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Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix

Day Five - Finals

Cayard Wins Over Law; Heiner Third

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Nov. 24, 1996) — AmericaOne's Paul Cayard today became the latest name in an exclusive list of world-class skippers — including Chris Dickson, Russell Coutts, Americans Dick Deaver, Peter Isler and Ed Baird — to win New Zealand's premier international match-race regatta.

Paul Cayard with Steinlager Trophy
Paul Cayard
(Click on photo to
see larger image.)
In one of the most thrilling finals in the 18-year history of this event, Cayard and Englishman Chris Law engaged in consistently close racing, sometimes in marginal conditions, with the wind gusting to 30 knots. In the end, the Steinlager Line 7 honours went to Cayard, but he was the first to admit: "Chris Law pushed us much harder than the 3-1 score indicates. It was very tough racing, but I would like to think our team sailed just a little bit better and deserved the win."

A disappointed Law said: "It was a great regatta, a great event. I just feel disappointed because I was well beaten." This is Law's second time in the runners-up slot, having lost to Ed Baird in 1991.

In the petite final for third and fourth places, Roy Heiner of The Netherlands went 2-1 up over Australian Neville Wittey.

Racing throughout the day was extremely close and spectators were treated to exciting viewing in difficult conditions. "It was as much a test of boat handling and crew work as match racing skills," said Cayard. But he liked the conditions, as they were close to what he is familiar with on his home turf at San Francisco.

In the first match, Chris Law shut out Cayard on the start line, holding him out to the right of the committee boat, and then leading in across the line at the gun. They both worked up the right-hand side of the course on both windward legs, with Law covering all the way.

On the second rounding, Law held a five or six boat-length lead, but Cayard attacked vigorously down the run, working the waves for every advantage and closed the gap. With a couple of on-the-edge gybes right on the finish line, Law held him out and took the gun by two seconds.

In match two, Cayard led away from the start and gained a big lead over Law on the first two legs. On the second windward work, they split tacks. Cayard went right, which had been generally favoured, but with the ebb tide slackening, Law worked the left side to his advantage and rounded the windward mark only a boat length behind the American.

Cayard was not to be denied, however, and despite a spirited attack from the Englishman, the American crossed the line ahead by one second.

Cayard's third match against Law saw the American establish an early lead, which he defended against Law's vigorous attacks all the way round the track. Law was given a DNF at the finish for failing to complete a penalty awarded against him when the yachts came together on port and starboard in the first cross of the match.

The outcome of the fourth and final match also shows Law as a DNF, again for failing to complete a penalty. This came during the final run of a spellbinding match, which Cayard led all the way from the start until the final mark-rounding after the second windward leg. Cayard was slow with his spinnaker hoist and Law pounced, executing a perfect hoist and climbing onto Cayard's hip to steal his wind. As Cayard's crew struggled to control their spinnaker, the Englishman rolled through to windward, survived a luff and established a mast abeam situation.

But, as the boats rolled violently in the heavy conditions downwind, they collided just before the finish line and, although he crossed the finish line in front, Law was penalised for failing to give way from a windward position.

Petite Final

In the first Heiner-Wittey match, the two boats split tacks out of the start, with Heiner working up the right side and Wittey the left. The right paid off handsomely and Heiner led at the first mark rounding and protected his lead to the end.

In the second match, Heiner and Wittey were involved in a major duel, with Wittey coming from behind on the second windward leg, overtaking the Dutchman and levelling the score at 1-1.

In the decider of the petite final, Heiner and Wittey had a titanic battle. Heiner led around the first mark, but Wittey, with a very fast gybe set of his spinnaker, gained an inside overlap down the run. On the second beat, Heiner held the upper hand, but the Australian launched a furious tacking duel, closing the gap.

There was little between them working down the run to the finish line, until Wittey put in an aggressive gybe and lost control. The boat broached and lay flat in the gusty conditions, and the crew were unable to recover the spinnaker, allowing Heiner to win by a comfortable margin and take out third place in the regatta.

Race Summaries:

Best-of-five final:

Best-of-three petite final:

See also John Kostecki's first-hand report from Auckland.

For complete results, visit the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix Web site.


Day Four - Semi-Finals

Cayard, Law to Meet in Finals

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Nov. 23, 1996) — After a day of drama with two men overboard and tactical battles that took crews well outside the confines of the race course, AmericaOne's Paul Cayard and Chris Law of Great Britain won through to the finals of Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix today. They will meet in a best-of-five shoot-out on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour tomorrow.

For the best-of-five semi-finals today, Cayard was matched against Neville Wittey of Australia, with Law up against Roy Heiner of The Netherlands. During the racing, both Heiner and Wittey lost and recovered crewmen overboard, while Cayard and Wittey sailed a massive detour off the course and up under the harbour bridge.

