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Berntsson joins sailing’s elite

Posted on 27 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: WMRT] Johnie Berntsson and his Stena Sailing Team today followed the world’s top sailors such as Russell Coutts, Peter Gilmour, Ben Ainslie and Chris Dickson in becoming a two time victor of the Argo Group Gold Cup, the sixth stage of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. The 42-year-old Swede claimed the title 3-1 over Switzerland’s Eric Monnin in perfect conditions on Bermuda’s Hamilton Harbour with 11 knots of northwest wind and the morning’s cloud cover giving way to glorious sunshine.

The first two races were close featuring lead changes despite big splits between the competitors across the race course. In the first race Berntsson sneaked ahead of the Swiss team coming into the weather mark for the first time and hung on to the lead from there, despite Monnin continually nipping at his heels. In the second Berntsson led Monnin down the run, eventually taking the Swiss team well beyond the leeward gate before gybing back with the advantage. Monnin kept it close, but was unable get in front.

For race three, at match point for Berntsson, Monnin narrowly won a tacking duel going into the top mark to sneak inside Berntsson. After big splits down the run and again up the second beat, when the two boats converged coming into the top mark Monnin had extended and maintained his lead to the finish.

The fourth race saw the most lead changes with Berntsson ahead out of the start, Monnin pulling in front by the top mark, Berntsson then rolling the Swiss on the run…. However the decisive moment came towards the end of the second beat when Monnin picked up a penalty for tacking too close.

Eric Monnin and Johnie Berntsson in the Finals of Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Eric Monnin and Johnie Berntsson in the Finals of Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson / AGGC

3-1 to Berntsson, who with his crew of tactician Robert Skarp, Bjorn Lundgren, Oscar Angervall, picked up the winner’s King Edward VII Gold Cup as well as the US$50,000 prize for first place.

“Winning this is so extraordinary,” commented a jubilant Berntsson after his victor’s dip in Hamilton Harbour. “We have done it once, we never thought we could do it twice. We are so happy that we have been so successful this week.” Berntsson previously won here in 2008. “This and the Congressional Cup are the two top victories we have.”

Of his Swiss opponent, Berntsson said: “We were never safe – the races we won, they were so close behind we had to fight really hard. Thanks to Robert, Bjorn and Oscar, who drove the boat fast and picked the right shifts allowing us to come back when we were behind, which were really crucial to winning.”

Explaining the big splits, the winning skipper explained: “The wind was not shifty – it was more puffy, so it was crucial to find the best spot and with these boats if you tack too much, you lose speed. I think the corners were better than the middle of the course, so if one of the teams chose one side you had to choose the other one if you wanted to get in front.”

Runner-up Eric Monnin praised Berntsson. “Congratulations to Johnie and the whole team – they did an excellent job. We just tried to find somewhere to squeeze in, which we could sometimes, sbut in the end they were stronger than us. We made some little mistakes, but honestly speaking Johnie had a great race throughout.”

Semi Final surprises 

This morning there was upset for the Alpari World Match Tour frontrunners when both Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar team and Taylor Canfield’s US One were knocked out in the Semi Finals. These races were held in a light northerly breeze blowing off downtown Hamilton, making for tricky, shifty winds on the race course.

Williams had picked Monnin to race in the Semi Final, leaving Canfield to line up against Berntsson. Williams, at this point unbeaten throughout this Argo Group Gold Cup, got off to a good start winning the first match, however Monnin went on to claim the next three.

© Charles Anderson/ RBYC

© Charles Anderson/ RBYC

The start of the penultimate race was particularly disappointing for Williams, as he described it: “We had him [Monnin] put away and we just got hooked and were a second over the start line with a penalty when we should have led comfortably off the line. He did a nice job, he did one tack and one gybe on each run and picked the left side and got it right. It was very hard to attack him from there.”

Berntsson v Canfield Semi Final went the full distance and then wasn’t decided until the final run when Berntsson rolled Canfield. Canfield gave his take on this: “Johnie tried to roll us. We had a piece of him as we luffed up. By not coming up as well he was able to get over the top of us and lead down to the leeward mark. If he had gone up with us, we would have been in better shape and he wouldn’t have had as big of a lead or have even have gotten the lead. But the umpires saw it differently.”

In terms of the top of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour’s overall scoreboard, the outcome of the Argo Group Gold Cup makes no difference, with Williams still holding a six point lead over Canfield going into the final event of the season, the Monsoon Cup. However by finishing fifth here, Bjorn Hansen has moved to within seven points of third placed Mathieu Richard.

