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7 July 2005, 11:00 am
All Swedish Women's Final, HOLMBERG Wins Men's Group A
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Swedish Match Cup 2005
Marstrand, Sweden

Marie BJÖRLING (SWE) is into the women's final of the ISAF Grade 1 Swedish Match Cup in Marstrand. Meanwhile Peter HOLMBERG (ISV) is through to the quarter final of the Open Regatta and Russell COUTTS (NZL) has made a slow start to his championship defence.
BJÖRLING goes through after she defeated number one sailor in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, Claire LEROY (FRA), 3-1 in their semi final. It is the first time BJÖRLING and LEROY have met in the later stages of a match racing competition since the Frenchwomen overtook the longtime leader of the Rankings to claim the top spot on 4 May. Since then BJÖRLING has won the ISAF Grade 1 BoatU.S. Santa Maria Cup in Annapolis, USA, where she and LEROY both got to the semi final stage before the lack of wind cut short the competition and ended any chance of a potential meeting between the two in the final.

'It feels great and now we are looking forward to the finals on Saturday. It's always worse to sail the semis than the finals,' commented a happy BJÖRLING.

In the second semi final Linda RAHM (SWE) won the opening two matches, before 2003 World Champion Malin MILLBOURN (SWE) stormed back to take the next two and leave the outcome of the match hanging on the final race, which is due to be sailed before the final on Saturday.

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Annika CARLUNGER will be
with skipper Marie BJÖRLING
in Saturday's final
© Anders Averdal
'We would have liked to sail another match tonight,' said MILLBOURN but RAHM did not agree commenting, 'it was the right decision by the Race Committee to interrupt the sailing in those weak and shifting winds.'

BJÖRLING and her crew consisting of Anna HOLMDAHL, Elisabeth NILSSON, Jenny AXHEDE, Anna-Karin ÖJERSKOG and Annika CARLUNGER, lost the opening match before coming back to take the next three. In the final match they came from a way back to overtake LEROY although BJÖRLING insists everything was planned, 'we were never worried. Claire had the lead, but also a penalty to recover. We knew that she would need about another 20 seconds and she never had that a big lead.' Looking forward to Saturday, the defending champion who will be aiming for her fourth straight win in Marstrand commented, 'Regardless of whom we are going to meet I think our chances to victory are good.'

Peter HOLMBERG, a helmsman for America's Cup defender Alinghi (SUI), won group A with a 6-1 record. He finished a point ahead of second placed Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), skipper of Sweden's America's Cup challengers, Victory Challenge. Jesper RADICH (DEN), of Desafío Español, placed third with a 4-3 mark.

By winning the group HOLMBERG advances straight to the quarter final round of the event, which is scheduled for Saturday morning. In between now and then group B will contest its round robin and the knockout round for the eight teams finishing second through seventh in each group will be held.

In the past that layoff has been counterproductive for those winning their group. That is not something HOLMBERG wanted to hear. 'Marstrand's a beautiful place to hang out,' he said. 'We can watch from the rocks and do mental practice.'

Philippe PRESTI (FRA), of Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA), placed fourth with three points on a 4-3 record. He was penalized one point on Tuesday for causing damage to another boat. Bertrand PACÉ (FRA), of BMW Oracle Racing, finished fifth at 3-4, and new number one sailor in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, Peter GILMOUR (AUS), of Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS), was sixth with 2.5 points on a 3-4 record. Like PRESTI, the Australian was penalized a half point for causing damage.

Lars NORDBJERG (DEN) placed seventh with a 2-5 record, whilst Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), finished eighth with a 1-6 record and was eliminated from further competition. At number nine in the Rankings, LINDBERG came here knowing a good result would secure his place in the top eleven at the next Rankings release on 13 July. Sailors in these top eleven places will all received an invite to try and topple defending champion, Ed BAIRD (USA) at the ISAF Match Racing World Championship being held in Calpe, Spain from 12-17 September. However, early elimination for LINDBERG means the sailors just below him in the Rankings, like PACÉ and NORDBJERG at numbers 16 and 17, know a good finish in Marstrand could well see them climb above the Finn.

