Top line-up for Auckland
Some of the world’s top international match race teams are set to descend on Auckland for the Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta in March. A mix of America’s Cup experience plus rising young talent will do battle in the invitational regatta on the Waitemata Harbour.
The regatta kicks off the Auckland Festival of Sailing, which will see a crowded calendar of thrilling yacht racing through most of March. Now that the America’s Cup is once again back in play following the recent Deed of Gift Match in Valencia, top match racing skippers are honing their skills once more in preparation for a multi-challenger event expected to take place in 2013.
The Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta will be run by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and will take place off the Westhaven breakwater, where spectators will be able to watch the action.
Skippers who have accepted invitations to compete are: Dean Barker (NZL – Emirates Team New Zealand); Ben Ainslie (GBR – Team Origin); Francesco Bruni (ITA – Azzurra Sailing Team); Sebastian Col (FRA – former Areva Challenge); Karol Jablonski (POL – former Desafio Espanol); Magnus Holmberg (SWE – former Victory Challenge); Chris Dickson (NZL – former BMW ORACLE Racing); Bertrand Pacé (FRA – former BMW ORACLE Racing); Adam Minoprio (NZL – BlackMatch Racing); Torvar Mirsky (AUS – Mirsky Racing Team).
Racing will take place in identical Farr-designed MRX yachts and will comprise a double round robin, semi-final and final. Weather permitting, the semi-finals and finals will be decided by the first skipper to win three matches.
As the regatta approaches its climax on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (March 4 – 6), spectators and fans will be able to follow the action live on a dedicated radio station on 103fm organized through Live Sport. International yachtsman and commentator Peter Lester will provide expert analysis and blow by blow accounts of the racing.
The Auckland Festival of Sailing comprises a series of on and off the water events. The Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta is followed by the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland (where five of the skippers from the Omega regatta will also compete) and by the BMW Sailing World Cup Final. Also part of the festival is the Auckland International Boat Show.
A triple Olympic gold (Sydney laser, Athens and Beijing finn) and silver medallist (laser Atlanta) Ben Ainslie is Britain’s most successful yachtsman. He has won the world Finn gold cup five times. He is skipper of the British America’s cup syndicate TEAMORIGIN and was backup skipper to Dean Barker for the Emirates Team New Zealand 2007 America’s Cup challenge. He has been the ISAF sailor of the year three times and British sailor of the year five times.
Italian Francesco Bruni is an accomplished match racing skipper, winning the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice regatta in November 2010. He won the Italian match race championship in 2006 and was runner-up in that event in 2008. Bruni competed at the Athens Olympics in the Star, the Sydney Olympics in the 49er and Atlanta in the laser. He was Italian laser champion from 1992-96, Laser world champion in 1994 and topped the world 49er rankings in 2000. He is skipper of the recently formed Azzurra sailing team.
Frenchman Sebastian Col has earned his stripes in world match racing. Ranked No 1 match racer in the world by the ISAF from December 2008 to June 2009, Col was runner-up on the World Match Racing Tour in 2008. Col was the French match racing champion in 2000, 2001 and 2003. He has been involved with French America’s Cup challenges since the Le Defi 2000 campaign most recently at the helm and member of the afterguard on the 2007 Areva challenge.
Dean Barker had a successful 2009, winning the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in February and leading Emirates Team New Zealand to overall champion on the Audi MedCup circuit. At Nice in November he helmed Emirates Team New Zealand to runner-up at the first Louis Vuitton Trophy regatta. Barker first sailed with Team New Zealand leading up to the 1995 campaign and was back with the team for the successful defence in 2000 and again in 2003. As skipper for the 2007 challenge, he led the sailing team through the pre-regattas of 2005 and 2006, the victory in the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007.
A professional yachtsman for 25 years, Chris Dickson returned to competitive sailing at the end of 2009 after a two-year break. He has won more than 20 international match racing regattas, has been the world match racing champion three times and won 12 world championships. Sailing with a youth crew, he was third at the recent NZ match race nationals, and won both the San Francisco Big Boat Series and the Bay of Islands race week.
He once topped the ISAF world match racging rankings for 18 months and Pole Karol Jablonski has a string of top placings in world and European match racing championships to his credit. In 2007, he helmed the Spanish entry Desafio Espanol in the2007 America’s Cup and last year sailed the fast-improving Russian entry Synergy in the Audi MedCup circuit. He’s also an ice-yacht racer of note having won the world, European and North American championships.
Magnus Holmberg sailed with Victory Challenge as skipper and helmsman in the America’s Cup 2003 and 2007. He has represented Sweden at the Olympics three times, has six medals from European and World Championships, won gold at the World Championships in Soling, 1996. He has been ranked No 1 in the world match racing rankings and was overall winner of the World Match Racing Tour in 2000-2001.
Racing under the BlackMatch Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand banners Adam Minoprio and his young crew of Nick Blackman, David Swete, Tom Powrie and Dan McLean, swept all before them to emerge as the 2009 ISAF World Match Racing Champions. Along the way they won three regattas, were second four times and third once. This consistent performance earned them the title of ISAF World No 1 ranked match racing team.
Frenchman Bertrand Pace is no stranger to the waters of the Waitemata Harbour. He was back-up helmsman for Team New Zealand in the lead-up to the 2003 America’s Cup. His first America’s Cup campaign was in 1987 at Fremantle, followed by San Diego in 1992 and 1995, Auckland in 2000 and 2003 and Valencia in 2007. Pace won the World Match Racing Tour in 2000 and was world match racing champion in in 1994 and runnerup in 1998 and again in 1999.
After competing with distinction in a number of dinghy classes and youth match racing events in Australia and New Zealand, Torvar Mirsky formed Mirsky Racing Team. At the start of the 2006 sailing season Mirsky and his crew began their climb up the world match racing rankings. Two years later, aged just 22, he is in fourth place in both the ISAF and World Match Racing tour leader boards.