Saturday, 2 October 2010

WMRT: Sunrise practice for Argo Group Gold Cup locals

Walker and Fraser practising on Hamilton Harbour. Image copyright Talbot Wilson.

by Talbot Wilson

It was up early again and sunrise practice for the two crews representing Bermuda on their home waters next week in the 2010 Argo Group Gold Cup. Blythe Walker is the reigning Bermuda National Match Racing champion and Lance Fraser, the young challenger sailing in his first Argo Group Gold Cup. The pair has been matching up this week before work for Walker and most of the crew and before school for Fraser, who is still in high school. Fraser will be the youngest sailor to ever skipper a boat in King Edward VII Gold Cup competition.

Walker and Fraser practising on Hamilton Harbour. Image copyright Talbot Wilson.

Sailing with Walker for Team RenRe will be his regular crew of Adam Barboza, Somers Kempe and Will Thompson. Fraser’s TOP's Ltd team will have Gareth Williams, Jorge Chiaparro and Bermuda’s Olympic hopeful Rockal Evans. They have been getting in early practice this week before the island invasion by the world’s top ranked international professional sailors coming for stage 8 of the ISAF World Match Racing Tour. Racing starts Tuesday October 5 and concludes Sunday October 11.

Bermuda's Olympic hopeful, Rockal Evans. Image copyright Talbot Wilson.

Tour leader Mathieu Richard will also be on the water Friday for his first practice in IOD’s this year. Over the weekend before racing starts on Tuesday, he will be joined by many of the other Tour leaders who arrive early to get dialed in to sailing the International One Design sloops used in the Bermuda classic. The IOD’s are very different from the agile speedsters sailed in the other eight Tour events. These full-keeled boats designed after the original 6-Meter boats take special handling skills, requiring anticipation, teamwork and a deft touch on the helm to execute maneuvers for the most speed and tactical advantage.

In Bermuda, twenty-two teams are racing to put their name on the famous King Edward VII Gold Cup Trophy and to take away a share of USD$100,000 in prize money. The winner takes half of the purse, so it pays to be first in Bermuda.

Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Mathieu Richard (FRA) on Hamilton Harbour. Image copyright Talbot Wilson.

The top five sailors in the ISAF ‘open’ rankings, who are also the top five on the World Match Racing Tour, and Lucy Macgregor, recent winner of the ISAF Women’s World Match Racing Championship, will all be on hand for this Bermuda spectacular. For the Qualifying “round robin” matches the twenty-two teams will be divided into three groups. Based on Tour and ISAF rankings, each group has a top seed heading their list and then the remaining group teams follow up and down the ladder in the groups.

Qualifying rounds within these groups, scheduled from Tuesday until mid-day Thursday, select six of the quarterfinalists directly, the top two in each group. The remaining two quarterfinalists are selected in a repechage of the next two in each group in a six-boat qualifying “round robin”. The finals are scheduled for October 11 along with the final race of the Ren Re Jr Gold Cup, the international junior invitational Opti regatta held in conjunction with the Argo Group Gold Cup.

The Argo Group Gold Cup is followed on the World Match Racing Tour by their prestigious season ending finale. The Monsoon Cup sailed for the Tour Championship in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia starts 30 November.

Argo Group Gold Cup
World Match Racing Tour