Steady breezes on Hamilton harbour did little to stop the turbulence on the racecourse today as unseeded skipper Scott Dickson of New Zealand knocked reigning champion Peter Gilmour of Australia out of contention.
Dickson and his team have sailed strongly all week and were at 2-2 when they went into the final race. Gilmour did his all to defend his title yet despite masterful downwind tactics all the way to a photo finish, he could not overcome a penalty he incurred in the pre-start of the final race and lost the match 3-2.
"The racing today could have gone either way and it came down to the last race," Gilmour said. "The big picture here is that this is the way stars are made. It is inspiring to see someone come through from the beginning and do this. They did a fine job." Gilmour is ranked fourth in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings.
Scott DICKSON also has the honour of beating Gilmour in Bermuda at the King Edward VII Gold Cup where his older brother Chris Dickson could not. Gilmour beat prior Gold Cup winner and America's Cup skipper Chris Dickson last year to win the title but if things go young Dickson's way tomorrow the title could come back to the family.
Dickson moves to the semifinals tomorrow where he will race against six-time Gold Cup winner and three-time America's Cup helmsman Russell Coutts. With inclement weather and high winds forecast for Sunday, there is a strong possibility the finals for the King Edward VII Gold Cup will be held tomorrow as well.
"Our team is very pleased and encouraged by the results," Dickson said. "The way my team has been sailing here we just stuck to the basics. The team has been solid the whole way. Russell is a legend in match racing but we just beat last year's defending champion today so I feel pretty confident about tomorrow." Dickson has sailed his way through the qualifying series this week as an unseeded skipper and has his work cut out for him against his fellow Kiwi.
Coutts race was also closely watched today as Mathieu Richard dominated the first two races of an event that went 3-2. In the end, Coutts masterfully won the starts on the final three races and gave spectators a glimpse of his renowned skills.
"We knew that it would be tough racing today and it took us awhile to get going," Coutts said. "The other team did make a couple of mistakes and we took advantage of that." Coutts has only sailed 60 days this year and Richard is a regular participant in the Swedish Match Tour circuit. The key in these shorter courses is to win the starts and once Coutts got going he did just that.
When asked if he was looking forward to racing against a fellow New Zealander, Coutts said, with a wry smile, "I am Swiss now."
Young talent and America's Cup helmsman for Luna Rossa, James SPITHILL of Australia sailed a decisive 3-0 victory over Stefan Lindberg of Finland. Spithill and his team have been sailing flawlessly.
"We felt fast and we did what we wanted out there today," Spithill said. "It is a huge advantage if you get that jump off the start and we had that today. I am sure we are going to get some great racing in against Ed Baird tomorrow."
Ed BAIRD bested Klaartje Zuiderbaan today by 3-0 although the Dutch women sailed very tight races against the number one ranked sailor in both ISAF rankings.
"We had three very close races," Baird said. "You have to be on the edge sailing against Klaartje's team. I think what this event is doing for women and unseeded sailors is great. It is on the right track."
The overall experience for the women's team in this circuit has been incredible, according to Zuiderbaan who finished in eighth place overall.
"These sailors are the best of the best and to be in the mix and on the same playing field is fantastic," she said. "We have only read about them in newspapers and magazines. Now, we are racing against them."
And, for young American sailor and Olympic hopeful Carrie HOWE who was the bow person for the Dutch team, the experience has been an important one.
"It was so great because when I met Russell Coutts he actually knew about me and where I had been sailing," she said. "He knew who I was, too."
Late Friday afternoon, four teams race for the fifth through eighth place. As usual, the racing was tight and much of it was decided in the difficult pre-start. Peter Gilmour and his team finished in fifth place, Stefan Lindberg of Finland finished sixth, Mathieu Richard of France placed seventh and Klaartje Zuiderbaan finished eighth.
The King Edward VII Gold Cup is scheduled for October 16-24, 2004 set in Hamilton Harbour just feet from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, a perfect venue for shore-side spectators with commentary provided by match race experts.
The unique format of the King Edward VII Gold Cup, sailed in Bermuda's famous International One Design sloops, includes a Grade 3 qualifying event where the top six skippers advance to round one of the tournament and face the eight seeded skippers along with the winner and runner-up of the Cicada Bermuda International Women's Match Race Championship. The winner of the King Edward VII Gold Cup will be presented the King Edward VII Gold Cup trophy and a share of the $100,000 prize purse.
Full results are available on the event website at the address below.