Monday, 10 August 2009

Berntsson to Defend Argo Group Gold Cup

Swedish team faces nine of top eleven on World Match Racing Tour

Johan Bäckman, Johnie Berntsson, Daniel Wallberg and Björn Lundgren celebrate winning the King Edward VII Gold Cup in 2008 with RBYC Commodore Ralph Richardson. Image copyright Charles Anderson/World Match Racing Tour.

by Talbot Wilson

Johnie Berntsson (SWE) returns to Bermuda October 6th to defend his 2008 title in the Argo Group Gold Cup. He will be sailing to put his name on the King Edward VII Gold Cup Trophy for a second time in a row. Three other previous champions also return in 2009, Mathieu Richard (FRA), Ian Williams (GBR) and three-time winner Peter Gilmour (AUS). Match Racing begins October 6th on Hamilton Harbour at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and continues through Sunday October 11th.

Berntsson, who finished sixth in 2007 and first in 2008, commented on his title defence. “I have a good feeling coming back to Bermuda. It will be a great challenge to defend the Gold Cup knowing the abilities the other teams have. We look forward to racing here again and seeing just how we handle the pressure.”

“We like the match racing arena in the colorful harbour in Hamilton. The historical story about the Gold Cup event that now has lasted for over 100 years is something that the other events on the World Match Racing Tour can’t come close to. Not many other sailing events at all and not many other worldwide sports events in general can compare with the Gold Cup tradition.’

“I also think that this tradition makes a positive impact for businesses to join an event like this and be able to have some really good opportunities enjoying sharing the experience together with business partners in a nice environment.”

“The entry list is impressive and almost all the top teams are represented, Berntsson continued, “This will make the event very interesting and I expect that we will have some really spectacular racing. “

“The other three previous Gold Cup champions have proven their skills in the Bermuda conditions and in the IOD [International One Design] and will all be strong opponents. I think it will all come down to who is having fun and sailing well on the water. These teams have all proved they can win in Bermuda.”

“There are also other good competitors like last year’s runner up Adam Minoprio (NZL) and Ben Ainslie (GBR) who was third or the other Swedes Mattias Rahm (SWE) (fourth in 2008) and Bjorn Hansen (SWE) and a lot of others that have the capabilities to win. I think all these teams will make it a tough competition.”

“With such an impressive entry list,” Berntsson concluded, “it will be interesting to see who will be the winner of the Argo Group Gold Cup and the famous King Edward VII Gold Cup trophy this year. Believe me, we will try our best.”

Twenty-two of the teams for this years event have now been selected and confirmed. They include ten of the top eleven teams on the 2009 World Match Racing Tour (WMRT).

The two other teams will be the winners of the New York Knickerbocker Cup and the Bermuda National Match Racing Championship. Sixteen teams will be eliminated in the first three days of racing leaving the top eight teams to battle for a finals slot and a shot at the $50,000 first place prize. The second through eighth place teams divide the rest of the $100,000 total purse.
Mathieu Richard, sailing for the French Match Racing Team, now ranks first on both the Tour and ISAF rankings. He won the King Edward VII Gold Cup Trophy in 2007. Richard placed eighth in 2008 and has a real comeback to make to take first in Bermuda again.

When asked what he would have to do to win again in 2008, Richard said, “Just try to sail at our best level. If we sail well, we know that we can achieve very good results like in 2006 (2nd) and 2007 (1st). I am the leader [on the World Tour] at this point. But we have felt some frustration at some events by not reaching the finals, and we have not won any event so far. Hopefully, we will win one or two this year, so why not the Argo Group Gold Cup.”

Ian Williams (GBR), sailing for Bahrain Team Pindar, won in 2006 but finished out of the top eight in 2007. In 2008 he had an excellent start but faded to fifth in the end. He is ranked fifth on the tour and second by ISAF.

Peter Gilmour, sailing for YANMAR Racing, has won the most Gold Cups out of all of this year’s skippers. He took the coveted cup in 1995, 1997 and 2003 and returns this year after a multi-year absence from Bermuda. Gilmour has returned to the World Tour with a vengeance and now ranks third after winning Match Cup Sweden. His 2009 Tour performance is 3-6-6-1.

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club hosts the event, the ninth stage of the World Match Racing Tour. Argo Group, international underwriter of specialty insurance and reinsurance products in niche areas of the property and casualty market based in Bermuda, sponsors the Gold Cup for the second year.

Ralph Richardson, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Commodore, speaking for his fellow club members and volunteers said, “I am pleased that the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club will once again be hosting such an illustrious line-up of skippers and crews this year.

“The 2009 Argo Group Gold Cup promises to be a spectacular event as Bermuda celebrates our 400th anniversary of permanent settlement. We welcome everyone in Bermuda during Argo Group Gold Cup week, both residents and Island visitors are invited to come to Hamilton and enjoy the facilities at the club. Argo Group Gold Cup match racing in Bermuda is truly a spectator sport.”

“The fact that so many top match racing teams choose to sail in Bermuda each year,” Richardson added, “is a testament to the quality of the event and the great location. We continue the tradition of putting on world class sailing events of which the Argo Group Gold Cup is a key feature on our annual sailing calendar.”

The Argo Group Gold Cup is unique on the WMRT. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club invites twenty-four teams to compete. In addition to the eight World Match Racing Tour Card holders, two teams are selected from a pair of qualifying events, the Knickerbocker Cup and the Bermuda National Match Race Championship. The remaining fourteen teams are selected by application and invitation from the top international match-racing sailors on the ISAF ranking list.

The extra number of teams compared to other Tour events gives more opportunities for up and coming competitors to take on the world’s best, fighting it out for the $100,000 prize purse.

In addition to Argo Group, key sponsors of the Argo Group Gold Cup include The Bermuda Department of Tourism as official host, Guy Carpenter, Renaissance Re and Bacardi. Of note, Renaissance Re will once again sponsor the Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup International Optimist Dinghy regatta sailed in Bermuda’s Great Sound and Hamilton Harbour on October 8-11th.

The finals Sunday of the Argo Group Gold Cup will also be the date for Bermuda’s second annual Festival of Sail. Activities to celebrate Bermuda’s sailing heritage will be offered to all Bermuda and island guests at Barrs Park on October eleventh. The Argo Gold Cup, sailed in Hamilton Harbour just off of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club marina and the Festival of Sail adjacent to the club are open to the public as are all international events at RBYC.

World Match Racing Tour

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