Argo Group Gold Cup will test Match Racing’s best

Day 2 racing in the Racing in the Stage 1 qualifyer round of the Argo Group Gold Cup 2011. Three groups of teams sail seven flights each to qualify for the quarter finals of this world Match Racing Tour classic.
Charles Anderson
The Argo Group Gold Cup will pose a challenge to Match Racing’s best when racing begins on October 4th. The Cup is this year hosted by Bermuda Tourism at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. This penultimate event on the World Match Racing Tour is truly a spectator sport. The Royal Bermuda YC welcomes Bermudians and island guests to view the racing on Hamilton Harbour from the club’s marina wall. Finals weekend, October 8th-9th, is a sports spectacular.

It’s just a matter of days until the twenty-four Argo Group Gold Cup teams take to the practice course in Bermuda’s Hamilton Harbour. They all need to hone their match racing skills in the Classic International One Design sloops sailed in Stage 7 of the 2011 World Match Racing Tour.

Boat handling and tactical decisions in the traditional heavier boats used for the Argo Group Gold Cup will decide the champion and winner of $50,000 of the $100,000 total prize purse. Racing starts October 4th.

As the hottest sailor on the Tour these days, everybody’s man to beat is Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar. He is on top of both the Tour rankings and the ISAF Open standings going in. But you have to remember how tough it is to win in Bermuda. After winning the 2006 Gold Cup, Williams finished fifth in 2008 and third in 2009, and he was eliminated early in 2010 by a complicated tiebreaker. He will have a lot of new sailors to meet on the course who may bring different and unpredictable tactics into play.

An accomplished sailor but newcomer to Bermuda and IOD sailing, Francesco Bruni’s (ITA) Bruni Racing Team was on top of the Tour leaderboard earlier in the season, but has slipped of late. Before the Tour points adjustment for the cancelled Danish Open, Bruni is just one point behind Williams. Aggressive practice for him and his team is essential. Dialing into the IOD sailing style early, during Tuesday’s opening Qualifying Session, will be critical if he is to move on into the final eight.

Standing third on the Tour, Torvar Mirsky (AUS) and The Wave Muscat team are not new to Bermuda but have never won the Gold Cup. In 2010 Mirsky came to Bermuda with high hopes but fell to some newcomers himself and ended the week in eighth place, matching his 2009 performance.

As the senior member of the Tour, Peter Gilmour (AUS) heads up Yanmar Racing. He is now fourth on the Tour and has perhaps the most experience sailing IOD’s and sailing on Hamilton Harbour. He put his name on the Cup in 1995, 1997 and 2003, and will look to emulate that in what is his third decade of Gold Cup competition. In his last Bermuda appearance, the always aggressive Gilmour suffered from a string of penalties that led to his demise.

Other Tour Card Holders with their names on the Cup returning to Bermuda are Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team, Mathieu Richard (FRA) with his French Match Racing Team, and Jesper Radich (DEN) of Team Adrian Lee & Partners who was runner up in 2010, and the winner in 2002.

Not to be missed is Bermuda’s top IOD match racer Blythe Walker (BER) with Team RenaissanceRe. Blythe cut his teeth sailing IOD’s in Bemuda with his father, the late B. W. 'Jordy' Walker and his uncle Penny Simmons - both Bermuda national champions and international champions. He has sailed in many Gold Cup regattas placing in the money with a fourth in 2007 and a seventh in 2009.

Two other young Bermuda Skippers will enter the fray. Lance Fraser returns for his second Argo Group Gold Cup in a row and Peter Miller will be at the helm in his first Grade 1 match racing event. It is quite an experience for these young skippers and their teams to face the top sailors in the world on their home waters. The twenty-four team format used in Bermuda makes it all possible.

Argo Group Gold Cup website