Russell Coutts and team won the Toscana Elba Cup which finished yesterday

New Zealander Russell Coutts moved into a tie for the career victories lead on the Swedish Match Tour yesterday with his second straight triumph in the Toscana Elba Cup – Trofeo Locman. Coutts won the event, Stage 5 of the 2004-’05 Swedish Match Tour, with a 3-2 victory over Australian Peter Gilmour of the Pizza-La Sailing Team.

The Coutts Racing team featured Danes Michael Arnhild (bow), Jes Gram-Hansen (tactics), Christian Kamp (headsails) and Rasmus Kostner (mainsail). They finished the match-race regatta with a 13-8 record, and won 25,000 ? (approximately $32,000) of the 75,000 ? (approximately $96,000) prize purse.

Gilmour’s multi-national team included New Zealander Rod Dawson (mainsail and tactics), Australian Mike Mottl (headsails), and Kazuhiko Sofuku (bow) and Yasuhiro Yaji (cockpit) of Japan. They finished the event with a 12-5 record and won 15,000 ? (approximately $19,000).

Coutts now has six career victories on the Swedish Match Tour dating back to 2000, and is tied with Sweden’s Magnus Holmberg of the Victory Challenge. Coutts has won four of those events since he committed last July to sailing with the Danish crew at the Swedish Match Cup.

“Yeah, that means something,” Coutts said with a smile when told he moved into a tie for the career victories lead. “We like to win races.”

Coutts also closed the gap on Tour leader Ed Baird (USA) of Team Alinghi. Coutts scored 25 points towards the Tour championship and has 70 points. He trails Baird, who placed fifth at the Toscana Elba Cup, by 5 points. Gilmour, the reigning Tour champion, also closed his deficit on Baird. Gilmour earned 20 points for placing second and increased his total to 62 points, 13 points in arrears of Baird. The Tour champion will win a $60,000 bonus and a BMW 545i Touring from Tour partner BMW at the Swedish Match Cup.

Coutts isn’t expected to compete on the Tour again until the season concluding Swedish Match Cup (July 4-10), so the championship will likely be decided between Baird and Gilmour, who will both compete next week at Stage 6 of the Tour season, Match Race Germany.

The final of the Toscana Elba Cup lacked the drama on the racecourse that had marked the earlier rounds of the highly competitive event. Coutts and Gilmour, the two most experienced match-racers in the world, plied their trade in the four-minute pre-start sequence, and that generally decided the race. The team that got the right side of the racecourse off the start line won each match.

“When I woke up today I knew the starts were going to be vital,” Coutts said. “There was more wind out the bay, and the lead boat had a tremendous advantage. He judged the starts excellently in the first two races, and in the last two races I had nice position and good speed.”

In the Petit Final, Spithill beat Holmberg 2-0 to place third, while Holmberg finished fourth in his first Tour event since last year’s Swedish Match Cup. Spithill finished with a 10-5 record and won 10,000 ? (approximately $12,800) while Holmberg was 7-8 and won 7,000 ? (approximately $8,900).

Overall Results

1. Russell Coutts (NZL) Coutts Racing, 13-8, 25,000 ? (approx. $32,000)

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

2. Peter Gilmour (AUS) Pizza-La Sailing Team, 12-5, 15,000 ? (approx. $19,000)

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

3. James Spithill (AUS) Luna Rossa Challenge, 10-5, 10,000 ? (approx. $12,800)

Crew: Magnus Augustson, Michele Ivaldi, Jonathan McKee, Joe Newton

4. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 7-8, 7,000 ? (approx. $8,900)

Crew: Martin Krite, Lars Linger, Oskar Ljung, Mattias Rahm

5. Ed Baird (USA) Team Alinghi, 8-4, 6,000 ? (approx. $7,600)

Crew: Nils Frei, Yann Gouniot, Piet Van Nieuwenhuyzen, Dean Phipps

6. Iain Percy (GBR) 39 Challenge, 6-7, 5,000 ? (approx. $6,400)

Crew: Gabriela Bruno, Anthony Nossiter, Stefano Rizzi, Jacek Wysocki

7. Gavin Brady (NZL) BMW Oracle Racing, 5-6, 4,000 ? (approx. $5,100)

Crew: Sean Clarkson, Dirk de Ridder, Robbie Naismith, Brad Webb

8. Ian Ainslie (RSA) Team Shosholoza, 4-10, 3,000 ? (approx. $3,800)

Crew: Charles Nankin, David Rae, Alexander Runciman, Mark Sadler

Swedish Match Tour Standings

(After 5 of 8 stages)

1. Ed Baird (USA) 75 points

2. Russell Coutts (NZL) 70 points

3. Peter Gilmour (AUS) 62 points

4. Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) 45 points

5. James Spithill (AUS) 35 points

6. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) 26 points

7. Philippe Presti (FRA) 24 points

8. Mathieu Richard (FRA) 21 points