While the 2011 ISAF Match Racing World Championship cannot be decided at the Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda, Peter Gilmour believes it could be a defining event for a number of the teams still vying for the overall title.
Gilmour (AUS) Yanmar Racing has lifted the Gold Cup on three occasions and accepts current Tour leader Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar is the in-form skipper however he also believes the variables in Bermuda will give the chasing teams a great chance to boost their title hopes. Equally, a poor performance by some of the teams on the fringes of contention could spell an end to their 2011 Championship dreams.
'This event is a really special one. The format here is amazing and it’s really a testament to the quality of the event that all nine Tour Card Holders are competing and all have the possibility of going out early. The weather conditions are always interesting too - I’ve been coming here for years and there’s always something different. Bermuda is just a small point in the Atlantic so the weather just rolls over it.'
'It’s an important event for the young sailors as it gives them the opportunity to go toe to toe with the professionals. Some of these young guys will beat us in a race or two and some may even knock us out. You see them take wins here and they live off it, it shapes them and that’s really important.'
Gilmour is just one of the teams hoping to make some gains in the Championship here in Bermuda and is confident his experience will put him in good stead: 'I’ve personally had a really great past here - I really enjoy the heavy displacement boats and have great memories here of going five races in the finals with Russell Coutts. As a team, Yanmar has had a really great year. We’ve lost Cameron [Dunn] to Volvo [Ocean Race] but we’ve now got Simon Shaw on board so for us it’s onwards and upwards.'
As Gilmour acknowledges, the Argo Group Gold Cup, with over 24 competing teams is the perfect event for aspiring match racers to earn some recognition on the world stage by taking some big names down.
While the 2011 event is set to host no fewer than five previous Gold Cup winners and all nine Tour Card Holders, it will also include a pool of young match racers including 21-year old Peter Miller (BER), who has yet to compete in a Grade 1 event let alone a World Championship competition, and fellow local 18-year old Lance Fraser (BER). While these guys accept it’s a tall order to reach the knock-out stages, they remain bullish about their chances too.
'It means a lot to us to be racing at an event like this, to be racing against the top guys,' said Fraser. 'It was our goal to make it back this year and take on these top guys again and do better. This year we’re hoping to get into the repechage and then hopefully make it through even further. We do have the home advantage and know what’s going on in the harbour. Anything can happen here!'
This year’s Gold Cup also includes the inaugural ‘Jordy Walker Trophy’, created in memory of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s past Commodore and Match Race Association founder, the late B.W. ‘Jordy’ Walker. It will be awarded at the end of the Gold Cup to the most improved young match race sailor on the Tour and/or its qualifying events.
Last week, Argo Group Gold Cup Chairman, Brian Billings, said he felt the contenders for the Jordy Walker Trophy could well be the ones to grab the headlines here in Hamilton. Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing must be one of those names having just won the Chicago Match Cup.
'Any good press is always nice so if we were lucky enough to win the Jordy Walker Trophy it would be a real honour,' said Swinton. 'Chicago was obviously really successful for us and it gives us confidence coming to Bermuda where we hope to make the quarter-finals. We spent some time over the past few weeks training in Sweden against Ian Williams and Johnie Berntsson so that’s helped us get a feel for the boats. It’s good to have the likes of fellow Perth sailors Peter Gilmour and Torvar Mirsky to look up to - having them lead the way like they have shows what can be done.'
The Argo Group Gold Cup follows a different competition format to the other seven events on the World Match Racing Tour. The 24 teams are represented by 13 different countries with teams split into three groups of eight for the qualifying sessions. The two top skippers from each group go straight through to the quarter-finals while the third and fourth placed teams from each group go to a repechage round from which the top two teams join the six other quarter-finalists.
The first match in qualifying gets underway at 0900 local time (-4hrs GMT) on Tuesday 4 October and will feature Blythe Walker (BER) Team RenRe against Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners.
World Match Racing Tour website