"We were pretty nervous about whether our mast was going to fit under the bridge," said Wittey, who travelled alone to Auckland and relied on an all-New Zealand crew to take him from the qualifying series all the way to the semi-finals.

With so much local talent on board, he was hoping they could reassure him about going under the second span of the bridge, which is not the usual navigation channel. "But I couldn't tell him anything," said trimmer Grant Loretz. "I'd never sailed under the bridge before."

Their scenic side trip was instigated by Cayard, with the American up 2-1 and needing only another win to go through to the final. Holding the inside advantage on the first beat, Cayard sailed Wittey several hundred metres beyond the windward mark. The two boats disappeared under the harbour bridge, but Wittey turned the tables on his opponent, managed to break clear of the overlap, and tacked across Cayard's bow to hurtle back downwind toward the mark.

The two boats rounded locked together and Wittey led all the way to the leeward mark, where he was penalized for a port-starboard infringement. By the time the Australian completed his penalty turn, Cayard had reclaimed the lead, which he defended all the way to the finish, taking the gun and his place in the final.

Meanwhile, Law and Heiner needed five matches to settle their dispute. Law claimed the first win of the day and the two crews then alternated victories until they were tied on 2-2.

The decider was a prolonged affair as well. Heiner crossed the start line early, but the committee failed to recall him in time, so the race had to be abandoned.

When the two boats restarted, Law came off the start line in front and defended his lead up the first beat. As the boats rounded the windward mark, the wind shifted 90 degrees from the west to the south, turning the run into a very tight reach and denying Heiner any passing opportunity. As the race officials hastily realigned the course to the new wind, Law held his lead to the finish and won his place in the final.

It was a day of drama in the water as well, with two crewmen going overboard in the heat of battle. The first to take a swim was Mark Christiansen, tactician aboard Australian Neville Wittey's boat. Wittey was into the final stages of his pre-start sequence against Cayard in their second match of the day, when Christiansen went into the water, clutching the flag used to signal the umpires. Wittey scarcely missed a beat, circled around to line up with Cayard and went for the line, aiming his boat straight at Christiansen.

As they hit the start line at full speed, a crewman leaned over the side, grabbed the tactician and hauled him over the stern of the boat.

The second swimmer was Matt Mitchell, bowman on Dutchman Roy Heiner's entry. In their third match against Englishman Chris Law, they were approaching the first windward mark, when Mitchell lost his footing and went over the side.

"We were yelling at him to hoist the spinnaker, but there was just silence from the front of the boat," said Heiner. "After we had sailed about five boat lengths, we noticed this little hand hanging on to the side of the boat and we pulled him back."

Racing is scheduled to finish tomorrow with Law and Cayard sailing for top honours in the NZ$90,000 contest, and Heiner and Wittey battling for third and fourth places.

See also John Kostecki's first-hand report from Auckland.

For complete results, visit the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix Web site.


Day Three

Cayard, Heiner, Law and Wittey into Semi-Finals

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Nov. 22, 1996) — The battle for the four semi-final slots in the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix came down to a frantic final flight of matches in Auckland today.

Roy Heiner of the Netherlands had virtually monopolized the top of the leaderboard all the way through the double round robin, but in his last encounter with AmericaOne's Paul Cayard, he relinquished his lead. Although Cayard and Heiner finished on 13 wins each, Cayard's victory over the Dutchman in the final race gave him the No. 1 seeding for the semi-final and the right to choose his opponent.

A similar situation decided the last place in the top four. Englishman Chris Law put together four wins in five starts today to secure the third semi-final slot, but a major battle took place for the fourth slot. Neville Wittey of Australia, who had to qualify for the series, came up against Magnus Holmberg of Sweden, who was an early front-runner in the regatta.

Wittey trailed Holmberg around the top mark by half a boat length after the first windward leg, but on the next downwind leg he managed to establish an inside overlap, sailed him out beyond the layline and claimed the advantage going round the leeward mark.

The Australian's victory in that crucial race edged him into the final four and knocked the Swede out. Wittey's late charge into the semi-final looked unlikely on paper, because it meant beating a tough combination of Cayard, Peter Gilmour of Australia and Holmberg.

Wittey, who sailed with an all-New Zealand crew, said: "We were a little fortunate. The teamwork was very good. We had a tremendous tacking duel against Paul Cayard (Wittey won that match), so you can definitely say the boys earned it."

Wittey, who finished third in this event in 1994, said the fact he had to qualify this year had perhaps been an advantage, because he had more time to get used to the Farr MRXs and his crew.