RADICH is competing in his first ISAF Graded event since last July's ISAF Grade 1 Portugal Match Cup, and despite the layoff, he seems as smooth as ever in the Swedish Match 40.

'It was necessary to sit out,' said RADICH, who married long time girlfriend Sara last weekend in Denmark. 'I was spending my last dime sailing. Now I have a job and I'm making a living.'

RADICH has joined Spain's Desafío Español syndicate for the America's Cup as a helmsman.

GILMOUR, who has won the last two ISAF Grade 1 events he has entered, finished sixth and advanced to the knockout round, but he was not wholly satisfied with his performance.

'It looks easier from the shore than it is,' he said. 'It's very puffy and shifty. There's lots of randomness and little clinical match racing.'

In the knockout round GILMOUR will meet the third place finisher from group B. Speaking of a possible showdown with his rival for the top spot in the Rankings, BAIRD, the Australian commented, 'that would stir our interest.'

Yesterday the western approach to Marstrand Harbour continued to keep the crews on their toes. The wind blew from the west/northwest around twelve knots, but was very spotty. The right side of the racecourse along the rocks seemed to be favoured.

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Magnus HOLMBERG finished
the round robin well despite
problems in the pre-starts
© Dan Ljungsvik
Magnus HOLMBERG got dusted in two pre-starts, against Peter HOLMBERG (on Tuesday) and RADICH (yesterday), but won the matches by playing the right side of the racecourse.

'The right side always pays here in Marstrand,' said Mattias RAHM, Magnus HOLMBERG's tactician.

RAHM said that the Victory Challenge crew needs to work on their pre-starts and mark roundings, but they were happy that they did not win the round.

'It's good to sail in the knockout round,' said RAHM. 'I remember two years ago I won the round. It felt good at the time, but I got eliminated in the quarter finals. You have to continue raising your level through the week. If you don't do the knockout round you can't improve.'

After the first three flights in group B this morning, BAIRD and Emirates Team New Zealand's Dean BARKER (NZL) remain undefeated. The two Swedish sailors, Johnie BERNTSSON and Björn HANSEN, both of whom lurk dangerously near the top eleven of the Rankings, have also both started well with two wins. Meanwhile defending champion, COUTTS is struggling on a 1-2 record having lost his opening flight to Kelvin HARRAP (NZL) and then also going down to BAIRD in flight three.

Women's Semi Finals

Marie BJÖRLING (SWE) d. Clarie LEROY (FRA), 3-1
Linda RAHM, (SWE) vs. Malin MILLBOURN (SWE), 2-2

Open Standings

Group A
(After 7 of 7 scheduled flights)

1. Peter HOLMBERG (ISV), Alinghi (SUI), 6-1
2. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), Victory Challenge (SWE), 5-2
3. Jesper RADICH (DEN), Desafío Español (ESP), 4-3
4. Philippe PRESTI (FRA), Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA), 4-3, 3 points**
5. Bertrand PACÉ (FRA), BMW Oracle Racing (USA), 3-4
6. Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS), 3-4, 2.5 points*
7. Lars NORDBJERG (DEN), 2-5
8. Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), 1-6

Group B
(After 3 of 7 scheduled flights)

1. Ed BAIRD (USA), Alinghi (SUI), 3-0
1. Dean BARKER (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand, 3-0
3. Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE), 2-1
3. Björn HANSEN (SWE), 2-1
5. Kelvin HARRAP (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand, 1-2
6. Russell COUTTS (NZL), Coutts Racing, 1-2
7. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), 0-3
7. Iain PERCY (GBR), +39 Challenge (ITA), 0-3

Sean McNeill/Joakim Hermansson (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Jesper RADICH has made an impressive return to the match racing circuit:© Dan Ljungsvik
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