At the Argo Group Gold Cup, it was another tense day on Hamilton Harbour where the first-to-three Quarter Final matches were being played out. With the wind having veered into the southwest, racing took place under a scorching sun in a shifty 7-10 knots of breeze.
Ben Ainslie Racing Team and eWork Sailing Team racing in the Quarter Finals at the Argo Group Gold Cup, Bermuda, part of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.
Francesco Bruni’s Luna Rossa team was the only one to go through 3-0, taking Phil Robertson’s WAKA Racing out of the competition. Sir Ben Ainslie’s Argo Group-backed team and Taylor Canfield’s USone both won their matches 3-1, respectively against Bjorn Hansen’s eWork Sailing Team and Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar. The only pairing to go the full nine yards was the Antipodean dust-up between Kiwi Adam Minoprio’s Team Alpari FX and Australian Keith Swinton’s Black Swan Racing, with Minoprio scraping through.
'It is incredible - I never thought we would win 3-0 against people who have been doing this for the last year full time,' said elated Italian, Francesco Bruni, who finished the 2011 Alpari World Match Racing Tour in second. 'I am very happy with how things are going with my crew.'
Bruni added he was pleased that despite being a penalty down in the second race they had managed to extend away from their Kiwi opponent enough to carry out their turn.
The Quarter Final shock was certainly Ian Williams, the current Alpari World Match Racing Tour leader, being dispatched by defending champion Taylor Canfield. Coming out on top in Qualifying yesterday, Williams had been able to choose his opponent for the Quarter Finals and had picked the US Virgin Islands sailor as he represented his most major threat in the overall points for the 2013 Alpari World Match Racing Tour. Sadly his choice back fired and after the pair drew level on 1-1, Canfield’s USone crew won the next two.
'We had a bunch of close ones,' said Canfield of the racing. 'I can’t tell you the number of times we converged, coming back together bow to bow. None of the races was ever really over except the first one, when had put a nice lead on them up the first beat.'
While the wind was further right today, it has still been blowing off the land making it particularly tricky for the tacticians. But Canfield said that as an ex-College sailor, he liked these conditions.
Another man experienced with going the right way in tricky conditions was Ben Ainslie’s triple Olympic medallist tactician, Iain Percy. The Team Manager for America’s Cup challenger Artemis Racing kept his cool today, helping Ainslie’s team win three straight after losing the first race to Bjorn Hansen’s team - not quite Oracle Team USA’s comeback, but good enough.
'It was such a tricky day with the breeze all over the place, once you got off the start line it was about getting the shifts right,' said Ainslie. 'And the boats are quite tweaky in those conditions, so it wasn’t easy for any of the teams.'
Bjorn Hansen admitted that he and his crew didn’t sail their best today. They were particularly sad to lose the second race when they had been leading but were a penalty down and had tried to carry out their turn coming into the final top mark, only for a wind shift to prevent this. The British Olympic legend closed in on them, and there wasn’t enough runway to carry out their turn before the finish. 'That was frustrating. They were just a bit better than us today,' said the Swedish skipper.
Adam Minoprio, skipper of Team Alpari FX arrived back at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club tired, but smiling. 'It was a very long morning for us. Keith took it all the way to the wire, but it was good to get a win over him in the final race after all the smart-arse Aussie remarks he was making about us at the press conference last night!' he said.
All their races were won in the pre-starts and once across the line it was a case of the rich getting richer. Minoprio said he was kicking himself for the two he lost. In one he got stuck in a slow tack on the start line, enabling Swinton to sail away from them while in the other he got his time on distance wrong and was simply late starting.
The Semi-Finals are scheduled to start tomorrow at 1300, preceded by the 5th-8th place series starting at 1000.
Last night Sir Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and many from the Argo Group Gold Cup attended the Andrew Simpson Gold Cup Benefit, including an auction which succeeded in raising US$ 86,780 for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation. Among the items that went for the most money were a Corum watch that fetched US$ 7,000 and a selection of Ben Ainslie’s Oracle Team USA memorabilia, including his helmet and rash vest, that raised US$ 5,950.
This money will go to encouraging children to go sailing, by providing both equipment and coaching facilities. At present this is just in the UK and Bermuda. To date one generous donor to the Foundation has already provided eight Optimist dinghies for use in Bermuda.
The event was hosted by CEO and President of Argo Group, Mark Watson and his wife Ana Paula in their home. 'We are incredibly grateful to them,' said Ainslie.
Taylor Canfield (ISV) beat Ian Williams (GBR) 3-1
Francesco Bruni (ITA) beat Phil Robertson (NZL) 3-0
Adam Minoprio (NZL) beat Keith Swinton (AUS) 3-2
Ben Ainslie (GBR) beat Bjorn Hansen (SWE) 3-1
Bermuda Gold Cup