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Kiwi Wins Gold Cup, Sweeps Brut Sailing Series

HAMILTON, Bermuda (Oct. 13, 1996) — New Zealander Russell Coutts is invincible, at least where the Brut Sailing Series is concerned. He won the Brut Gold Cup of Bermuda, giving him a sweep of the five-regatta series.

Coutts defeated Australia's Peter Gilmour, 3-2, in the final match to capture the prestigious Gold Cup and the US$30,000 first-place prize money. Gilmour won $18,000.

In the petite final for third place, Chris Law of Great Britain defeated Germany's Markus Wieser for prizes of $11,500 and $8,500, respectively.

Fifth through eighth places went to American Ed Baird, Thierry Peponnet of France, Jochen Schumann of Germany, and Peter Holmberg of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

AmericaOne's Paul Cayard and John Kostecki did not compete, focusing their efforts instead on getting the America's Cup challenge up to speed.

Coutts' victory pushed him over the $400,000 mark in earnings for the year. In addition to the first-place prize, he also won the Brut Bonus Pool of $25,000. And in August, Coutts wrapped up the Brut Sailing Series grand prize of US$250,000, removing much of the suspense from the series. The grand prize is awarded to the skipper winning three of the five regattas. There was no grand prize winner last year.

Some consider Coutts — the winning America's Cup skipper in 1995 and currently the No. 1-ranked match-race skipper in the world — in a class of his own. This was evidenced by his remarkable come-from-behind victory in Bermuda. Gilmour had him on the ropes, 0-2, before Coutts won three straight to knock out Gilmour and claim victory.

Coutts was penalized in the first race and had a premature start in the second race of the best-of-five final match. But he began his comeback with a slim seven-second win in the third race, after completing a 270-penalty turn just before crossing the finish line. The fourth race was also close, but went to Coutts, forcing a fifth and deciding race. In that final race, Gilmour was called for two rules infractions during the pre-start maneuvers, and that sealed his fate.

Coutts' overall record for the regatta was 12-3, his only other loss to fellow countryman Murray Jones in the first round.

Coutts earlier won the Brut Cup regattas in Lymington, England; San Francisco; Sèté, France; and New York. Adding icing to this already sumptious cake was his victory at the World Championship of Match Racing last month in Croatia.

The next regatta on the match-race circuit, considered the training ground for America's Cup skippers, is the Steinlager-Logan Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, Nov. 18-24. There Cayard and Kostecki will team up for the first time this year. This will not just sharpen their match-racing skills, it will also give them a first-hand look at the New Zealand sailing conditions and a chance to preview potential sites for their shore base.

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