Overall results of Stage 6 Argo Group Gold Cup, Alpari World Match Racing Tour

1 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team
2 Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team
3 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One
4 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
5 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team
6 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team
7 Staffan Linberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing
8 Marek Stanczyk (POL) Henri Lloyd Rainmaker Racing
9 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa
10 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
11 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
12 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour
13 Nathan Outteridge (SWE) Artemis Racing
14 Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing
15 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
16 Arthur Herreman (FRA) Match The World
17 Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NED) Korpershoek Racing
18 Somers Kempe (BER) Raymarine/Ocean Electronics
19 Lance Fraser (BER) Digicel Bermuda
20 David Storrs (USA) Pequot Racing Team

Final
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team bt Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team 3-1

Petit Final
Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One bt Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 2-1

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Light air drama

Posted on 26 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:WMRT] A frontal system edging its way towards Bermuda resulted in light winds, a grey sky and racing eventually being canned early, but not before the remaining Quarter Final flights had been completed at the Argo Group Gold Cup, the sixth stage of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.

Today patience and maintaining focus reaped dividends and it came as little surprise when Swiss lake racing specialist Eric Monnin provided a masterclass in light air racing. 1-0 up at the close of play yesterday, Monnin roundly dispatched France’s Pierre-Antoine Morvan’s Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 3-0, finishing both today’s matches almost half a leg ahead, to earn his Semi Final berth.

“We like these conditions – it is what we are used to!” said Monnin, who normally races in the typically light winds on Lake Geneva. “We were able to get speed in the boat and got the puffs and the shifts, sailing a bit like we were alone. It is great for us.”

Quarter Finals © Charles Anderson

Quarter Finals © Charles Anderson

 

Ian Williams and his GAC Pindar crew also went through the Quarter Finals with a 3-0 scoreline against Poland’s plucky Marek Stanczyk and his Henri Lloyd Rainmaker Racing team. For Williams the racing was much closer. In both his matches today Stanczyk was over early and had to restart immediately putting him on the back foot. However on both occasions he managed to fight back into contention.

As Williams observed: “It was tricky out there and it was hard to defend the lead. Often the boat behind at the top mark would be quite strong down the run, but we were able to dominate the starts and be able to start a little faster, which gave us options and we were generally just far enough ahead at the top mark, which made it easier to defend on the run. It worked out well for us.”

Quarter Final deciding race between the two Swedish teams © Charles Anderson

Quarter Final deciding race between the two Swedish teams © Charles Anderson

 

Impressively Williams’ GAC Pindar team has made it all the way through Qualifying and the Quarter Finals without suffering a loss. Obviously this comes through experience and sailing well, but Williams believes there may be more to it. “It is often the way in Bermuda that you can get on a winning streak or a losing streak and if it’s the latter, they are hard to turn around. Obviously things have gone our way.”

Taylor Canfield and his US One team had a hard fought series against Finland’s Staffan Lindberg and his Alandia Sailing Team. Lindberg initially levelled the scoreline to 1-1 in today’s first flight. In the opening two races Canfield managed to plant a penalty on his opponent. In the first Lindberg managed to get suitably far ahead to be able to carry out his penalty successfully at the finish line, but in the second he didn’t. Ultimately in the fourth flight it was the defending Alpari World Match Racing Tour champion who sealed the deal 3-1 to go through to the next round.

Marek Stanczyk trails Ian Williams in the Quarter Finals © Charles Anderson

Marek Stanczyk trails Ian Williams in the Quarter Finals © Charles Anderson

 

Today’s most closely fought matches came in the ‘Swede-off’ between tour card holder Björn Hansen and former holder Johnie Berntsson with his Stena Sailing Team. This was the only Quarter Final bout to go the full distance and proof that even in the lightest conditions match racing can still provide edge of the seat tension.

Prospects were not looking good for Hansen this morning starting Match 3 0-2 down against his opponent. However he successfully fought back to level the score 2-2 and was clearly on a roll. The first attempt at a decider came to nothing when the wind severely clocked right, turning the beat into a ‘one tacker’ and was stopped by the Race Committee. In the second all was going well for Hansen as he led around the race track until the very last run. During this he was rolled in a gybe, a text book match racing play by Berntsson who then carried the lead to the line.

“We did it pretty well even in the last race,” mused Hansen, “but the second time at the top mark the breeze just died and when the new breeze came from behind, Johnnie managed to catch up and that gybe was a very difficult decision for us to make. He was coming in with more speed, and there is always the risk to be rolled in that situation. I think over the series they did a better job than we did and that is why they are in the Semi’s not us.”

