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20 October 2005, 09:13 am
COUTTS Looks For A Record Eighth Win
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King Edward VII Gold Cup 2005
Hamilton, Bermuda

American Ed BAIRD, the number one in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings and a helmsman with the Swiss America's Cup defender Alinghi, will be going for gold in Hamilton, Bermuda when Thursday's first stage of the Investors Guaranty presentation of the ISAF Grade 1 King Edward VII Gold Cup begins. However, amongst the formidable opponents lining up against the World number one is three-time America's Cup winner and a seven-time winner in Bermuda, Russell COUTTS (NZL).
Action will be intense as eight top ranked match racers will face off against skippers from the ISAF Grade 3 Qualifying event plus the champion and runner-up from the Virtual Spectator ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship which has just concluded in Bermuda.

'I have never won the Gold Cup before and we would like to make it happen. That is a top priority,' said BAIRD. 'We also return to this event year after year because it set the standard for match racing a long time ago. I have been coming here to race for so long that when the taxi driver dropped me off at my host's house he said 'welcome home.''

BAIRD will be sailing with members of the Swiss America's Cup defender Team Alinghi including Mike DRUMMOND, Dean PHIPPS and Pieter VAN NIEUWENHUYZAN. They face Swiss qualifier Eric MONNIN in the first knock out.

COUTTS, the returning 2004 champion and seven-time Gold Cup winner is ranked number three in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings. He faces the fifth place qualifier Takumi NAKAMURA from Japan. NAKAMURA had won a bottle of Bacardi as the OOPS award the night before qualifying and said he may need more rum in preparing for matches against the undisputed Gold Cup King.

'I am going to go for number eight,' COUTTS said on his way out to a practice session yesterday with his teammates Jes GRAM HANSEN, Christian KAMP and Rasmus KOSTNER. The same team he sailed with in 2004. 'That is what I am here for.'

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James SPITHILL (left) and Russell
COUTTS broach after a quick jibe to
starboard in race three of the 2004
King Edward VII Gold Cup final on
Hamilton Harbour
© Bob Grieser

Wednesday was a practice day for the seeded skippers as well as for the women's winners who have to transition from J/24's to IOD's. The action begins today with the six unseeded skippers and the two top women from the Women's Worlds, Americans Sally BARKOW and Betsy ALISON facing off in the hope of winning the King Edward VII Gold Cup and a share of the $100,000 purse.

'It is such a great challenge for us and it is rare that we get to sail against the best men in the world,' said ALISON, the women's championship runner up.

James SPITHILL (AUS), the runner up in the 2004 Gold Cup, is the reigning ISAF Match Racing World Champion and helmsman of the Italian Luna Rossa AC challenger. He is the fifth seed and has drawn second ranked qualifier Cameron APPLETON (NZL). SPITHILL came second to COUTTS in 2004 as the Gold Cup was shortened by a 35 knot Sunday storm. APPLETON, sailing for local sponsor Triangle Rigging, had an impressive 9-2 run in the qualifier and will be a tough opponent.

Chris DICKSON (NZL), the American BMW Oracle America's Cup challenge skipper and two-time Gold Cup winner has drawn BARKOW, just crowned Virtual Spectator ISAF Women's Match Racing World Champion. Women's Worlds runner up ALISON faces New Zealander Gavin BRADY.

'This is such a unique event and there are very few opportunities for men and women to sail against each other like this,' BRADY said. 'There are no guarantees out there and if the breeze is light it will be a race that is more about finesse than physical strength. Both teams will come out on the water sailing strong.'

In other stage one matches, number three seed Mathieu RICHARD of France, number four in the Rankings, will meet Bill HARDESTY (USA), who was fourth in the qualifier with a 6-5 record.

'We won't be doing anything differently but we do know we have to be on top of our game,' said HARDESTY. 'Match racing is such a game of timing and positioning that we just have to go out there and sail well.'

World number six Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) is paired against Cameron DUNN (NZL), who finished the qualifier series with a 10-1 score. DUNN is racing with his Italian Mascalzone Latino America's Cup teammates Michele PAOLETTI, Marco CONSTANT and Matteo AUGUADRO.

Stage one of the Gold Cup tournament is a knock out round. No team can afford a bad day and for the seeded sailors, in particular, to be knocked out on the first day is a tough way to go. The first team to win three races goes forward while the loser slots into a fifth to eighth consolation bracket to determine prize winnings for those teams.

King Edward VII Gold Cup Entrants
(- ISAF World Match Race Ranking)

Ed BAIRD (USA) - 1
Russell COUTTS (NZL) - 3
Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) - 4
Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) - 6
James SPITHILL (AUS) - 8
Staffan LINDBERG (FIN) - 12
Eric MONNIN (SUI) - 22
Takumi NAKAMURA (JPN) - 34
Gavin BRADY (NZL) - 37
Chris DICKSON (NZL) - 44
Karol JABLONSKI (POL) - 45
Bill HARDESTY (USA) - 75
Cameron DUNN (NZL) - 149
Cameron APPLETON (NZL) - 195
Betsy ALISON (USA) - 429
Sally BARKOW (USA) - Not Ranked

Laurie Fullerton. Image, Russell COUTTS displays the Gold Cup last year:© Charles Anderson/PPL
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