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24 October 2005, 09:01 am
SPITHILL Wins Thrilling Final
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King Edward VII Gold Cup 2005
Hamilton, Bermuda

A new king has been crowned on the waters of Hamilton Harbour. ISAF Match Racing World Champion James SPITHILL (AUS) won the Investors Guaranty presentation of the ISAF Grade 1 King Edward VII Gold Cup match race championship on Sunday, beating the defending and seven-time champion Russell COUTTS (NZL) in a thrilling decider 3-2.
SPITHILL, the 26 year old Luna Rossa Italian America's Cup helmsman and current World Champion, lost the first race at the start, regained his composure in the second heat, but lost again to the seven-time Gold Cup winner in the third. This left the Australian with the uphill battle of winning the final two races, but far from buckling under the pressure, SPITHILL took total control of both starts and the rest is history.

Congratulating his Luna Rossa crew of Joe NEWTON (AUS), Magnus AUGUSTSON (SWE), and Charlie MCKEE (USA), SPITHILL said. 'I have wanted to win the Gold Cup for a long time. I have been second and fourth and we really wanted to win it against Russell because this is his event. It all came down to making good starts, and I shut him out on the last one.'

Now in its 57th year, the Bermuda Gold Cup is where legends are born and sailing careers are built. COUTTS, who conceded the last race after the first round, having hit the committee boat at the start, was gracious in defeat. 'It really did come down to the starts in all five races. James is the World Champion and he sailed here very well.'

After a week of variable weather, conditions on the final day were perfect with 15-20 knot winds across Hamilton Harbour. COUTTS won the first start and split off from the young Australian towards the Hamilton shore in search of wind pressure, and won handily.

Their second encounter was much closer, and arriving at the top mark together, COUTTS picked up a penalty for forcing SPITHILL to make room for him. That made it 1-1.

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RBYC Commodore Jane
CORREIA presents the King
Edward VII Gold Cup trophy
to (from left to right) Charlie
Magnus AUGUSTSON and
© Bob Grieser/PPL
In the third race, COUTTS again headed straight out towards the Hamilton shore. SPITHILL failed to cover, and found himself ten boat lengths down at the top mark. Now it was 2-1 to the New Zealander, who had only to inflict one more victory to win for a record eight times.

It was not to be. In the fourth encounter, SPITHILL won the starboard advantage and rounded just ahead of COUTTS at the top mark. The pair then remained locked together for the remainder of this duel, with SPITHILL taking the winning gun by little more than a bow length.

In the fifth and final race, SPITHILL dominated the pre-start and pinned COUTTS down so close to the committee boat that he hit it and was forced to do a penalty turn. By the time he had recovered, SPITHILL was ten boat lengths clear and heading to dethrone the king of the Gold Cup. COUTTS saw it all as a hopeless cases and conceded the race after one round so that his Danish crew could catch their flight home.

Lady VEREKER, the wife of Sir John VEREKER, Governor of Bermuda who was one of hundreds of spectators watching this exciting final, said, 'Whether you are a young sailor or on the sidelines as a spectator, these competitors give us something that is uplifting. They have such a great, competitive spirit; they are technically superb to watch and are great athletes. It is such an honor that we can watch them sail right off the harbour wall.'

In in the petite-finals to decide third and fourth place, Steffan LINDBERG of Finland defeated number one in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings Ed BAIRD (USA) from the Swiss America's Cup Defenders Alinghi 2-0. BAIRD, who went down to SPITHILL in the semi finals 3-2, could not overtake the fast moving Finn who dominated both races.

King Edward VII Gold Cup Final Standings

2. Russell COUTTS (NZL)
3. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN)
5. Chris DICKSON (NZL)
6. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA)
7. Gavin BRADY (NZL)

For a complete list of all the news about the King Edward VII Gold Cup CLICK HERE.
Laurie Fullerton (As Amended By ISAF). Image, James SPITHILL leads Russell COUTTS in the final:© Bob Grieser/PPL
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