Ten skippers representing eight America’s Cup syndicates will begin contesting the Steinlager Line 7 Cup, hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, on Wednesday, March 20

Ten skippers representing eight America’s Cup syndicates will begin contesting the Steinlager Line 7 Cup, hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, on Wednesday, March 20. The Steinlager Line 7 Cup is the fourth event of Swedish Match Tour 2001/2.

Magnus Holmberg, skipper of the Victory Challenge, and his Team SeaLife match race team enter the regatta as the top seed. Holmberg and crew also currently stand atop the Swedish Match Tour Championship leaderboard and are the top-ranked match racers in the world according to ISAF.

“We’ve got a new sponsor, SeaLife, but the same crew so we’re looking forward to this week, although there won’t be any easy matches with the line-up here. Any one of these twelve teams could be sailing on Sunday,” said Holmberg.

Just seven points behind Magnus Holmberg in the Swedish Match Tour standings is Oracle Racing skipper Peter Holmberg. Peter Holmberg is returning to active competition for the first time since sustaining a broken collarbone while mountain bike riding more than a month ago.

“I was back on the Cup boat for the first time last week,” said Holmberg. “Things went well in practice today on the smaller (Farr MRX Racers) boats that we use in this event so I’m anxious to get back at it.”

Denmark’s Jes Gram-Hansen, one of only two non-America’s Cup-affiliated entries in the regatta returns to Auckland hoping to improve on his 10th place finish last year.

“Winter in Denmark was very quiet for us, aside from some training,” said Gram-Hansen. “I also did some substitute teaching and the guys (his crew) were all in school. We’re can’t wait to start sailing again and re-start our campaign on the Swedish Match Tour.”

Many of the eyes on Hobson’s Wharf this weekend will be focused on Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker. With Bertrand Pace, the defending Steinlager Line 7 Cup champion, not competing due to Team New Zealand commitments, Barker is hoping to keep the Steinlager Line 7 Cup title “in the family.”

Luc Pillot, a recent addition to France’s LeDefi Areva Challenge, is also in Auckland for the regatta. Prada’s Gavin Brady and Rod Davis will each be helming entries in the Steinlager Line 7 Cup. Brady, runner-up at last year’s event to Pace, is in third place on the Swedish Match Tour leaderboard. American Ken Read, helmsman for Team Dennis Conner, is the eight seed.

“The conditions in the practice round were close to perfect,” said Read. “This is a great venue for a match race. If the weather continues, combined with the teams we have competing there is going to be some great racing this week.”

Advancing to the main event from the Steinlager Line 7 Feeder Series are American Ed Baird and his Team Musto, GBR Challenge’s Andy Green, Onorato Challenge’s Paolo Cian and a second GBR entry skippered by Ian Walker.

At the day-end skipper briefing Baird offered the following observation,” Look around this room. Whoever wins this regatta is going to have earned it. I can’t remember the last time an event, from one through twelve, had this strong a field of competitors.”

The Steinlager Line 7 Cup format features a single round robin with the top eight skippers advancing to the quarter finals. The finals of the Steinlager Line 7 Cup are scheduled for Sunday 24 March.

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