NEWPORT, R.I.–A timely left shift on the second beat of the final race helped Chris Law turn a lead of six feet into one of a half dozen boatlengths and win the UBS Challenge. Law, of Great Britain, knocked off Ed Baird 2-1 in the finals of the event, which is part of the nine-stop Swedish Match Tour. With nine of the 16 skippers in the event representing Americas Cup programs, many thought the finals would be a preview one of the match-ups that will take place in Auckland once the Louis Vuitton gets underway in October. But in the end it was two crafty, and unaffiliated, veterans who took center stage on Sunday afternoon and squared off for the $35,000 first prize.
In the first race, Baird, who sailed with Andy Horton, Karl Anderson, and Dave Moffett, held a three boat-length advantage around the first mark. Laws team, which included Jeff Brock, Tucker Thompson, and Dobbs Davis, ate into that advantage during the run, but was unable to pass. Boat teams rounded the top mark at virtually the same time, Baird holding on to the slimmest of leads. On the second run, Law was able to sail over the top of Baird and then soak low, jibe, and cross the line first.
In the second race Baird got the advantage early as Law picked up a penalty during pre-start maneuvering. Law trailed at the first windward mark, but appeared to pull ahead on the run. However, the British skipper was unable to get far enough ahead to jibe and cross and Baird was able to hold Laws crew past the mark. A slow takedown only compounded the situation for the British skipper and he wasnt able to get close enough to Baird to rub off the penalty.
Up to this point in the regatta, everyone thought the finals would be a best three of five format. But with a 6:30 p.m. deadline fast approaching the race committee was worried about getting in three more races and they opted instead for a single, three-lap, winner-take-all race.
Baird got the right-hand advantage out of the gate and was able to carry a slight lead into the first windward mark rounding. However, Law had a fabulous set and was able to take Bairds wind and roll him immediately. Law carried that lead to the leeward mark. There he forced Baird onto port and moments later caught the shift that turned a slight lead into an insurmountable advantage. The shift was crucial, but without the set, says Law, they wouldnt have been in position to profit from it. “Last night we thought about little things we could do,” says Law. “We thought about banding the spinnaker and we were able to raise the spinnaker to the first spreader before the tack. Then its was just a question of which side do we pass him on. I know that sounds arrogant, but we had such pace on from the set.”
In the petit finals, Peter Gilmour beat Paolo Cian 2-0. Fifth through eighth in the event went as follows, Ken Read, Andy Green, James Spithill, and Jes Gram-Hansen.
For round by round results, www.ubs-ubschallenge.com. For more on the Swedish Match Tour, www.swedishmatchtour.com