In a dramatic day where young talent challenged the heavyweights of sailing, Peter GILMOUR, the reigning champion climbed back from a 0-2 deficit to beat U.S. Virgin Islander and unseeded skipper Anthony KOTOUN.
Kotoun, who was mentored by America's Cup helmsman Peter HOLMBERG as a youth, decided early on that in today's race he would "go for the home run." Kotoun forced Gilmour to give his all and was finally bested in the final pre-starts when the savvy Australian fought back with experience and urgency.
"Anthony and his team were superb and they were sailing loose and although we won nearly every start we couldn't get near them,"
Gilmour. "Finally, the balance shifted for us and we took control. But, there is a great talent to their style of sailing."
While the racing went 3-2, classic match racing techniques were not always effective in the random breeze and shifts.
"The winning thing in sailing is experience and Gilmour was able to engage us in a knife fight at the starts for the final three races,"
Kotoun said whose teammates include Karl ANDERSON, Mark IVEY and Brock CALLEN. "But, sailing against Gilmour is like dunking on the Shack. It is a great moment."
Hard work paid off for unseeded skipper Scott DICKSON of New Zealand who prevailed in a 3-1 victory besting seeded skipper Bjorn HANSEN of Denmark in tight racing.
"There is no question the racing is difficult out there,"
Dickson said. "It is extremely tactical and my crew of Sonny GIBSON, Allan LINDSAY, and Dave RIDLEY were phenomenal in calling the tactics and getting us around the course. In match racing, there are no right or wrong choices, no lead is too big and no lead is insurmountable."
While the heavyweights of match racing struggled today, one of the mightiest of America's Cup helmsman, Dennis CONNER, was bested 3-2 by young Dutch sailor Klaartje ZUIDERBAAN and her indefatigable team of Carrie HOWE, Nanda NENGERMAN, Jetske ROODVOETS, and Trijntje ZUIDERBAAN. The flying Dutch dominated the women's event and are now giving the men something to talk about. While Zuiderbaan did lose one race to Conner when she incurred a penalty in the pre-start, her performance against one of the all time great sailors was a high point for this young team and the moment was shared by all those who participated in the Cicada International Women's Match Racing event who cheered them on.
"We had to pinch ourselves and remember who we are sailing against,"
Zuiderbaan said. "It was really, really exciting for me to race Dennis CONNER and winning against him was definitely the biggest moment in sailing for me."
Other seeded skippers racing today were markedly relieved to get the first stage over with without being knocked out.
"No one wants to come here and be knocked out in the first day and spend the rest of the week at the beach, as nice as it is,"
said number one ranked match racer on the Swedish Match Tour circuit Ed BAIRD who beat Chris LARSON of the U.S.A. by 3-0. Ironically, Baird faces Zuiderbaan tomorrow whose bow person Carrie HOWE was coached by Baird as a youth and is looking forward to meeting her mentor.
"Those women are sailing very well and as coach of one of the women on the team I hope that tomorrow she doesn't remember everything I taught her,"
For James SPITHILL of Australia, his 3-0 win against unseeded Cameron Appleton bodes well for this young America's Cup skipper who is helmsman for the Italian syndicate Luna Rossa.
"Cameron and I were in youth sailing programs together and he is a mate of mine,"
Spithill said. "That is the great thing about this event in that you have a chance to get into this kind of racing without a ranking. There is no other event where you can do this and there are also a lot of guys my age getting into this which is great."
For six-time America's Cup helmsman Russell COUTTS, his 3-0 win over the Jenny AXHEDE of Sweden was not particularly difficult for one of the best sailors in the world, but as he watched Conner fall to a young female Dutch team, there is no doubt that it crossed Coutts mind that he would have his work cut out for him this afternoon.
"It is an honor for us to race against Russell COUTTS and although we did not get on the scoreboard, we still enjoyed every moment of the experience and we can say that we have done it."