Ainslie to compete in Bermuda Gold Cup

Top match racers will be out in force on Hamilton Harbour next month

Tuesday September 2nd 2008, Author: Talbot Wilson, Location: United Kingdom
Get ready for some the world’s best match race sailing over 7-12 October on Bermuda’s Hamilton Harbour in the King Edward VII Gold Cup presented by Argo Group. Frenchman Mathieu Richard will be back in Bermuda in just over a month to defend his title in the 101st year of sailing for the spectacular golden trophy. In 2007, Richard defeated Bjorn Hansen of Sweden 2-0 in the finals to take the gold. Hansen will also return hoping to unseat the reigning champion. Great Britain’s Ian Williams, winner of the 2006 Gold Cup, will be on hand sailing hard to regain his championship form in the Bermuda classic.

The top match race sailors in the world will be on the line in Bermuda for the annual event organised by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Mathieu Richard is currently ranked first in the ISAF ‘Open” Match Race rankings, Williams is second, Paolo Cian of Italy is ranked third and Hansen, who was ranked fourth when the invitations went out in the spring, is now ranked sixth. The same skippers were the top four in the 2007 World Match Race Tour, but with Williams first and Richard second. Eleven of the 24 competitors are in the ISAF top twenty. Ian Williams and his team just scored a 3-0 victory at the conclusion of the Danish Open to win that World Match Race Tour event.

As the penultimate event on the Tour, teams will be looking to gather as many Tour points as possible to carry forward to the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia. Bermuda will be the place where the psychological games intensify.

This year’s event also welcomes Ben Ainslie of Team Origin fresh from his Olympic success in Beijing. Eric Monnin returns to Bermuda for his fifth consecutive Gold Cup, along with Bermuda’s threat for the gold, Blythe Walker.

Walker is a firm favorite with the locals and has competed in numerous Gold Cup regattas and other international match racing events. Blythe thrilled Bermudian spectators at the 2006 Gold Cup when he won the Petit Finals to place third. In 2007, he placed fourth. He was the 2006 Bermuda National Match Racing Champion and in 2006 and 2007 was also the Anna Roed Bell IOD Bermuda Class Match Racing Tournament Champion.

Sally Barkow, ranked eighth in women’s match racing, is the sole female skipper in the event. Winner of the prestigious Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award in 2005 and the Women’s Match Racing Championship that year, Sally is the skipper of Team 7 Sailing. As the selection panel's unanimous choice for Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, Sally was recognized for her "versatility and consistency, both abroad and at home" after winning a string of noteworthy international events - including two world championships - in four different keelboat classes.

Match Racing in Bermuda is a spectator sport and a top attraction for visitors and Bermuda residents alike. Multiple Gold Cup matches are sailed simultaneously all week just off the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club marina in Hamilton Harbour. Sometimes the action is so close that spectators seated on the marina wall must lift their feet to allow competitors to skim the bulkhead or tack for water.

On the weekend, just in time for the Gold Cup semi-finals and finals, the first-ever Festival of Sail will draw Bermuda children and families to Barr’s Bay Park for two days of fun focused on sailboats and sailing, Bermuda’s unofficial national sport. The festival will have a pirate theme and feature a fun castle, face painting and other children’s activities in addition to offering tours of boats from nine to fifty feet, youth sailing demonstrations of Optimist Dinghy sailing and a sailing experience aboard several J105 sailboats with volunteers from the RBYC. The Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup Championship rounds will be sailed in the harbour on Sunday, an exciting Optimist Dinghy event for spectators young and old.

October seventh will mark the sixtieth time the King Edward VII Gold Cup trophy has been contested. For 2008, Argo Group, the Bermuda based international underwriter of specialty insurance and reinsurance products in the property and casualty market, will sponsor the competition. In addition to Argo Group, the new title sponsor, the Bermuda Department of Tourism continues as the Host Sponsor, the Max Capital Group, Renaissance Reinsurance and Guy Carpenter & Company, LLC are aboard as associate presenting sponsors assuring that the minimum prize purse for 2008 will be $100,000. Renaissance Reinsurance is also the sponsor of the Junior Gold Cup competition for 2008.

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