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69th Argo Group Gold Cup at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club - Day 1

by Sean McNeill 7 May 2019 18:52 PDT 7-12 May 2019
Australia's Harry Price (right) and his Down Under Racing team douse the spinnaker heading to a leeward mark on Day 1 of the Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson

An active first day of racing at the 69th Argo Group Gold Cup saw 36 matches completed across nine flights of racing and led to a first-timer holding the Day 1 lead.

Harry Price of Australia, the 23-year-old debutante who was the 2017 Youth match racing world champion, leads the regatta with 5 points from six races. He stands tied with grizzled veteran Ian Williams of the U.K., the 42-year-old six-time match racing world champion, but beat Williams head-to-head in Flight 6 to hold the tiebreak advantage.

"I'm really impressed with Harry," said Williams, who won the Argo Group Gold Cup in 2006 when Price was 11 years old. "The boats are difficult and there's a lot to get your head around. So good on him."

"Bermuda gave us an interesting day," said Price. "It was quite shifty and with the windward mark being tucked underneath the buildings, that made it anyone's race. We struggled to win the pre-starts but managed to get off the line even. Then we sailed our own race and did well to pick the shifts and get the lead."

Holding third place is Chris Poole of the U.S. with 4.33 points, while Johnie Berntsson of Sweden and Torvar Mirsky of Australia are tied for fourth, each with 4 points.

After the top five Eric Monnin of Switzerland and Maxime Mesnil of France each have 3 points, but Monnin holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. Nicklas Dackhammar of Sweden is eighth with 2 points, Lucy Macgregor of the U.K. is ninth, Ettore Botticini of Italy is 10th, Pauline Courtois of France is 11th and Kelsey Durham of Bermuda has yet to win a race in his match racing debut.

"We knew a few rules of match racing before today, and now we know a lot more," Durham said at the end of the day. Durham was disqualified from his third race when he failed to complete a pre-start penalty turn after taking to the racecourse.

All in all, it was a busy day for the on-water umpires, who handed out 23 penalties in the 36 matches. At the completion of the round robin the top four advance directly to the quarterfinals while the remaining eight crews sail a repechage round with the top four advancing to the quarterfinals. So the pressure is on to finish in the top four to gain some extra rest.

"We were happy to get out of Day 1 with more wins than losses," said Williams. "For us, we just have to keep pushing and get through to the quarterfinals and get a bit of rest. Us old boys need our rest."

The worst collision of the day involved Poole and Botticini in their match in Flight 3. Poole, on starboard, attempted to duck the port-tack Botticini to get to the other side. But Botticini appeared to want to duck Poole and also bore away. The two crews were essentially headed straight at each other before both helmsmen pushed the tiller away from them. The boats headed up into a collision that damaged the boom and gunwale of Botticini's boat.

A protest hearing on the water after the race saw Poole penalized one point for the incident. But he filed a subsequent protest that was heard after racing and the international jury reduced his penalty to.67 points while also penalizing Botticini.33 points. The jury penalized both crews under Rule 14, failing to avoid collision. If not for the penalty, Poole would be equal on points with Price and Williams.

"We were on starboard on the lay line and tried to duck and go behind him, but then he bore off," said Poole. "We tried to head up and avoid the collision but then he headed up too."

Botticini said that in the resulting collision Poole's bow wound up between the boom and the deck of his boat. "It was a huge crash," said Botticini. "Thankfully, everyone was safe."

Price's youthful crew could likely party all night and still find their way around the racecourse. They showed a deft today touching picking their way through a very shifty racecourse. The forecast conditions of 15 to 20 knots never materialized because the frontal system moved through last night quicker than expected.

That left behind a shifty north/northwesterly that blew between 8 and 12 knots while swinging through an arc of 30 to 50 degrees. No lead was safe, but conversely, no deficit was too large to overcome.

"We tended to favor the left side," said Berntsson's tactician/bowman Anders Dahlsjo, "but the right side was working, too."

Racing resumes tomorrow at 1000 hours with 30 matches scheduled to complete the round robin. The Bermuda Weather Service is forecasting winds from the northeast at 8 to 12 knots, meaning another head-scratching day for everyone involved.

2019 Argo Group Gold Preliminary Round Robin Standings:

1. Harry Price (23, Sydney, Australia) 5 points
Crew: George Anyon, Taylor Balogh, Connor Mashlan
2. Ian Williams (42, Lymington, England, U.K.) 5
Crew: Gerry Mitchell, Tom Powrie, Richard Sydenham
3. Chris Poole (30, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., USA) 4.33
Crew: Emily Nagel, Patrick Vos, Josh Wijohn
4. Johnie Berntsson (48, Stennungsund, Sweden) 4
Crew: Anders Dahlsjo, Erik Malmberg, Carl-Johan Uckelstan
4. Torvar Mirsky (32, Sydney, Australia) 4
Crew: Ian Coleman, Rob Scrivenor, Cameron Seagreen
6. Eric Monnin (43, Immensee, Switzerland) 3
Crew: Simon Brügger, Lukas Gerig, Marc Monnin, Alain Stettler
7. Maxime Mesnil (30, Le Havre, France) 3
Crew: Yann Chateau, Hugo Feydit, Yves-Marie Pilon
8. Nicklas Dackhammar (SWE) 2
Crew: Olof Lundgren, Eric Malmberg, Jakob Wilson
9. Lucy Macgregor (32, Poole, England, U.K.) 2
Crew: Sally Barkow, Bethan Carden, Francesca Clapach, Kate Macgregor
10. Ettore Botticini (23, Porto Santo Stefano, Italy) 1.67
Crew: Simone Busonero, Luca Camilli Meletani, Andrea Fornaro, Lorenzo Gennari
11. Pauline Courtois (30, Brest, France) 1
Crew: Cédric Chateau, Nathalie Corson, Eric le Joliff
12. Kelsey Durham (25, Smiths, Bermuda) 0
Crew: Stevie Dickinson, Campbell Duffy, Heath Foggo

Full Argo Group Gold Cup standings and results available here.

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