NEWPORT, R.I.–The recent sinking of USA-77 put some doubt into the collective public confidence in Dennis Conners Stars & Stripes campaign. Today, Ken Read did an effective job of damage control as he swept to convincing victories in his first three races in the UBS Challenge, one of nine stops on the Swedish Match Tour.
Despite the fact that he is entering his second Americas Cup as skipper, Read is still revered more for his skills as a fleet racer than his talents in the match race arena. Apparently Read has spent his winter working to change that perception, he was as sharp as anyone racing today. He held off Mason Woodworth, one of the three amateurs who qualified for the regatta in the UBS Challenge U.S. Championships, in the first race, and then dusted Ben Cesare–the other amateur in Group A–in the second race, and Mascalzone Latino skipper Paolo Cian in the third.
Also remaining undefeated in the A Group was Peter Gilmour of the OneWorld Challenge. Gilmour is known on the tour as an aggressive starter and he was true to form today as he attacked all three of his opponents in the pre-start. His second race was the toughest, Woodworth was able to gain the advantage in the pre-start and hold the lead through the first two legs. Gilmour closed the distance at the leeward mark and was then able to make the pass on the upwind leg. Woodworth, who came off the water with a smile permanently affixed to his face despite his 0-3 record, blamed the loss on his relative inexperience when matched up against a veteran like Gilmour.
“He had a better mark rounding than us,” said Woodworth. “I missed the jibe angle a bit and we came in a little deep.” Woodworth and his team took the mark a little wide and allowed Gilmour to poke his nose inbetween Woodworth and the mark. Attempting to draw a penalty, Woodworth luffed up. In retrospect, he said, this was the fatal mistake. “We were all sitting there yelling when we shouldve been sailing the boat. They came around the mark and everybody was just looking at their jobs.”
Woodworth, though, couldnt have been more pleased with the experience as a whole. “It was nice to make Peter Gilmour sweat,” he added.
The rest of the action in the first three flights of Group A went basically according to plan. The only slight surprise is the 2-1 record of Alinghi representative Jean-Claude Monnin, a relative unknown heading into the competition.
The first two flights of Group B also offered little in the way of surprise. But the upsets came in the third flight. Dawn Riley outfoxed Ed Baird during their start and held on for the win. Then Andy Lovell drew a penalty on Chris Law in their prestart. Law compounded his problems by being over the line early and Lovell cruised to an easy win, the first by a qualifier from the UBS Challenge U.S. Championships, which finished on Monday. The surprises continued in the Group Bs fourth flight as both Ed Baird and Jesper Radich got caught on the outside of shifts on their final downwind legs and lost large leads. James Spithill slipped past Baird and finished the day with a perfect 4-0 record while Lovell moved past Radich and finished the day with a very respectable 2-2 record. The UBS Challenge will continue to sail the double round robin portion of the event through Friday. The semifinals will take place on Saturday and the finals on Sunday.
Ken Read Stars & Stripes 3-0
Peter Gilmour Pizza-La 3-0
Jean-Claude Monnin Alinghi 2-1
Jes Gram Hansen Victory Lane 2-1
Luc Pillott Le Defi Areva 1-2
Paolo Cian Mascalzone Latino 1-2
Mason Woodworth 0-3
Ben Cesare 0-3
James Spithill OneWorld 4-0
Gavin Brady Prada 3-1
Andy Lovell 2-2
Jesper Radich 2-2
Ed Baird Team Musto 2-2
Chris Law The Outlaws 2-2
Dawn Riley K-Yachting 1-3
Andy Green GBR Challenge 0-4