Russell Coutts wound up putting Peter Holmberg in the drink during an incident at the windward mark of their Flight 2 match

On a day when Russell Coutts plowed into Peter Holmberg on the Swedish Match racecourse yesterday, American Ed Baird rolled to a 6-0 record to ensure himself a spot in Saturday’s quarter-finals of the Swedish Match Cup.

With racing in Group B suspended until late afternoon due to lack of wind, Baird, the reigning match-racing world champion, rolled to a 6-0 record in a tough group looking completely at ease in the light winds.

Baird commented: “There are some days where everything goes your way.Today, all the little things fell in our lap.”

Despite having one more flight to sail before Group B completes its initial round robin, Baird can’t be beaten. Below him the standings are a jumbled mess as the competitors fought each other and light winds. Coutts (NZL) is second with 3.5 points on a 4-1 record and Björn Hansen (SWE) is third at 3-2. Three skippers are tied at 2-3, including Peter Gilmour (AUS), Holmberg (USVI) and Luc Pillot (FRA). Lars Nordbjerg (DEN) is seventh at 1-4, while Staffan Lindberg (FIN) is eighth at 1-5.

The highlight match of the day pitted Coutts against Holmberg. Coutts wound up putting Holmberg in the drink when he hit the past Swedish Match Tour champion during an incident at the windward mark of their Flight 2 match. With the wind blowing around 7 knots, Holmberg led Coutts to the windward mark. Both were on port tack and Coutts was slightly overlapped on Holmberg’s windward quarter.

Holmberg luffed, trying to stall Coutts. “The standard move is to luff head-to-wind to slow the other guy before you bear off and accelerate away,” said Holmberg. “I guess he got anxious,” Holmberg continued. “He tried bearing away to go below us and misjudged the distance. He came in with serious force, hit us in the port transom and spun me over the side.”

Jes Gram-Hansen, crewmember aboard Coutts’ boat added: “We hit him pretty hard. I’d give Peter a nine for that nosedive in the drink.”

As he fell in the water Holmberg grabbed the spinnaker sheet so he didn’t get separated from the boat. He was in the water for only a few seconds, and climbed back aboard with the help of the onboard observer.

Coutts, sailing with Gram-Hansen’s Danish match-race crew, was penalised twice by the on-water umpires (after the race he received a .5-point penalty). He had to perform one of the turns immediately, which allowed Holmberg to regain the lead on the three-lap course.

Holmberg held a big lead on the second beat, but the race was far from over in the shifty and puffy light winds. Up the third beat, Holmberg said that Coutts did a better job picking the puffs and regained the lead beginning the run to the finish, but he still had a penalty turn to perform.

Coutts sailed a hot angle to the left corner of the run, then gybed to starboard and toward the finish line. Holmberg was close, and the nearly 1,000 spectators lining Marstrand Harbor watched intently to see if there was enough distance between the two for Coutts to perform his turn and win.

“We talked about it on the run,” Gram-Hansen said. “We thought we were close enough to having the distance needed for the turn.” And they did. The genoa went up, the chute came down and Coutts carved a smooth turn around the pin end. His bow crossed the line less about three seconds ahead of Holmberg’s to claim the win.

“I didn’t think he had enough distance,” said Holmberg. “I thought he’d slow up on the run and try to offset the penalty.”

Baird made it through the day without any penalties, and with little trouble. He did well in the pre-starts, and won against some of the best skippers in the business: Gilmour, Holmberg and Coutts, whom he beat after trailing around the first lap. “When we needed a shift we got a shift, when we needed a puff we got a puff,” said main trimmer and tactician Andy Horton. “It’s easy when it goes your way.”

Stage 2 pits the 2nd through 7th place finishers in Groups A and B against each other in a knockout series, with the first to 3 points winning.

Current standings

Group B

1. Ed Baird/USA, SKF Racing 6-0

Crew: Andy Horton, Pete van Nieuwenhyzen, Peter Poulsen, Jon Ziskind

2. Russell Coutts/NZL 4-1, 3.5 points*

Crew: Michael Arnhild, Jes Gram-Hansen, Christian Kamp, Rasmus Kostner

(* A .5-point penalty was assessed against Coutts for hitting Peter Holmberg)

3. Bjorn Hansen/SWE 3-2

Crew: Mattias Bredin, Fredrik Ekman, Gustav Kampolm, Anders Jönsson

4th equal Peter Gilmour/AUS, Pizza-La Sailing Team 2-3

Crew: Rod Dawson, Mike Mottl, Kazuhiko Sofuku, Yasuhiro Yaji

4th equal Peter Holmberg/USVI, Team Alinghi 2-3

Crew: Richard Bouzaid, Lorenzo Mazza, Will McCarthy, Dean Phipps

4th equal Luc Pillot/FRA 2-3

Crew: Gilles Andre, Fabrice Blondel, Erik Ferran, Frédéric Guilmin

7. Lars Nordbjerg/DEN 1-4

Crew: Jeppe Blak, Niels Gramkov, Thomas Hartvig, Henning Lambertsen

8. Staffan Lindberg/FIN 1-5

Crew: Johan Karlsson, Daniel Mattsson, Johan Mossberg, Daniel Wallberg