Johnie Berntsson was ecstatic about winning against his fellow countryman. “It all came down to the last downwind. When the wind is so light it is really tricky to lead, even for Björn. We covered him as much as we could and put the gybes in the positions where we wanted and after two gybes we passed him and could just stay in front. Our tactician Rob Scarp did a really good job especially during the downwinds – that made a big, big difference and meant we could pass Björn.”

The race committee postponed proceedings waiting for the wind to fill in until mid-afternoon when the racing for the day was cancelled. However by this time Ian Williams had already drawn his Semi Final opponent in Eric Monnin, leaving Taylor Canfield to face Johnie Berntsson.

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Tour Card Holders Crash Out

Posted on 25 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:WMRT] Picture perfect conditions returned to Bermuda for the third and final day of Qualifying at the Argo Group Gold Cup. After yesterday’s torrential rain, Hamilton Harbour was bathed in glorious sunshine and breeze that by lunchtime was gusting up to the mid-teens. With the conclusion of Qualifying, the top four of the ten teams in each of the two Groups made it through to the Quarter Finals while a surprisingly high number of Alpari World Match Racing Tour card holders failed to make the cut. In fact just three – Ian Williams and his GAC Pindar crew, defending Tour champion Taylor Canfield and his US One team and Bjorn Hansen – made the top eight.

While the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour leaders, Williams and Canfield, qualified in comfort yesterday, ending the series on 8.5 and 8 points respectively, with Bjorn Hansen and former Tour Card holder Johnnie Berntsson also standing out in Group 1, for the final four it was the usual close run thing. This was particularly true for Group 2 where in the final flight the winner of the Monnin v Poole and Gilmour v Stanczyk matches would go through while the loser would be on the flight home. Ultimately it was Switzerland’s Eric Monnin and Poland’s Marek Stanczyk and his Henri Lloyd Rainmaker Racing crew that were successful.

Ian Williams and his GAC Pindar team aced the Qualifying at Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Ian Williams and his GAC Pindar team aced the Qualifying at Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Stanczyk was over the moon to have got through after a bumpy ride through this regatta, leading the first day while one of his crew suffering an injury yesterday. Today he bounced back. “I feel very good,” he said. “I was a little disappointed in the first race which we lost because of a problem with the jib tack which we didn’t solve as well as we should have. We sailed the second upwind leg with the jib totally eased.” His crew Lukasz Kacprowski was back on board with a plaster covering the gash to his forehead, caused when he was hit by the boom yesterday as the Polish team threw themselves into a penalty turn in their match against Taylor Canfield. “He had the choice of having the cut stitched or glued and he had it glued because he is worried about his looks and didn’t want stitches!” confided Stancyzk.

 Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Argo Group Gold Cup © Charles Anderson / AGGC

For Tour Card Holder David Gilmour the outcome today was less good, losing their final match to the Poles. “We felt in control of most of the prestart and then we made one small mistake right at the end – I tried to go for the kill rather than just getting a clear start and that cost us the whole race. I look back to the rest of the regatta and we had so many missed opportunities, which made it quite tough,” said Gilmour. France’s Mathieu Richard and his LunaJets crew also came close to making it through in Group 2, but were put out of the running when they were docked 0.5 points for causing damage following a collision in their match against Canfield.

In Group 1, the outcome was a more complex and controversial one. This stemmed from a pre-start collision between Francesco Bruni and his Luna Rossa team and Keith Swinton’s Team Alpari FX crew. Swinton described it: “There was a dial-up – we were on starboard, they were on port. I think there was a bit of extra pressure today which we hadn’t really sailed in yet in this event and I just misjudged the dial-up and maybe turned up a little bit too late and we had small contact with them – our bow just hit the side of their boat. We were turning slightly later than him, so we got the penalty.” This collision saw Swinton docked 0.5 points and unhappy with this decision Swinton resorted to the jury. A hearing was promptly held and it was deemed that the points deduction had been appropriate. With this his Quarter Final berth evaporated. “We had a feeling that potentially the damage had been caused previously to that boat,” explained Swinton. “But the boat guy said we had caused some damage, so unfortunately we lost half a point and that made all the difference. It was unfortunate. We’ll just have to put it behind us.”

Polish match racer Stancyzk mastered the conditions today © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Polish match racer Stancyzk mastered the conditions today © Charles Anderson / AGGC

As a result of Swinton’s half point deduction, former tour card holder, France’s Pierre Antoine Morvan and his Vannes Agglo Sailing Team claimed the final Quarter Final berth in Group 1.“We were a bit lucky, because we lost two races today,” admitted Morvan, who finished fifth at the Chicago Match Cup recently. “We need to up our level for the quarters.” The match that Morvan felt had made the most difference to their scoreline was when they beat defending Argo Group Gold Cup champion, Francesco Bruni and his Luna Rossa America’s Cup crew.

