The Argo Group Gold Cup, the penultimate event on the 2013 Alpari World Match Racing Tour is coming up and the battle lines are being drawn. Qualifying begins for the twenty teams on Hamilton Harbour tomorrow.
During the Practice Day at the Argo Gold Cup, Bermuda
In addition to the Alpari World Match Racing Tour card holders, the giant field sees some old faces returning to this prestigious event. All eyes will be on Sir Ben Ainslie’s Ben Ainslie Racing Team, where the world’s most successful Olympic sailor of all time, recently part of Oracle Team USA’s turn around America’s Cup victory, has in his crew Artemis Racing CEO and three time Olympic medallist, Iain Percy. However other luminaries from the 34th America’s Cup will also be racing in Bermuda including Italian Francesco Bruni, here with a boat load of fellow Luna Rossa AC72 crewmen: Pierluigi de Felice, 49er Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Xabi Fernandez and Nick Hutton.
Luna Rossa Team Principal Patrizio Bertelli has already announced his intention to challenge for the 35th America’s Cup and his team competing here is an exercise in keeping them fresh. 'It is always good to keep working,' says Bruni, who was tactician on the Italian AC72, but is helming here. 'And match racing is always going to be part of the America’s Cup, regardless of the type of boats you sail in. Obviously the last one didn’t provide a lot of opportunity for hard boat on boat match racing, but there were still some interesting moments. Boat on boat ability is still rewarded in any sailing, if the boats have similar speeds, whether it is six knots or 36 knots.'
Bruni last competed on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour over 2010-11, finishing second to Ian Williams in 2011. 'I am very happy to be here - it is always great to be part of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. I am very excited and hopefully we will warm up quickly enough.'
Keith Swinton’s Black Swan Racing team has among its number Kyle Langford, famously Oracle Team USA’s stand-in wing trimmer. 'Kyle sailed with us when we first started the whole Black Swan Racing campaign,' recounts Swinton. 'He left us to join the Tour with Torvar Mirsky, but we have both been based in Sweden since then and we’re really good friends. He is excited about doing this and, now he has had some success in the Cup, it will be fun for us to be back sailing together.'
This is Swinton’s fourth Argo Group Gold Cup, his first in 2008 was also his first ever event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. 'We raced Ben Ainslie in the quarter finals and lost 3-1,' the Australian skipper recalls. 'The next two years we really struggled here. The last time we had just won the Grade 1 in Chicago and came here a little under prepared. This time we have done some training in Sweden with Johnie Berntsson, who is usually very strong in these boats. We are feeling confident of doing well here.'
USone during the Practice Day at the Argo Gold Cup 2013, Bermuda, part of the Alpari WMRT.
The two groups have been chosen for the Qualifying rounds. In Group 1 the favourites are 2012 Argo Group Gold Cup winner Taylor Canfield’s USone, Team Alpari FX skipper Adam Minoprio, Keith Swinton and Johnie Berntsson’s Stena Sailing Team, among the Tour Card holders, plus Francesco Bruni and Congressional Cup winner, Simone Ferrarese.
Group 2 features Tour card holders, GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams, the current Tour leader, plus Bjorn Hansen’s eWork Sailing Team, Phil Robertson’s WAKA Racing and Pierre-Antoine Morvan’s Vannes Agglo Sailing Team. It also features Ben Ainslie and Mathieu Richard’s GEFCO Match Racing Team, 'We are pretty pleased with the group,' says Keith Swinton. 'They are reasonably even. We are happy.'
Also looking forward to racing getting underway tomorrow is Adam Minoprio, currently lying joint second overall in the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. The Kiwi skipper has previously scored two seconds, a third and a fifth at the Argo Group Gold Cup.
'It is looking like a windy forecast for the start for the week, which is going to be pretty exciting in the International One Designs - they love to have a bit of a roll downwind, so that will be quite entertaining to watch over the first few days,' says the 2009 Tour winner of the boats used at the Argo Group Gold Cup. 'The competition here this week is one of the best we’ve had on the Tour all year. We have got Ben Ainslie and Francesco Bruni here and they’ll get maximum pleasure from trying to knock someone out of the Quarter Finals, who thought that they were safe there. I know they have come from cat sailing, but they’ll still be very tough competitors this week.'
Crews training during the Practice Day at the Argo Gold Cup 2013, Bermuda, part of the Alpari WMRT.
The Argo Group Gold Cup is the highlight of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s annual regatta calendar. 'We travel to a lot of different regattas around the world, but this is one of the favourites,' continues Minoprio. 'We come here, we have host families looking after us in their amazing houses. Everyone here on the island knows about the regatta and is right behind it and there is always a good atmosphere and support from all the locals. It is a fun, community style week.'
Racing starts at 0900 local time.