Argo Group Gold Cup - Sir Ben Ainslie will race Adam Minoprio
by Talbot Wilson and Laurie Fullerton on 12 Oct 2013
As the top finisher in the Group two Stage one Qualifying round, Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR) BART/Argo Group, who had defeated Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team earlier Friday to qualify for the Semi Finals, was first to pick his opponent for the Semi Finals of the Argo Group Gold Cup. Ainslie saying, 'its not a nice lineup to pick from, but I choose to race Adam Minoprio.'
Francesco Bruni moves into the semi finals by defeating Phil Robertson. ©Talbot Wilson
Minoprio (NZL) Team Alpari FX replied, 'We look forward to racing Ben. We sailed against him in the semis two years and missed. We hope to do better.'
The other two semi finalists are Argo Group Gold Cup defending champion Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone sailing against Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa. Bruni said, 'We are just happy to be in the semis.' Canfield added, 'All the teams are tough.
This is certainly a star-studded semi final, one of the best in King Edward VII Gold Cup history. They are all reaching for the coveted ‘Golden Grail’ of match race sailing.
Sir Ben Ainslie from Lymington, England is fresh out of the 34th America’s Cup where he was the spirit of the now famous Oracle AC72 comeback from the brink of sudden death. He has won the Agro Group Gold Cup twice, in 2009 and 2010. Ainslie is the most successful sailor in Olympic history having won four gold and a silver medal. Sailing with Ainslie are Iain Percy, Matt Cornwell, and Christian Kamp.
Francesco Bruni, from Palermo, Sicily was the America’s Cup tactician for Luna Rossa and will play a key role in their next challenge. He is one of the most complete, eclectic and winning active Italian sailors in 30 years of the sport. He has won seven world, five European and 15 Italian championships in different classes: from Laser to Offshore, from Star to 49er. He has also reached first place in ISAF's Match Racing World ranking. He has raced with Team Luna Rossa in three America's Cup campaigns (2003, 2007, 2013). Bruni’s crew is Pierluigi de Felice, Xabi Fernandez and Nick Hutton.
Taylor Canfield from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands blasted away the competition at last year's Argo Group Gold Cup and is the defending champion. Having picked up an Alpari World Match Racing Tour card for 2013, he is currently tied for second on the Tour and is #1 in the ISAF Open rankings. He won the Tour’s Chicago Match Racing Regatta. Taylor and the USone team from the Chicago Match Race Center are defending the King Edward VII Gold Cup title. Sailing with Taylor are Rod Dawson, Dan Morris and Hayden Goodrick.
Adam Minoprio from Auckland, New Zealand is a former ISAF #1 Open ranked sailor. He was 2009 World Champion and is back as a Tour Card Holder for the 2013 season. He has had success this season finishing second in Germany, third in Korea and sixth in Sweden.
Minoprio returned to match racing after competing in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race where he finished second. In Argo Group Gold Cup competition, Minoprio and finished second in 2009, and fifth in 2010 and 2012. Maybe here in 2013, it is his turn to hoist the cup. Joining Minoprio on the boat are Dave Swete, Nick Blackman and Tom Powrie.
In Quarter Final action Friday, Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa swept his first three races against Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing to be the first skipper to reach the Semi Finals. Taylor Canfield (ISV) USone defeated Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar 3-1, Ainslie defeated Bjorn Hansen (SWE) eWork Sailing Team 3-1 and Minoprio went the full match distance taking Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 3-2.
Quotes of the Day:
Francesco Bruni: 'It is always very interesting out there on Hamilton Harbour as the race is never really finished until the very end - this is because in general - and especially today- it is a very shifty and puffy place to sail. What we have had is some very good boat speed and we have played it statistically very well. It is not always easy and in this kind of sailing it is never a one-way track. It makes match-racing here very interesting. Whenever you sail very close to shore with an offshore breeze, it becomes very hard to predict the shifts. The water is so clear here – however – you can see the shifts on the water sometimes. What you do have here is never really an issue of current – it is all driven by wind shifts.'We have been to the semi-finals here before, but did not win our match then against Johnnie Berntsson. This time we are hoping to make it all the way.'
Taylor Canfield: 'During this race today we were always sailing with our head out of the boat. The toughest part was the wind direction and it was a lot like the finals last year. We really had to pick the best places to tack and at the same time we were trying very hard to extend our lead. With an IOD that is difficult … but at the top mark we were able to flop over Ian Williams and lead into the mark. We were able to hop back into a comfortable position once we got a little distance with him. Williams was carrying a penalty so that also gave us an edge.
'This was one of the hardest quarter finals because we were presented with going up against the defending world champion on our first meet-up. We were on the edge of being pushed out of the title but it looks better for us now.
'Granted we were a little bit out of phase on the first day of this event with two losses, but since then we started doing the things that work for us. When Williams picked us first – I believe they wanted to go all the way. We are feeling good about the win. We were able to hold him back.
'We are happy to get into the semi finals and everyone is on form so we just have to keep our cool. We have been managing to stay cool through it all. It is great so far.'
Ben Ainslie: 'It was really difficult out there and the day was windy with a lot of tricky shifts. Obviously we are really happy to be through the semi-finals. We are juggling a lot here in and out of the boat so staying focused has been a bit of a challenge but we are enjoying the racing and doing well.'
Iain Percy, Ainslie’s main trimmer added: 'We always enjoy racing against Bjorn Hansen because he is such a gentleman. It was light and tricky winds so anything can happen and it really always comes down to the last weekend here. We just have to stay on form and although we are a little bit out of phase with match racing, it really does all come down to the last weekend.'
Adam Minoprio: 'Hamilton Harbor is a really special place to sail. The shifty conditions mean that you have to really know who is going to get the shifts but that is what makes it unique. The fifth and final race against Keith Swinton was three times around and the breeze was really shifty so our boat was going from eight knots to two knots at times. It was really tricky.
'I can say by the final race it was all about the shifts and we prevailed to win the day. The last race came down to the shifts and we came into the top mark and Swinton tacked to find breeze and we kept our course. We got the shift and powered ahead and that is what gave us the race.'
Racing for fifth-eighth places begins at 10:00 ADT Saturday
Semi Final Racing begins at 1:00 ADT Saturday.
Bermuda weather forecast
Saturday - Winds southwesterly 8 to 12 knots, veering westerly by evening, then northwesterly overnight.
Sunday - Winds northerly 5 to 10 knots, veering east-northeasterly and increasing 10 to 15 knots in the afternoon.