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5 July 2003, 03:09 pm
Down To the Wire
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©Oskar Kihlborg/ Volvo Baltic Race

Volvo Baltic Race
Marstrand

The team that finished first in this, the last stage of the Volvo Baltic Race, would be the overall winner of the event. The lead had changed constantly with the two teams at the front of the field swapping places only metres apart.
finally, it was TeamRS, with New Zealander Erle WILLIAMS in charge, who put in a superb performance to hold off a determined attack by Matthew HUMPHRIES (GBR) and Challenge of Netsurvey, to win the Volvo Baltic Race for the SEB trophy by just half a point.

Erle WILLIAMS was delighted with the win, particularly as his team had only a few days to prepare for this offshore championship. "It was great," he said as he stepped ashore at 2114 local time last night. "We had to win the Volvo Baltic Regatta and it was a great effort by the crew. It was a tough race and Challenge put up a really good fight. I think the lead changed about six times and it was a great one to win. The boys have done a fantastic job."

Finishing just over an hour and a half later, it was a disappointed Humphries that greeted the waiting media. <> "It was really sad, because out of all the races I've done and deserved to win, I felt it was this one," he said. "The crew worked so hard to take every opportunity to get one up on TeamRS. It was really something to see that happening and it was very sad [for our team] to get parked up and then to lose RS over the horizon."

Thomas BLIXT overcame gear failure to finish third with Sony Ericsson whilst Elanders Ten Celsius was fourth. Nilorn had eight miles still to sail at 1130 local time and will finish fifth overall. Atea and Pontona Youth, who both retired from the last leg, finished in sixth and seventh place overall.

After sailing over 1300 nautical miles in 15 days, the feedback on the championship has been very optimistic. The competition has been testing and demanding, and all teams took on the challenge. "I think it's been a fantastic event to be involved with," commented Williams. "I came here late and it's been a great three weeks of yachting and the crew have really enjoyed it. There's been a good variety of sailing. Some short inshore sailing, offshore sailing; sailing in some strong winds, some light winds and some good competition, so for RS and for myself, we've thoroughly enjoyed the Volvo Baltic Race."

The Volvo Baltic Race is the brainchild of Matthew HUMPHRIES and although his team were beaten in the final stages, Matthews is content. "When we started planning this event a year ago, I don't think we had any idea what it would be like, the scale of the race. What we have seen is variations of competition throughout the fleet, but the race that I've had with Erle has been as tough as a Volvo Ocean Race and I don't think we anticipated it to be at that level and that is tremendous for this event. "

One of the most positive aspects of this event has been the ability to give young sailors a platform to experience top-level competition in these race boats. The two young teams, sailing Pontona Youth and Nilorn, started in Kiel with very limited knowledge of offshore yacht racing and a steep learning curve. Now that they have completed the event, and gained a good deal of experience in a short space of time, they are queuing up to put their names down for the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 and squeezing information out of Erle WILLIAMS, Matthew Humphries and all the other Whitbread/Volvo veterans who are here enjoying watching the match racing on a sunny day in Marstrand.

Final position Volvo Baltic Race for the SEB trophy

First: TeamRS (Erle Williams NZ) 32.5 points
Second: Challenge of Netsurvey (Matthew Humphries UK) 32 points
Third: Sony Ericsson (Thomas Blixt) 23.5 points
Fourth: Elanders Ten Celsius (M Lundh (SWE) & W Verbraak (NED) 20.5 points
Fifth: Nilorn (Fredrik Frejme SWE) 12 points
Sixth: Atea (Jan Mortensson SWE) 10 points
Seventh: Pontona Youth (Thomas Dahl DEN) 7 points
Lizzie Green (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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