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Bermuda Gold Cup skippers' list nearly finalized

by Royal Bermuda Yacht Club 1 Aug 2023 11:14 PDT 2-7 October 2023
Pauline Courtois (center), the three-time Women's Match Racing World Champion, will take aim at the Bermuda Gold Cup for the third time in October © Charles Anderson

The lineup for the Bermuda Gold Cup, a World Championship event of the World Match Racing Tour scheduled Oct. 2-7, is nearly complete, with 14 of the 16 invitees confirmed.

The Bermuda Gold Cup, raced for the century-old King Edward VII Gold Cup, has attracted a world-class field to race on the confines of Hamilton Harbour. The co-ed list of skippers includes the reigning event champion, Taylor Canfield, as well as the reigning Open, Women's and Youth world champions.

"We're very pleased with the lineup for the Bermuda Gold Cup. It reflects a great cross section of the best match racers in the world," said Event Chair Jon Corless of host Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. "The Bermuda Gold Cup has invited female skippers dating back to the 1990s, and the club is proud that the Gold Cup is recognized as an event where male and female skippers and crews can compete on an equal playing field."

The three female skippers are the top three in the Women's World Match Race Rankings and are led by Pauline Courtois (Brest, France), who won the Women's Match Racing World Championship for the third consecutive year three weeks ago.

Courtois is having a stellar year across multiple disciplines. May, in particular, was a busy month. On May 19, Courtois placed third in the doublehanded Transat Paprec, a 3,890-nautical mile race from France to the West Indies. Ten days later Courtois won the Normandie Match Cup (Le Havre, France) for the second consecutive year. She won 17 of 18 races enroute to the championship, including eight consecutive wins from the quarterfinals through the final.

Courtois returns to the Bermuda Gold Cup for the third time.

"The welcome in Bermuda is always very warm, the sailing area is one of the most beautiful on which we have had the chance to sail, and the level of competition is always incredible," said Courtois. "Trying offshore racing allowed me to learn new things. It forced me to adapt very quickly and to try to be as efficient as ever after 20 days at sea. Even if the disciplines are different, they are very complementary."

Anna Östling (Lerum, Sweden) and Celia Willison (Auckland, New Zealand) round out the women's card in Bermuda and placed second and fourth, respectively, at the Women's Match Racing Worlds. Östling returns for her second Gold Cup while Willison makes her debut.

The men's side is led by World No. 1 Chris Poole (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., USA), who's making his seventh Bermuda Gold Cup appearance. Poole has ascended to No. 1 in the world on a strong year. He won the Congressional Cup in April, going undefeated in 24 races, and finished second at the GKSS Match Cup Sweden in early July. Both regattas are World Championship events of the World Match Racing Tour.

"Coming out of the coronavirus we made a change to the way we sail the boat," said the 34-year-old Poole. "I used to drive and do tactics, but that wasn't a good formula. I found a tactician in Joachim Aschenbrenner (Fredensborg, Denmark) who sees the course the way that I do, and that allows me to concentrate more on steering and boatspeed. I think it's worked out well."

Other skippers include Johnie Berntsson (Stenungsund, Sweden), Taylor Canfield (Miami, USA) and Ian Williams (Lymington, England), who collectively have won four of the past five Bermuda Gold Cups dating back to 2014.

In 2020, when the Bermuda Gold Cup was last raced, Canfield beat Williams in an epic final sailed in 12 to 20 knots of wind on Hamilton Harbour. The key to the match was the pre-start of Race 2, when Canfield seemed to drive Williams into the port side of the commentary boat. Williams received an on-water penalty and after the race was assessed a points penalty for damage caused in the collision.

Neither Canfield nor Williams have done much match racing in the past couple years, as evidenced by their high world ranking, but both will be among the favorites when the Gold Cup returns to the water.

"The Gold Cup is such an iconic regatta on the World Match Racing Tour, it is a really important event to have on the Tour," said Williams. "It is special for me as it was the first WMRT regatta that I won (in 2006), although since then I do not have the best record there. The boats are a challenge for us with the way we are set up, but that won't stop us trying as hard as we can to get as far in the competition as we can."

Two other entrants are the reigning Youth Match Racing World Champion, 21-year-old Jeffrey Peterson (Santa Ana, Calif., USA), and the Open Match Racing World Champion, Nick Egnot-Johnson (Auckland, New Zealand). The son of Leslie Egnot-Johnson, who skippered the Mighty Mary all-women crew in the 1995 Citizen Cup Selection Trials of the America's Cup, the match racing world champion makes his debut in Bermuda.

"I believe that the Bermuda Gold Cup is one of the most prestigious match race events in the world. There have been so many big names that have competed in this event, so we feel super privileged to have received the invitation to come and compete in the event," said Egnot-Johnson.

The final two skippers and crews will be determined from the Bermuda National Match Racing Championship and the Oakcliff International 2023 (Sept. 5-9).

Visit the Bermuda Gold Cup and World Match Racing Tour websites for more information.

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