OneWorld Challenge’s James Spithill defeated Denmark’s Jesper Radich 3-1, to win the Swedish Match Tour’s Trofeo Challenge Roberto Trombini Match Race, the first event of Swedish Match Tour 2002/3.
"We were feeling confident all week. We sailed a clean regatta with no penalties so we're really happy to have wrapped it up with a win," said Spithill.
This was Spithill's first appearance on the Swedish Match Tour since last year's Trombini Match Race when he and his same crew of Joe Newton, Ben Durham and Andy Feathers finished fourth.
"We were definitely a little concerned coming in because we haven't done much racing, but its a credit to the guys to be able to jump into the boat and compete at this level. Their boat handling was second to none and the times I couldn't get us off the line they bailed me out," continued Spithill.
In the championship final, Spithill won the first two matches before Radich took the third. In the fourth and what would be final match, Spithill induced the aggressive Danish skipper into a penalty. Radich then had the advantage coming out of the start, an advantage which he carried for the first three legs of the race.
At the final windward mark rounding Radich attempted to take his penalty turn. Spithill, who was several boat lengths behind Radich when the Danes began their turn, was able to slide up on his adversary, assume the favored position and take control of the match.
"That was my fault," admitted Radich. "I thought we had enough of a lead to execute the turn but James closed on us and we weren't able to get the boat up to speed in time."
Spithill compiled an overall match record of 18-5 on the week with all but one his losses to Radich.
In semifinals repechage action, the battle of the Swedish Match Tour's "Great Danes" was all it was anticipated to be. Radich was his usual aggressive self in the pre-starts while Gram-Hansen countered with a cool, level approach to all that was thrown his way. After winning the first match, Gram-Hansen dropped the next two to Radich. Gram-Hansen then won the fourth match to extend the series to a fifth and final.
In the pre-start of the fifth match, Gram-Hansen copped a penalty, when, as the windward boat he failed to keep clear of Radich. Gram-Hansen crossed the line with a slight advantage but was never able to build a big enough lead to execute his penalty turn and recover. As a result, Radich sailed a safe match into the finals against Spithill.
Steady rain and passing thunderstorms did little to dampen the excitement of the regatta's final day. Shifty conditions however, resulted in several course changes between matches.
The Swedish Match Tour's next event is the UBS Challenge in Newport, RI, USA, July 31 to August 4. Log on to www.swedishmatchtour.com for a preview of the regatta as well as additional news in the coming weeks.
1. James Spithill, OneWorld Challenge
2. Jesper Radich, Denmark
3. Jes Gram-Hansen, DEN/Team Victory Lane
4. Karol Jablonski, POL/Team MK Cafe
5. Ed Baird, USA/Team Musto
6. Gavin Brady, Prada Challenge
7. Lars Nordjberg, Denmark
8. Matteo Simoncelli, Italy
9. Bjorn Hansen, SWE/Team GOL Sailing
10. Mikael Lindqvist, Sweden