World Match Racing Tour points leader Ian Williams (left) will be gunning for a second Argo Group Gold Cup crown in Hamilton
Harbor next week. Photo by Charles Anderson.
By Colin Thompson, The Royal Gazette
Bermuda college kids Peter Miller and Lance Fraser will mix it up with the world’s elite match racing sailors during the opening round of the Argo Group Gold Cup. The promising Bermuda sailors have both been placed in groups comprised of past King Edward VII Gold Cup winners.
Miller, who is making his Gold Cup debut, has been pitted in Group Three that includes past King Edward VII Gold Cup winners Ian Williams and Mathieu Richard.
Frenchman Richard claimed his sole win to date in 2007 while current World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) points leader and top ranked ISAF Open sailor Williams won in 2006.
Fraser, who made his Gold Cup debut last year, has been placed in Group Two along with past winners Peter Gilmour and Johnie Berntsson and Australian Torvar Mirsky, who is fresh off winning last month’s St Moritz Match Race.
Mirsky and compatriot Gilmour and Hansen are also thick in contention at the top of the leaderboard for this year’s WMRT crown heading into the penultimate event of this year’s series.
Blythe Walker, the last of the trio of Bermuda sailors, has been placed in Group One along with Bjorn Hansen, WMRT championship contender Francesco Bruni of Italy and last year’s Gold Cup runner up Jesper Radich.
Reigning Argo Group Gold Cup champion Ben Ainslie will not be back to defend his title this year due to a scheduling conflict with his 2012 Olympic qualifying campaign.
Making their first appearances in the Gold Cup this year are Laurie Jury and Terry McLaughlin who are fresh off wins at the ISAF Nations Cup and New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.
Over the years the Argo Group Gold Cup has produced some exciting battles in Hamilton Harbor. And Peter Shrubb, commodore of event hosts Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, believes this year’s WMRT sanctioned regatta will be no exception. “It’s going to be a very interesting event because there’s no easy groups at all,” he said.
Having been placed in a group with multiple past winners Shrubb expects youngsters Fraser and Miller to have their work cut out for them.
“Williams and Richard are obviously two past winners and very strong sailors and so Peter Miller is going to have a tough time there,” said Shrubb. “Then you have past Gold Cup winners Peter Gilmour and Johnie Berntsson in the same group with Torvar Mirsky so that’s a very strong group as well and that’s where Lance Fraser is in.”
Although Fraser and Miller will find the going tough, Shrubb reckons the exposure they will gain will prove invaluable in years to come.
“It’s good exposure for the youngsters, which is what we are really all about with the Gold Cup here in Bermuda,” he said. “Unlike the other events where they normally have 12 skippers we have 24, and so it gives us the opportunity to get some young sailors in there and let them go up against the best in the world.”
Shrubb reckons Bermuda’s best hope for Gold Cup success could rest on the shoulders of seasoned campaigner Walker.
“Even though Group One is strong Blythe may have a good shot there,” he said. “Blythe can go all the way because he’s a good enough sailor who knows the boats and knows Hamilton Harbor and has been doing a lot of practice lately.”
This year’s Argo Group Gold Cup format will feature three groups of eight with the top two teams in each group after completion of the first round automatically advancing to the quarterfinals. The third and fourth placed teams from each group will battle it out in the Repechage, with the eventual top two teams joining the remaining six quarterfinalists.
Racing in The Argo Group Gold Cup will be held October 4-9. Live coverage of Argo Group Gold Cup action will be available daily at www.wmrt.com. The ‘WMRT Morning Show’ and ‘WMRT Today Show’ with Hannah White are also shown on www.wmrt.com, providing a preview and wrap up of the racing each day from Hamilton Harbour.