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Radich Locks up $60,000 and Tour Title

July 5, 2003
Stuart Streuli

Chris Law and Karol Jablonski are each one victory away from a spot in the finals of the 2003 Swedish Match Cup in Marstrand, Sweden. But it was the young Dane, Jesper Radich, and his team who were undoubtedly the big winners of the day. When Peter Holmberg dispatched James Spithill in the final race of their best-of-three quarterfinal series, it locked up the overall Swedish Match Tour title and a $60,000 first-place cash prize for Radich and his crew. For a team that has poured every cent of prize money into covering their travel expenses, the cash was just as important as the honor of being crowing tour champion.

“When we saw Holmberg leading at the first mark,” says the 27-year-old Radich, “we thought we might have got the title already. We followed the race very closely. During the last downwind, we were very thrilled. We were in doubt whether to really cheer, [we didn’t want] to cheer for the loss of Spithill, he’s a great opponent and we respect each other very much.”

It there was a downside to winning the tour at that moment, it was that it made it difficult to refocus on the task at hand, beating Jesper Bank in the rubber match of their quarterfinal series. “It was a strange feeling to go into the fight against Jesper,” said Radich. “Because suddenly the main goal had been achieved and there was just a minor goal left. I think we lost a little bit of [intensity] for the rest of the quarterfinals. It was a little weird.”

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Radich, in fact, had an outstanding opportunity to win the deciding race right at the start. He saddled Bank with a penalty in the pre-start and then pushed his countryman over the line. However, Radich himself was unable to get his boat below the line before the gun, neutralizing any advantage at the start. Bank then built a huge lead on the first leg, picking up a nice right hand shift on the first beat, and eventually stretched far enough ahead to do his turn without jeopardizing the race.

“Right now I regret it very much, because I hate losing,” said Radich. “But to be honest, I am really proud and thrilled to be the winner of the tour; and also because we won two events this year when all the America’s Cup teams came back.”

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| Stuart Streuli|

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| Jesper Radich (left) and Jesper Bank during a pre-start in their quarterfinal match. Though Bank won the match, it was Radich who locked up the tour title and the $60,000 first prize.* * *|

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After nearly a week of spotty weather, the skies were blue over Marstrand for the majority of the day and the sun beat down intensely on the thousands of fans who lined the rocky shores of Marstrand to watch the racing. A light southeasterly blew in the morning, but that soon shifted to the west and then eventually to the northwest, forcing the committee to do major course restructuring at least three times.

Law proved to be the hottest skipper of the day, beating Peter Gilmour in two straight to win his quarterfinal match and then taking two from Peter Holmberg in the best-of-five semifinal, which will finish tomorrow. Law, who turned 51 today, has now won nine of his last 10 races. As he always does, he passed along the lion’s share of his credit to his crew, all four of whom are former members of the Swedish Victory Challenge. He met them for the first time the morning of the opening race. “I honestly don’t think they realize how good they got in the America’s Cup,” said Law. “[Victory Challenge] was the most credible new challenge in terms of points for dollars. I’ve inherited these guys who really work hard. It’s like putting a finely tuned engine in you’re formula 1 car, all I have to do is drive the thing.”

Jablonski did suffer a loss today, to Swede Mattias Rahm, who won Round Robin 2 with a 6-1 record. But after dispatching Rahm 2-1 in their quarterfinal bout–much to the disappointment of the home crowd–he then won two over double Olympic gold medalist Jesper Bank. Like Law, Jablonski, an ice-boating whiz who’s also ISAF’s No. 1 ranked match racer, is one win from the final.

However, it wasn’t all disappointment for the home country. The women’s final was a sure fire bet, both the teams were flying the Swedish flag. Malin Källström won the first and third races to put defending champion–and expectant mother–Marie Björling in a do-or-die situation. Björling was able to rebound and win the final two races to take the title.

“We had an unnecessary mistake in the first race,” said Björling, “and after that we said, ’no more mistakes.’” When asked whether the pressure of being in the final got to her, Källström said she was in fact worried about not being nervous. “I just think we didn’t have a really good day,” she said. “And you have to have a really good day to beat Marie.”

The semifinals for the Swedish Match Cup will finish tomorrow, and they’ll be followed by the finals where are being carried on live TV here. For complete results and photos, www.swedishmatchcup.com

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