Strong wind start

25 knots for the opening day of racing for the King Edward VII Gold Cup in Bermuda

Wednesday October 8th 2008, Author: Talbot Wilson, Location: United Kingdom
In conditions which featured blustery north breezes approaching 25 knots in strength, the action was fast and furious in Hamilton Harbour for the first day of Round Robin racing at the King Edward VII Gold Cup, presented by Argo Group. With 24 invited teams divided into three group of eight, this event has the largest field of competitors of any on the 2008 World Match Racing Tour, and after three flights of racing in each group the regular Tour team are emerging towards the top of the standings.

In Group One Ben Ainslie (GBR) took his Olympic Gold Medal skills to the race course. The British skipper of Team Origin was a perfect three for three in Group One matches on the event’s first day. Ainslie defeated reigning champion Mathieu Richard (FRA), French Match Racing Team/French Spirit, in a hot battle in the second flight of the day. Their race included a hook-up between Ainslie’s bow and Richard’s loose mainsheet in a complicated windward mark rounding. Ainslie took the inside track from behind and when Richard gybed he didn’t give Ainslie room to keep clear and the two hooked up in a slow French minute. Richard was double flagged, and that was it. Ainslie also defeated Richard’s countryman Damien Lehl and American Chris Von Tol.

“I’ve got a great team with me here, but I don’t think we sailed all that poorly in Marstrand to deserve that finish. We just didn’t get any breaks there, and so far things are just coming together better for us here,” said Ainslie.

Also in Group One, Mattias Rahm (SWE), Stena Bulk Sailing Team, also stands 3-0 with wins over Takumi Nakumura (JPN) and Brian Angel (USA) and Sally Barkow (USA). Barkow and Angel were winless today. Angel and Damien Lehl were involved in a head-on collision at the start of their third flight match.



Rahm and his Stena Bulk Sailing Team have not appeared in a Tour event since their win at Stage 4, Match Cup Sweden in Marstrand. Rahm attributed his success today to practice sessions he’s had with fellow Swede Johnie Berntsson in the traditional-style International One Designs (IODs) which are used in this event and to which they have access back home. “These boats are very heavy, and turn slowly, so planning your moves is very important.” For his part, Berntsson, competing in Group 3, nearly had the same 3-0 record as Rahm but for one penalty turn performed on the finish line with just a few metres shy of what was needed to defeat local Bermudian Blythe Walker in the last flight of the day.

As the winds picked up during the afternoon, there was more damage. Two booms were broken and Ian Willliams’ opponent, Andy Horton, in his third race had a breakdown before the start. That race will be sailed first thing on Wednesday. Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, the leader on the World Match Racing Tour, is the only skipper in the group with a chance to go 3-0 in the first three flights. With all the mayhem in Group Two, Williams is 2-0, Adam Minoprio (NZL), Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing, is 2-0, Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing and Bjorn Hansen (SWE) of Alandia Sailing is also 2-0.

Group Three action ran later than expected because of breakdowns and repairs. The committee plans to finish all racing that was scheduled for today except for the Williams-Horton match. That Group 2 match will be sailed on Wednesday.

While getting some breaks can make the difference needed for a winning score, avoiding the breaks can as well. In a particularly blustery match in Group 3, Col seemed to have things well in hand in his match against Don Wilson (USA), having gotten a penalty against Wilson in the pre-start and extending to a 5-length lead around the track. But just several lengths shy of his first leeward mark rounding, Col’s boom snapped at the vang in a particularly large puff, forcing his team to improvise downwind and upwind trim solutions for the mainsail for the remaining two laps around the course. And while Wilson got by Col to take a several-length lead, Col and his team’s extraordinary efforts and clever techniques kept the lead from extending further, and after performing his penalty turn at the finish line, Col was so close to very nearly taking back the match.

The two top teams from each group move on to the Quarter finals and the third and fourth place finishers in each group sail off in a repecharge round robin on Thursday afternoon for their second chance to win one of the last two Quarter final slots. Following the Quarter finals on Friday, winners move into the semi finals on Saturday and the top two go to the finals on Sunday. There is a $100,000 prize purse with $50,000 going to the winner, $20,000 for second and $10,000 for third. Fourth through eighth divide the remainder.

Current standings, after 3 flights:

Group 1
Ben Ainslie (GBR) Team Origin, 3-0
Mattias Rahm (SWE) Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 3-0
Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team/Team French Spirit, 2-1
Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 2-1
Takumi Nakamura (JPN) Team Albatross, 1-2
Chris Van Tol (USA) Van Tol Match Racing Team, 1-2
Brian Angel (USA) King Harbour Yacht Club, 0-3
Sally Barkow (USA) Team 7 Racing, 0-3

Group 2
Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 2-0*
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Alandia Sailing Team, 2-1
Adam Minoprio (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealnd/BlackMatch Racing Team, 2-1
Keith Swinton (USA) Black Swan Racing, 2-1
Andrew Horten (USA), 1-1*
Rasmus Viltoft (DEN), 1-2
Erik Koppernaes (CAN), 1-2
Jon Singsen (USA), 0-3
* match postponed until tomorrow

Group 3
Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team/K Challenge, 2-1
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, 2-1
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team, 2-1
Pierre Antoine Morvan (FRA) ETM Match Racing, 2-1
Eric Monnin (SUI) Search.ch, 1-2
David Perry (USA), 1-2
Blythe Walker (BDA), 1-2
Donald Wilson (USA), 1-2

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