Wittey will hope his giant-killing spree continues. He faces Cayard in the semi-finals, leaving Heiner and Law to do battle for the second final slot.

Conditions on the harbour were 15-20 knot winds, providing excellent racing. The best-of-seven semi finals will be sailed tomorrow, with a best-of-seven final on Sunday.

The leaderboard at the end of two round robins is:

Paul Cayard (USA)     13
Roy Heiner (NED)      13
Chris Law (GBR)       12
Neville Wittey (AUS)  11
Magnus Holmberg (SWE) 11
Peter Gilmour (AUS)    8
Sten Mohr (DEN)        7
Ray Davies (NZL)       7
Gavin Brady (NZL)      6
Dean Salthouse (NZL)   2 

See also John Kostecki's first-hand report from Auckland.

For complete results, visit the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix Web site.


Day Two

Cayard Moves Into First-Place Tie

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Nov. 21, 1996) — The battle for the four semi-final slots in the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix will be at fever pitch tomorrow with two skippers tied in first place and any one of the next five in with a chance.

After 13 matches and with five to go, AmericaOne's Paul Cayard shares the lead with Roy Heiner of The Netherlands. Both have notched 10 wins, while Magnus Holmberg of Sweden is hot on their trail with nine wins.

The big mover of the day was Cayard with seven wins today, closely followed by Neville Wittey of Australia, who started the day on two wins and chalked up six more to tie with Chris Law of Great Britain, both on eight wins.

Cayard was involved in a major battle with Sten Mohr in the first match of Round Robin Two, and was black flagged when he crossed the finish line in front, but without completing a penalty turn for an earlier infringement. The race was awarded to Mohr.

"That was my first ever black flag," said Cayard, as he headed toward a briefing session with the umpires to seek an explanation.

Peter Gilmour of Australia also saw a win converted to a loss when he was disqualified for easing his spinnaker halyard to edge out Magnus Holmberg of Sweden right on the finish line.

There was drama of a different sort when a boat finishing a club race sailed through two of the international competitors busy doing their pre-starts and hit one of them.

Conditions on the harbour were 15- to 20-knot winds, providing excellent racing. Racing continues tomorrow with the double round robin scheduled to finish by the end of the day. The best-of-seven semi-finals are due to be run on Saturday, with a best-of-seven final on Sunday.

The leaderboard after 13 rounds is:

Paul Cayard (USA)     10
Roy Heiner (NED)      10
Magnus Holmberg (SWE)  9
Chris Law (GBR)        8
Neville Wittey (AUS)   8
Peter Gilmour (AUS)    6
Ray Davies (NZL)       5
Gavin Brady (NZL)      4
Sten Mohr (DEN)        4
Dean Salthouse (NZL)   1 

See also John Kostecki's first-hand report from Auckland.

For complete results, visit the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix Web site.


Day One

Two Skippers Unbeaten After First Day of Racing

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Nov. 20, 1996) — Two European skippers emerged unbeaten after the first day of racing in the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix, sailed on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour today.

In a day of racing marked by demanding conditions and an interrupted programme when the wind topped 30 knots, five flights of matches were completed.

High winds and blustery conditions took their toll, with one crewman injured and two spinnakers shredded. Jann Neergaard, the mainsheet trimmer from Sten Mohršs Danish crew, was injured when the boom smashed over in a wild gybe, trapping his knee between the boom and the shrouds.

A doctor, who was serving on the committee boat, attended to the knee, but Neergaard was unable to continue racing. He was replaced on board by Daniel Fong, a New Zealander, who was recruited at short notice.

"It was a very bad gybe," said Mohr. "The boom just would not come over and then suddenly it whipped across and Jann was trapped. At the same time, the spinnaker shredded. We believe the spinnaker pole went straight through the spinnaker, but it all happened so fast, we are not really sure what went on."

Racing was suspended for three hours at midday when the wind rose consistently above 25 knots, but by mid-afternoon the Race Committee ordered the crews back on the water and racing resumed for another two flights.

Unbeaten after the first day's racing were Roy Heiner of the Netherlands and Magnus Holmberg of Sweden, with scores of 5-0 each.

Next on the leaderboard were Paul Cayard, skipper of the AmericaOne Americašs Cup syndicate, top-seed Peter Gilmour of Australia, with his Nippon Challenge Americašs Cup crew, and Chris Law of Great Britain, all on three wins and two losses.

Racing continues tomorrow with the double round robin scheduled to finish on Friday. The best-of-seven semi finals are due to be run on Saturday, with a best-of-seven final on Sunday.

See also Paul Cayard's first-hand report from Auckland.

For complete coverage, visit the Steinlager Line 7 Match Race Grand Prix Web site.

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