Over the last few days there have been frantic phone calls between travel agents from competitors at the Argo Group Gold Cup, the sixth stage and the oldest event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. Over Friday night and into Saturday the Category 3 Hurricane Gonzalo passed directly over Bermuda pummelling it with 100+ knot winds.
This is the second dose of brutal winds Bermuda has seen in a week, after it was struck a few days earlier by Tropical Storm Fay. Fay reaped carnage, so when Gonzalo passed by the worst of the damage had already been done.
However over the weekend the event was in the balance, explained Argo Group Gold Cup Chairman Brian Billings: “It was a case of how badly Bermuda fared during the hurricane – whether we still had power, still had boats and whether the competitors could still get here.”
During Gonzalo one of the classic International One Design (IOD) yachts used at the regatta was destroyed but a replacement was found. “We also lost some housing, either because they didn’t have a roof or no power, but we were able to beg or borrow other beds. So after a two hour discussion on Saturday we said ‘yes, we’re on’.” However prior to Gonzalo’s arrival the committee had already postponed racing by 24 hours. Qualifying will now begin tomorrow, Wednesday 22nd October at 0900 local.
The Argo Group Gold Cup is unique on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour for having the most teams and 20 from 13 nations have pitched up at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club ready for racing on Hamilton Harbour.
After standing down for the last three events due to commitments with Luna Rossa, the Italian America’s Cup challenger’s skipper Francesco Bruni returns, but with a slightly different crew line-up to when he won last year’s event, now including Tom Powrie standing in for injured trimmer Pierluigi De Felice.
“We sailed very well last year, we had a very nice final against Ben,” commented Bruni. “Hopefully this year it is going to be good as well. We just have to meld together a little bit and getting the rhythm going straight away will be important.”
Bruni will face another America’s Cup team in Artemis Racing, represented by skipper Nathan Outteridge, team boss Iain Percy, plus Christian Kamp and Iain Jensen. Outteridge is one of the world’s most talented sailors when it comes to fast boats – the gold medallist from London 2012 in the 49er skiff and two time foiling Moth World Champion and admits the IODs are not what he is used to racing: “But you are sailing against the same boats, so it is fine. It is about learning the turning circle of the boat and the practicalities of what you can and can’t do: When they stop, they stop for a long time!”
His 49er crew Iain Jensen admitted that he hasn’t sailed a boat with a spinnaker pole since his days in 420s, while Outteridge has been dusting off his match racing skills. “I used to match race as a youth in Australia, like the Youth Match Racing Nationals and the Warren Jones, but when I turned 18, I stopped. So I understand the concept of match racing but it’s a bit different to the match racing I did last year!”
Alpari World Match Racing Tour leader, GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams said he was impressed by the apparent lack of carnage post-Gonzalo. “It is fantastic – they have 10 boats together and I think we’ll get some pretty good weather this week. It is going to be a good regatta.”
With this being the penultimate event of the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour, Williams is in the enviable position of having to win this regatta in order to improve his overall Tour standings – bombing in this regatta would not be a disaster, as he is allowed to discard two events and he is already shedding a second.
“We are going to treat it pretty casually early on and if we get into the semis we’ll start to take it more seriously and see if we can get the no1 spot,” said Williams. However he admits that since 2006, when the Argo Group Gold Cup was the first Tour event he ever won, his track record here hasn’t been his best. “We have had some good moments, but we’ve never managed to string it together for the whole regatta.”
Aside from the eight Tour card holders, 12 additional teams are racing, including familiar faces such as former winner here, Swede Johnie Berntsson, France’s Pierre-Antoine Morvan, Switzerland’s Eric Monnin and Finland’s Staffan Lindberg. However there are others for whom this is their first ever Argo Group Gold Cup.
Young French skipper Arthur Herreman made an impression making it to the Quarter Finals at the Dutch Match Cup. This is the Argo Group Gold Cup debut for the skipper from Le Havre, whose crew heralds from Antibes and Corsica. “Every year we follow the Tour. It is a dream for us to come here. And now we’re here, it is great,” said Herreman. “The boats are older, but they are nice. It will be hard to learn how to make them go.”
With the Argo Group Gold Cup shortened by one day, Qualifying is now being compressed into three days with the 20 competitors initially split into two groups. The Quarter and Semi Finals are scheduled to take place on Saturday with the Final on Sunday.
Stage 6 Argo Group Gold Cup, Alpari World Match Racing Tour
1 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
2 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
3 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One
4 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team
5 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
6 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
7 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour
8 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa
9 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team
10 Staffan Linberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team
11 Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team
12 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team
13 Arthur Herreman (FRA) Match The World
14 Marek Stanczyk (POL) www.470sailing.org.pl
15 Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing
16 David Storrs (USA) Pequot Racing Team
17 Lance Fraser (BER) Digicel Bermuda
18 Nathan Outteridge (SWE) Artemis Racing
19 Somers Kempe (BER) Raymarine/Ocean Electronics
20 Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NED) Korpershoek Racing