and gave them three 'Hip-Hip-Hoorays!!' applauded LEROY's team and gave them congratulatory offerings.

'I don't know what exactly happened, but I think most of it was timing at the end. But, we lost to the number one skipper in the world, or actually tied her, and we're really happy overall with our performance. We had a bunch of fun and can't wait to get a chance to race LEROY again,' reflected SPITHILL.

The Mayor's Cup was presented by St. Mary Medical Centre of Long Beach, in conjunction with the Port of Long Beach, the Long Beach Sea Festival, and Gladstone's Restaurant.

Mayor's Cup Final Standings

1. Claire LEROY (FRA), 12-2
2. Katie SPITHILL (AUS), 12-2
3. Sandy HAYES (USA), 10-3
4. Liz HJORTH (USA), 8-6
5. Charlie ARMS (USA), 7-7
6. Caroline BÉJAR (BRA), 4-10
7. Katy PILLEY-LOVELL (USA), 3-11
8. Louise BIENVENU (USA), 0-14

Sean DOWNEY (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Claire LEROY and Katie SPITHILL battle in the final:© Sean DOWNEY
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