NEWPORT, R.I.–Playing the role of the supposedly over-the-hill, but very cagey, veteran to perfection at the UBS Challenge is Chris Law of Great Britain. Law, a four-time Olympian, proved that he can still mix it up with the best and, with one race to sail in Group Bs second round robin, the 50-year-old grandfather has assured himself of a spot in the semifinals. The other qualifier from Group B will be Ed Baird. With his back to the wall, Baird was able to produce four consecutive come-from-behind victories today and keep himself in contention.
Group A still has four races left in its second round robin. Currently Peter Gilmour has nine points and would have to have a horrible day to miss the semifinals. The second spot will likely come down to a battle between Jes Gram-Hansen and Paolo Cian, who each have seven points, and Ken Read and Luc Pillot, who each have six points.
Read, who looked so strong out of the gate with three straight wins on the first day of the regatta, has struggled a bit since, going 3-4. “The Italians got us in the third race,” he said of todays match with Cian and his crew from the Mascalzone Latino Americas Cup challenge. “They sailed better than we did, got us in the start. We still not quite crisp yet, but were getting better. Weve got a team of veterans who know what it takes to win and were just kind of stumbling trying to find it. Especially myself. Its different sailing these smaller boats, but I cant use that as an excuse. We need to get sharp.”
Another sailor who struggled today after a fast start was OneWorld Challenges young star James Spithill. The Australian skipper won his first seven races–though he was docked a point for some boat damage he caused in his win over Baird–and looked to be well on his way to the semifinals after the first round robin. Today, however, he could only get one win. On the other side of the coin was Andy Green. The young Brit had a horrible opening round robin losing to everyone but Dawn Riley. Today he wont all six of his matches, but then lost a third of a point for a slight collision in his bout with Chris Law.
“Ive sort of got mixed emotions about today,” said Green. “The boys did a fantastic job and we did a lot better after having a pretty hopeless day yesterday. We didnt get sweaty over only winning one in the first round robin and came back and won six today. Its just a shame that we got penalized a third of the point by the umpires. It seems bizarre to me, but thats the way it is.”
After surprising everyone with a 4-3 record in the first round robin, amateur qualifier Andy Lovell returned to earth a bit today, losing four and winning two. Lovell won his first two matches of the day and was in second place for a while. But his run for an improbable semifinal berth came to a halt with four consecutive losses. In the post race press conference Lovell took a good-natured jab at all the Americas Cup skippers who complain that the rigors of a busy two-boat testing program hasnt left them any time to match racing.
“Some of these guys said to me, All weve done is test sails and work on boatspeed for the past six months,” said Lovell, a former college sailor of the year and Olympic Trials runner-up. “All Ive done is trade stocks. Were really pound of ourselves and even if we dont win tomorrow we hope to come back and start right in the round robin. We really appreciate this opportunity.”
After a morning Pro Am event, the final races of the second round robins will be completed. The UBS Challenge, which is taking place in Narraganset Bay right off the western edge of Newports Goat Island, will run through Sunday. For more information, www.ubs-ubschallenge.com or www.swedishmatchtour.com
GROUP A ROUND ROBIN STANDINGS
Skipper Wins Losses Points
1. Peter Gilmour, AUS/Team Pizza La 9 1 9
2. Jes Gram-Hansen, DEN/Team Victory Lane 7 3 7
3. Paolo Cian, Mascalzone Latino 7 3 7
4. Ken Read, Team Dennis Conner 6 4 6
5. Luc Pillot, Le Defi Areva 3 4 3
6. Mason Woodworth, USA 2 8 2
7. Jean-Claude Monnin, Alinghi Team 2 8 2
8. Ben Cesare, USA 1 9 1
GROUPB ROUND ROBIN STANDINGS
Skipper Wins Losses Points
1. Chris Law, Great Britain/Team Outlaws 9 4 9
2. Ed Baird, USA/Team Musto 8 5 8
3. James Spithill, OneWorld Challenge 8 5 7
4. Andy Green, GBR Challenge 7 6 6.6
5. Andy Lovell, USA 6 7 6
6. Jesper Radich, Denmark 6 7 6
7. Gavin Brady, Prada Challenge 5 8 5
8. Dawn Riley, K-Challenge 3 10 3