JAMES SPITHILL is a 23 years old skipper bursting with confidence and determination to constantly improve and show his best. He began sailing at the age of five and has been competing since twelve.
It was another day, or afternoon at least, of frustration on the waters off the ACI Marina in Split, Croatia, for day three of the ISAF Grade 1, Swedish Match Tour's ACI HTmobile Cup.
With a north-easterly breeze blowing off the land early yesterday morning, the racing got underway at 9:30am local time with the final flights from round robin one taking place in a solid breeze that fluctuated from 15 to 25 knots. Progress was made through to the final race in the second flight of round robin two. This was abandoned when the wind died completely. With no breeze on the race course coinciding with lunchtime, the boats returned to ACI Marina only to leave again mid-afternoon to await a sea breeze that only partially materialized.
A cheer went up from local spectators when in the first flight of the second round robin local Split sailor Frane BRATE managed to dispatch Swedish Match Tour leader Jes GRAM-HANSEN of Denmark. This is Brate's only win in the competition to date.
"We have small luck in this position, because he was the first boat and towards the last mark the wind came from behind and we go quickly this way and slowly meter by meter we overtake him,"
explained Brate, 28. "We feel very happy because this is my first time match racing and my crew haven't been training."
Ironically Brate was en route to his second win in his match against Jesper RADICH when the wind died and the race was abandoned before lunch.
Losing to the novice Croatian was just one of a catalogue of disasters for Jes GRAM-HANSEN, who today dropped matches to Paolo CIAN - the Mascalzone Latino America's Cup team skipper also not on form - and to fellow Swede Mattias Rahm. Gram-Hansen is now lying eighth in the overall results after three days of racing.
Meanwhile Chris LAW staged a come back with his band of Outlaws, who aside from Law comprise tactician Dobbs Davis and three local sailors, Ante Vanjaka, Ivan Kljakovic-Gaspic and Darko Supuk. Law beat Magnus Holmberg, Allan Coutts and Paolo Cian, only losing to James Spithill.
The afternoon racing barely took place. The last abandoned match of the second flight between Jesper Radich and Frane Brate was held in good breeze and was won by Radich.
Principle Race Officer Alen Kustic then decided to get the third flight underway. "We opened the third flight between James Spithill and Paolo Cian and as soon as I let the procedure go and when they entered, the wind was dying," recounted Kustic. Cian failed to enter the start area correctly and picked up a penalty but was able to recover his ground during the race. Unfortunately during the race the wind again died and shifted around the clock. The race was completed but was painstakingly long. Racing for the day was subsequently cancelled.
At present James SPITHILL with 10 wins in 13 races holds a narrow lead over Poland's Karol JABLONSKI who has won 9 races of 11 sailed. Tomorrow the race committee will have their work cut out to complete the second round robin before launching into the quarter-or semi-final on Saturday.
ACI HTmobile Cup Leaderboard
Skipper Wins Losses
1.James Spithill (AUS/Team Spithill) 10 3
2.Karol Jablonski, (POL/Jablonski Sailing Team) 9 2
3.Magnus Holmberg, (SWE/Team Holmberg) 8 4
Jesper Radich (DEN/Team Radich) 8 4
5. Chris Law (GBR/"The Outlaws") 7 5
6. Mattias Rahm (SWE/Team Stena Bulk) 6 6
7.Jes Gram Hanson (DEN/Team Victory Lane) 5 7
Paolo Cian (ITA/Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team) 5 7
9.Johnie Berntsson (SWE) 4 8
10.Allan Coutts (NZ/Alinghi Team) 3 9
11.Frane Brate (CRO) 1 11
ACI HTmobile Cup Round Robin Results
Round Robin One
Law def Holmberg
Spithill def Coutts
Gram Hansen def Berntsson
Jablonski def Rahm
Radich def Cian
Law def Coutts
Spithill def Brate
Berntsson def Rahm
Cian def Gram Hansen
Jablonski def Radich
Round Robin Two
Jablonski def Berntsson
Spithill def Law
Radich def Coutts
Rahm def Holmberg
Brate def Gram Hansen
Berntsson def Spithill
Law def Cian
Holmberg def Coutts
Rahm def Gram Hansen
Radich def Brate
Spithill def Cian