Spithill to defend title

At this year's Bermuda Gold Cup match racing in October

Thursday September 14th 2006, Author: Sean McNeill, Location: United Kingdom
James Spithill will attempt to win his second consecutive King Edward VII Gold Cup when the Bermuda Gold Cup, Stage 4 of the 2006-’07 World Match Racing Tour, takes place on Hamilton Harbour, 10-15 October.

Spithill, the recent recipient of the Australian Yachting 2006 Male Sailor of the Year award, headlines a field of 16 crews that will compete in the $50,000 regatta sailed in 33-foot IOD sloops.

“We’re very happy with the field that we’ve assembled for this year’s Gold Cup,” said Andrew Cox, Commodore of the host Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. “We’re also delighted to be part of the World Match Racing Tour again.”

The oldest one-design match-racing event in the world, the Bermuda Gold Cup rejoins the World Tour after a one year absence. This year’s event marks the seventh time in eight seasons that the Gold Cup is part of a World Tour schedule. Also, it is the 58th match race competition for the Cup, first presented to the legendary C Sherman Hoyt in 1907 at a regatta marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Virginia Colony.

The 2006-’07 World Match Racing Tour schedule began in July and counts 15 events through December 2007. The winner will be recognised as the ISAF Match Racing World Champion.

Spithill, the 27-year-old helmsman of Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge for the America’s Cup, won last year’s Gold Cup with a 3-2 victory over the event’s leading winner, Russell Coutts. Spithill faced a 2-1 deficit in the final but rallied for a 3-2 victory. For Spithill the win was a measure of revenge. He lost the 2004 championship to Coutts.

The format for this year’s Gold Cup is slightly different from past years. The 16 crews will be split into two groups of eight. Each group is scheduled to sail a single round robin with the top four advancing to the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinals, semifinals and final are knockout rounds, with skippers paired against each other in series of three or five races.

Besides Spithill the lineup features three other skippers who finished in the top eight last year, including Staffan Lindberg (FIN), 3rd overall, Mathieu Richard (FRA), 6th overall and recent winner of the ISAF Nations Cup Open Championship, and Ian Williams (GBR), 8th overall.

Other entrants aiming for the $25,000 winner’s check are Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN), a helmsman for the Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team and runner-up at the Gold Cup in 2004, and Scott Dickson (NZL), who placed 4th at the 2004 event and is entered for the sixth consecutive year.

After the first three stages of the 2006-’07 World Tour season Gram-Hansen is second overall in the world championship standings and Lindberg is eighth.

Continuing a long tradition, there are two strong Bermudian entrants in the form of Blythe Walker, who won the 2006 Bermuda National Match Racing Championship, and Paula Lewin, Bermuda’s four-time Female Athlete of the Year who recently placed fifth in the women’s championship at the Nations Cup.

Lewin is the only woman skipper to advance through the qualifying rounds of the Gold Cup, which she did in 1999, 2002 and ’03. In 2002 Lewin finished 5th overall, the best finish for a female skipper in the 56-year history of the Gold Cup.

Match Racing World Championship Standings
(After Stage 3)
1. Sébastian Col (FRA) Areva Challenge, 29 points
2. Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) Mascalzone Latino – Capitalia Team, 27 points
3. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Viano Mercedes Benz, 25 points
T. Chris Dickson (NZL) BMW ORACLE Racing, 25 points
5. Ed Baird (USA) Alinghi, 20 points
T. Jesper Bank (DEN) United Internet Team Germany, 20 points
T. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 20 points
8. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, 16 points

Bermuda Gold Cup Entry List (as of Sept. 7, 2006)
Brian Angel (USA)
Scott Dickson (NZL)
Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) Mascalzone Latino – Capitlia Team
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Team Apport.net
Sandy Hayes (USA)
Chris Law (GBR) The Outlaws
Paula Lewin (BER)
Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team
Alvaro Marinho (POR)
Torvar Mirsky (AUS)
Eric Monnin (SUI) Team Monnin
Mathieu Richard (FRA) Saba Sailing Team
Jon Singsen (USA)
James Spithill (AUS) Luna Rossa Challenge
Blythe Walker (BER)
Ian Williams (GBR) Williams Sail Racing

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club is a private club and is the third oldest club holding a Royal Warrant outside the British Isles. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club was established on the 1st of November 1844. There are now approximately 850 resident and non-resident members.

The Bermuda Department of Tourism is an Official Host Sponsor of the Gold Cup. Event sponsors include Renaissance Re, Max Re, Bermuda Telephone, Bermuda Premium Spirits and Oleander Cycle.

The World Tour is sanctioned by ISAF, sailing’s world governing body. The World Tour Partner and Official Car is BMW (Munich, Germany). World Tour sponsors include Sebago (Rockford, Mich.), the Official Footwear Supplier, Travel Places (West Sussex, England), the Official Travel Partner, and Wedgwood (Stoke-on-Trent, England), the Official Trophy Sponsor.

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