Nine top international skippers, including seven America's Cup veterans and the reigning Swedish Match Tour champion, head to Hayama, Japan for the Nippon Cup this weekend

Nine top international skippers, including seven America’s Cup veterans and the reigning Swedish Match Tour champion, head to Hayama, Japan, 16-23 November, to join three local teams in competing for Nippon Cup 2003, the third event on Swedish Match Tour 2003/2004.

Headlining the roster is four-time America’s Cup veteran and current Swedish Match Tour Rankings leader Australian Peter Gilmour and his Pizza-La Sailing Team, fresh off their win at last month’s Investors Guaranty Presentation of the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda.

Denmark’s Jesper Radich, reigning Swedish Match Tour champion, a four-time event winner on the world’s premier professional sailing series, comes to Nippon Cup 2003 seeking his first win of the year, following a fourth place finish at August’s Danish Open 2003 and a third place finish in Bermuda.

Sweden’s Magnus Holmberg of Team Continental Airlines, who had competed at the Nippon Cup prior to its two-year hiatus, also will be lining up in Hayama. Holmberg, the Swedish Match Tour 2000/2001 champion who led Sweden’s Victory Challenge for America’s Cup 2003, won his record sixth Swedish Match Tour event in Denmark, but couldn’t advance out of the unseeded portion of the regatta in Bermuda.

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker leads his new Team New Zealand OMEGA Match Racing team to Japan to compete in their second straight Swedish Match Tour event. Barker and team finished fourth in Bermuda, but are now committed to the Swedish Match Tour in the build-up to America’s Cup 2007.

Barker’s countryman Gavin Brady, a three-time America’s Cup veteran who recently signed with Oracle BMW Racing for America’s Cup 2007, will be coming to Nippon Cup 2003 after working the bow for his boss Chris Dickson at the King Edward VII Gold Cup. Barker has been a regular competitor on the Swedish Match Tour, but has yet to break through with a regatta victory, finishing as a six-time runner-up.

Great Britain’s Andy Green of Team Racing Green, a member of the GBR Challenge afterguard in last year’s America’s Cup challenger series, France’s Luc Pillot of Team Pillot, helmsman for Le Defi Areva in Auckland and a three-time event runner-up on the Swedish Match Tour and Italy’s Paolo Cian of the Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team, helmsman for Mascalzone Latino, round out the skippers with recent America’s Cup experience. The ninth and final international skipper Finland’s Staffan Lindberg, like Radich, is currently unaffiliated with an America’s Cup syndicate. However, the Finn and his crew should not be counted out as they are competing in their seventh Swedish Match Tour event and are always in contention.

The three Japanese skippers who will line up against their international foes are Eiichiro Hamzaki, Japan’s representative in the 470 class at the Sydney Olympics; Takao Ninomiya, the winner of the 2003 Mitsubishi-Rayon Cup; and Yasutaka Funazawa, four-time top-ranked Japanese match racing skipper who has previously competed on the Swedish Match Tour at the 2001 ACI Ronhill Cup.