The 2004/05 Swedish Match Tour officially kicked off in Cascais yesterday at the Portugal Match Cup

The 2004/05 Swedish Match Tour officially kicked off in Cascais yesterday at the Portugal Match Cup in shifty wind conditions.

The inaugural Tour event saw Ed Baird (USA), skipper of Team Musto, race to a 5-0 record aboard the new Swedish Match 40s. Baird, who won his third match-racing world championship last week, said luck played a part in his undefeated day.

“We were behind in three races,” Baird noted. “We trailed Gilly (Peter Gilmour) around the leeward mark, but then he had two disastrous tacks.”

Baird and Gilmour (AUS), the reigning Tour champion and skipper of the Pizza-La Sailing Team, and Jesper Radich (DEN), Team Denmark, all advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 150,000 Euro (approximately $186,000) Portugal Match Cup by placing 1-2-3 in the Group A round robin.

While Baird was undefeated, Gilmour and Radich advanced with 3-2 records. Philippe Presti (FRA), le Défi Français, also had a 3-2 record, but wound up in the repechage round when he lost the tie-breaker with Gilmour and Radich.

Geoff Meek (RSA), Shosholoza Challenge, and Michael Dunstan (AUS), OzBoyz Challenge, joined Presti in the repechage round. Meek, sailing in his first match-race regatta as skipper of the South African America’s Cup challenger, finished with a 1-4 mark, while Dunstan was 0-5.

Radich was happy to be able to sit out a round. The past Tour champion (2002-’03) hasn’t match-raced in three months, and found the conditions on the Bay of Cascais very ticky.

“It was oscillating up to 60 degrees,” said Radich. “Our boathandling was perfect, we had great starts, our speed was OK, but it was a very shifty course and that made it all about tactics.

“If you were leading and controlling you had the chance to choose which side of the course you wanted,” the 28-year-old Dane continued. “That’s what we weren’t good at today.”

Radich earned a red flag penalty in the pre-start of his match against Gilmour, which left him frustrated and confused.

“He hit us in the stern, to windward of centerline,” Radich said. “I think the umpires thought he hit us on the leeward side.”

While Group A has completed its initial round robin Group B takes to the water today for their five-flight series. Group B features crews led by skippers Russell Coutts (NZL), Peter Holmberg (USV), Chris Law (GBR), Staffan Lindberg (FIN), Francisco Neto (POR) and Bertrand Pacé (FRA).

The top three will join Baird, Gilmour and Radich in the quarters, while the bottom three move on to the repechage round and another chance to advance to the quarterfinals.

Portugal Match Cup Standings

Group A (after 5/5 flights)

1. Ed Baird (USA) Team Musto, 5-0

Crew Andy Horton, Dean Phipps, Guy Salter, Jon Ziskind

2. Peter Gilmour (AUS) Pizza-La Sailing Team, 3-2 Crew Rod Dawson, Mike Mottl, Kazuhiko Sofuku, Yasuhiro Yaji

3. Jesper Radich (DEN) Team Denmark, 3-2 Crew Jann Neergaard, Chresten Plinius, Pete Poulsen, Rasmus Winston

4. Philippe Presti (FRA) le Defi Francais, 3-2 Crew Jean-Marie Dauris, Fred Guilmin, Maurier Husson, Christian Scherrer

5. Geoff Meek (RSA) Shosholoza Challenge, 1-4 Crew Ian Ainslie, Marc Lagesse, David Rae, Mark Sadler

6. Michael Dunstan (AUS) OzBoyz Challenge, 0-5 Crew Jeremy Elliot, Wade Morgan, Ben Morrison-Jack, Nick Partridge