Sweden's Magnus HOLBBERG, and Australia's James SPITHILL, former helmsman for the OneWorld Challenge, will meet today in the first-to-three wins final of the Swedish Match Tour's Toscana Elba Cup - Trofeo Locman.
In yesterday's racing on Elba's Portoferraio Bay, Holmberg defeated local skipper Paolo Cian of the Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team 2-0, to advance directly into the finals.
"I'm a little bit pleasantly surprised with our results thus far this week and am really glad we did the Congressional Cup (last month) because the boats are similar in some respects and we've been able to build this week off our experience there," said Holmberg.
In the first match Holmberg entered on the starboard end and got good pressure on Cian in the pre-start. "We won the pin end of the line which was favoured, and established a two-boat length lead," explained Holmberg. "At the end of the first beat he closed on us but we got the next shift and that was pretty much the match."
In the second match Holmberg had another good start and tacked first to the mark and from there extended the lead.
"In both races the left hand side of the course was favoured and playing the shifts was key," said Holmberg. "The conditions were shifty and puffy all day and Stefan (Rahm) did a great job calling tactics."
Meanwhile, Spithill won a tight contest over American Ed Baird of Team Musto, 2-1, to move on to face Cian in the Semifinals Repechage.
In the repechage round Spithill dispatched of Cian 2-0, to earn the opportunity for his second win on Swedish Match Tour 2002/2003, having previously won the Trombini Match Race last July in Ravenna, Italy.
"Coming through the lower brackets, we've spent the most time in the boats of anyone and as a result, we know we can handle any situation," said Spithill. "Charlie (McKee) and Bull (Ben Durham) have been calling great tactics all week and making my job easier by just having to point the boat in the right direction."
Both skippers, having sailed against each other several times on the Swedish Match Tour and as opponents at the America's Cup 2003 challenger series, were reluctant to make any bold predictions about tomorrow's race.
"We just have to continue sailing well, James can be quite aggressive and they seem to be boat-handling very well,"
said Holmberg. "We're going to have to take it as it comes as there's not much you can plan ahead of time."
SPITHILL countered, "we're just going to go out there tomorrow and do what we've been doing all week, take one race at a time."
Semifinal Upper Division
Magnus Holmberg (SWE/Team Holmberg) def. Paolo Cian (ITA/Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team)
Holmberg def. Cian
Semifinal Lower Division
Ed Baird (USA/Team Musto) def. James Spithill (AUS/Team Spithill)
Spithill def. Baird
Spithill def. Cian
Spithill def. Cian