Sailing Baird's race to title

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The Independent Online


reports from Sete, France

The final day belonged to the Anglo-Saxons in the Coupe Brut de Faberge match-racing event here, as America's Ed Baird overpowered the reigning world champion, Bertrand Pace of France, to win the title 3-1. Pace's Americas Cup partner, Thierry Peponnet, went down by the same margin in his best-offive play-offs for third place to Australia's Peter Gilmour.

Having twice come back from 2-0 down in the quarter-finals against Roy Heiner and the semis against Pepponet, Pace must have wondered how long his luck would last, especially as Baird won their first race comfortably. The conditions were almost ideal, a fresh, south-easterly kicking up a little chop which was bumpier close to the shore.

In their second race, Pace called on all his considerable guile to attack Baird on the final spinnaker run and then, despite giving away a penalty for gybing too close, was quick-witted enough at the end to spot a gap left by Baird, spin his Beneteau First 300 through the penalty turn and cross the line ahead.

Even when he then lost the third race by just six feet, Pace must have thought he was still in close enough contact to pull off what would have been a popular home win.

However, Baird played him beautifully in the pre-start manouevres of what was to prove the decider: he pushed Pace down from the start line, timed his own approach to perfection, and then was left the relatively easy task of sailing to a 1min 30sec victory.