HAMILTON, Bermuda – Organizers for the Argo Group Gold Cup firmly stated today that racing for the 67th annual match racing regatta, an event of the World Match Racing Tour, will begin on Wednesday as scheduled.
Hurricane Joaquin passed to the northwest of the island in the Atlantic Ocean yesterday, bringing strong winds and heavy rains. The eye of the hurricane was some 70 miles offshore Sunday evening when it made its closest approach, bringing with it wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph and heavy rainfall that caused widespread power outages.
Like much of Bermuda, the host Royal Bermuda Yacht Club came through the storm without major damage. The fleet of International One-Design (IOD) sloops rode out the storm on their moorings and one boat will have to be recovered after sinking. Still, registration opened today and will continue tomorrow, when two practice sessions are also scheduled.
“Hurricanes in Bermuda at this time of year are nothing new,” said Gold Cup chairman Andy Cox. “Some of the crews have had to change their travel plans and won’t arrive until Tuesday night, but we’re still planning to start racing on Wednesday and we’ll adjust the schedule to accommodate any late arrivals.”
The Argo Group Gold Cup has been among the grandest of all stages in sailing for up-and-comers to have a go at the seasoned pros. Whether they’re America’s Cup aces such as Sir Russell Coutts, domineering Olympians such as Sir Ben Ainslie or match racing maestros such as Peter Gilmour, they’ve all had to fend off upstart challenges en route to winning the Argo Group Gold Cup. And that was after they were upstarts themselves.
“This is the eighth year that Argo Group has supported the King Edward VII Gold Cup, and we have the added attraction of several of the Americas Cup sailors competing, so we think this year's event will be taken to a whole new level,” said Mark E. Watson III, Argo Group CEO and a competitive sailor himself.
“Through sailing we often discover our personal strengths and weaknesses. We meet all sorts of people from all walks of life, and we get an instant lesson in the value of working in teams,” said Watson. “This is something that is enshrined in Argo’s core values and we are very proud to share with Bermuda, through our support of this event and the Argo Foundation’s support of local community endeavours.”
This year’s veterans in the fleet—including Dean Barker (age 43), Francesco Bruni (42), Johnie Berntsson (43), Blythe Walker (47) and Ian Williams (38)—bring loads of experience in the IODs and match racing.
Barker won the fifth race of the 2000 America’s Cup for Team New Zealand, has skippered in three other America’s Cup matches and is a past match racing world champion. Bruni is a past Argo Group Gold Cup winner and, as a seven-time world champion, is one of Italy’s most successful sailors. Berntsson of Sweden is the reigning event champion and a two-time winner. Williams is a past event champion and five-time world match racing champion.
Walker, competing in the gold Cup for the 12th time, has won the Bermudian National Match Racing Championship too many times to remember. He hasn’t sailed as much in recent years in an attempt to help Bermuda’s next generation of match racers through instruction and clinics. He gained entry after finishing second in the nationals last month. Walker’s best finish was a 3rd in 2006, a result he attributed to the ingredients for success at the Argo Group Gold Cup.
“It was a combination of luck and solid practice,” said Walker. “We won the Nationals that year and it was a great practice run for the Gold Cup. We scraped our way through, tooth and nail, all the way to the quarterfinals. They were close races all the way. We were on point that week and had luck on our side to get through that far. It was a great feeling. I’d love to repeat it.”
True to form, this year’s crop of youngsters is chock full of ambition. Sailors such as Joachim Aschenbrenner and Nicolai Sehested of Denmark, Adam Minoprio of New Zealand, and Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands have already brought home world championship hardware, and they’re all 30 years or younger.
Aschenbrenner (the youngest skipper in the fleet at 21) recently finished runner-up at the ISAF Youth Match Racing World Championship after winning the inaugural title last year. Minoprio (30) is a past Argo Group Gold Cup champion and, at age 24 in 2009, was the youngest skipper to win the match racing world championship. Sehested (25) is considered one of Denmark’s rising stars and won the Sopot Match Race in Poland in July after finishing the Volvo Ocean Race. Canfield (26) was 23 when he won in 2012 and has followed it up with third-place finishes in each of the past two events. He arrives in Bermuda after two solid months of action.
“Bermuda reminds me of home. The event is a good time and we feel very comfortable there. We’ve met a lot of good people who are like family at this point,” said Canfield, who’s competing for the fifth consecutive year.
“The IOD is tricky and the winds on Hamilton Harbour are very shifty, but for our team that’s a fun part,” Canfield continued. “We like it when there’s a challenge. We feel we thrive under difficult conditions. You just have to minimize your mistakes and do the simple things correctly. That’s usually a big factor for racing in Hamilton Harbour.”
ARGO GROUP GOLD CUP ENTRANT LIST
Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN, World No. 18), Dean Barker (NZL, skipper SoftBank Team Japan), Johnie Berntsson (SWE, World No. 7, Gold Cup champion 2008, ’14), Francesco Bruni (ITA, Artemis Racing afterguard, 2013 Gold Cup champion), Taylor Canfield (ISV, World No. 2, 2012 Gold Cup champion), Reuben Corbett (NZL, World No. 10), Björn Hansen (SWE, World No. 4), Eric Monnin (SUI, World No 3, 2014 Gold Cup runner-up), Adam Minoprio (NZL, Gold Cup runner-up 2008, ’09), Chris Poole (USA, World No. 32), Phil Robertson (NZL, World No. 12), Nicolai Sehested (DEN, World No. 58), Chris Steele (NZL, World No. 8), Keith Swinton (AUS, World No. 21), Blythe Walker (BER), Ian Williams (GBR, World No. 1).