Quarter-Finals Results

Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team bt Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 1-0

Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team bt Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 1-0

Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One bt Staffan Linberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 1-0

Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar bt Marek Stanczyk (POL) Henri Lloyd Rainmaker Racing 1-0

Final Results of Qualifying 

Group 1

1 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 8.5-0

2 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 7-2

3 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 6-3

4 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 5-4

5 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa 4.5-4

6 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 4.5-4

7 Arthur Herreman (FRA) Match The World 2-7

8 Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NED) Korpershoek Racing 2-7

9 Somers Kempe (BER) Raymarine/Ocean Electronics 2-7

10 David Storrs (USA) Pequot Racing Team 1.5-7

Group 2

1 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One 8-1

2 Staffan Linberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 5-4

3 Marek Stanczyk (POL) Henri Lloyd Rainmaker Racing 5-4

4 Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team 5-4

5 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 4.5-4

6 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 4-5

7 Nathan Outteridge (SWE) Artemis Racing 4-5

8 Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing 4-5

9 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 3-6

10 Lance Fraser (BER) Digicel Bermuda 2-7

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Canfield and Williams shine in Bermuda

Posted on 24 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:WMRT] Conditions turned decidedly damp for the second day of racing at the Argo Group Gold Cup, stage six of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. A front slowly crossing Bermuda brought with it an overcast sky and rain squalls. Nonetheless, despite squelching their way ashore completely soaked, the Group 2 crews enjoyed the morning’s stronger breeze, the wind less shifty having veered into the southwest overnight, blowing down Hamilton Harbour rather than across it.

Mathieu Richard mastering the brisk conditions © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Mathieu Richard mastering the brisk conditions © Charles Anderson / AGGC

At the close of play, with the competitors divided into two groups for Qualifying, 10 of the 12 flights have been completed in Group 2 and nine in Group 1.

Qualifying will conclude tomorrow, but already the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour championship leaders have secured their berths in the Quarter Final top eight with first placed Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar crew unbeaten in Group 1 and second placed Taylor Canfield’s US One team, holding just one loss in Group 2.

This morning saw the wind gusting into the high teens, which was enough to make the classic International One Design yachts a handful for the crews, who struggled to prevent ‘death rolls’ and Chinese gybes. Unfortunately during one match, Lukasz Kacprowski, crewman for yesterday’s overall leader Marek Stanczyk, sustained a cut to his head after he was struck by the boom. He was subsequently taken to hospital and received stitches.

Eric Monnin chases Canfield downwind © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Eric Monnin chases Canfield downwind © Charles Anderson / AGGC

The most dramatic race of the morning was between Nathan Outteridge and Taylor Canfield. As the US Virgin Island skipper and defending Alpari World Match Racing Tour champion described it: “We were just behind coming on the first run and gybed on his breeze and probably the max puff of the day came in and we had a big windward heel, wipe-out situation as he started to luff us…” The result was the rigs of the IODs locking momentarily and a penalty for Canfield.

The two boats split at the leeward gate with Canfield taking the right and managing to plant a penalty on Outteridge for tacking too close, wiping his own penalty in the process. Outteridge made a last ditch attempt as the port tack boat to get in front coming into the top mark, but failed and was rewarded with a red flag penalty. Game over.

“It was good, the tightest race we’ve had all week,” commented Outteridge. “I think when it gets shifty one boat gets ahead but in that one, no one was ever clear ahead the whole way around.”

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Wet conditions for Artemis Racing © Charles Anderson / AGGC

As to racing at both his first Tour event and first Argo Group Gold Cup, the 49er gold medallist from London 2012 added: “It’s been good apart from the weather, which was a bit average today. We are happy – we won a couple of starts today which was a good improvement. We are on the rise.” Sadly with a 4-5 scoreline, his team, representing Swedish America’s Cup challenger Artemis Racing, looks unlikely to make the Quarter Finals, strangely also true of the other America’s Cup team competing – Luna Rossa – defending champions here, which ended the day on a disappointing 2.5 points.

Among the success stories of the day was Mathieu Richard. “Coming from Brittany – we love the rain!” said the LunaJets skipper. “It is obviously better to sail in the sun – it is a bit different in the rain, because you can’t read the shifts on the water, but that is the same for everyone.” However the Frenchman’s mood was more due to winning all his three matches today: Yesterday he won just one.

Group 1 took over from Group 2 at lunchtime, coinciding with the rain stopping, the heavens clearing marginally, but the wind dropping below 10 knots.

GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams won all his matches leaving him on 7.5 points with one race to sail tomorrow. “It was a little bit more straightforward today with the breeze in the west,” he said. “Not a great deal of excitement, but that’s how we like it!”

Fellow Tour Card holder, Bjorn Hansen was also unbeaten and now holds second in Group 1 to Williams. Being among the second group to have gone out today, the Swedish skipper was pleased to have missed the rain, sailing in this afternoon’s slightly brighter and more benign conditions on Hamilton Harbour. “I am extremely happy about that. The first group coming in looked a little bit wet!” he said.

In Bermuda Hansen is sailing with Danish match racer and stand-in tactician Rasmus Køstner, who is having to change gears, returning to the Tour from catamaran racing at the Extreme Sailing Series. “It feels good on board – everyone has found their roles and I think that we are sailing fast and we are making them right decisions,” said Hansen.

But the main memory of the day will be the soggy conditions. “I was saturated head to toe!” commented Taylor Canfield after he’d dried off. “But it was great breeze and that was all you could ask for. Hopefully we’ll have more of that tomorrow.”

Stage 6 Argo Group Gold Cup, Alpari World Match Racing Tour

Group 1 Results After Flight 9
1 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 7.5-0
2 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 6-1
3 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 5-2
4 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 4-3
5 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 4-3
6 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa 3-4
7 Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NED) Korpershoek Racing 2-5
8 David Storrs (USA) Pequot Racing Team 1.5-5
9 Arthur Herreman (FRA) Match The World 1-6
10 Somers Kempe (BER) Raymarine/Ocean Electronics 1-7

Group 2 Results After Flight 10
1 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One 7-1
2 Staffan Linberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 5-3
3 Marek Stanczyk (POL) Henri Lloyd Rainmaker Racing 4-3
4 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 4-3
5 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 4-4
6 Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team 4-4
7 Nathan Outteridge (SWE) Artemis Racing 4-5
8 Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing 3-4
9 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 2-6
10 Lance Fraser (BER) Digicel Bermuda 2-6

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Pole Position

Posted on 23 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:WMRT] Despite the best efforts of Tropical Storm Fay and then Hurricane Gonzalo, the Argo Group Gold Cup, the sixth stage of the 2014 Alpari World Match Racing Tour, set sail on Bermuda’s Hamilton Harbour today, albeit postponed by 24 hours.

Holding a slender lead after the opening day is surprisingly not one of the eight Alpari World Match Racing Tour card holders, nor one of the America’s Cup teams, but an amateur crew from Poland. Marek Stańczyk builds and sells boats for a living, while in his crew are a lawyer and a computer programmer.

Ian Williams, GAC Pindar leading Francesco Bruni, Luna Rossa © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Ian Williams, GAC Pindar leading Francesco Bruni, Luna Rossa © Charles Anderson / AGGC

 

Stańczyk’s team was the only one to end the day on four points (Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar crew won all its races, but was docked 0.5 points for a collision). “For sure we are very motivated to sail as well as we can because one of our crew members died recently and we have two new crew members,” explained Stańczyk, whose finished second overall in this year’s Polish match racing circuit. “We just sailed relaxed. We were maybe slower in manoeuvres than other crews with our hoists and drops, but our boat speed was good.”

The clinching match of the day for the Poles came in the final flight when they lined up against Switzerland’s Eric Monnin, also unbeaten at that point. Monnin explained: “We controlled him at the start, but in the end he was able to tack away. We followed him with a little gap, but he got better wind. Then we were behind him all the time, although we got closer at the finish.”

Eric Monnin (SUI) on form in Bermuda © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Eric Monnin (SUI) on form in Bermuda © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Monnin confirmed that most vital today was reading the shifts and puffs right: “That got you quite a long way in front. It looked easy, but it wasn’t. Even when there was a small gap between boats you could have big differences.”

This is Monnin’s 11th consecutive Argo Group Gold Cup. “For us it is the last event of the season, but we also like the island, the people and the boats, because they are going a bit back in time.”

With a substantial line-up of teams – 20, representing 13 nations – Qualifying has been split into two groups and today the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s race committee managed to complete five flights in each. Racing was held under an overcast sky in a southerly breeze requiring a course to be set-up across the Harbour. However the wind blowing off the land made conditions extremely challenging for the crews.

As Team Alpari FX’s Keith Swinton described it: “They were really difficult conditions, probably the toughest we’ve had to race in all year on the Tour – very shifty with big holes in the breeze. It was really hard to make decisions, you just had to keep calm and sometimes you’d lose a lot, but then you might get it back later.”

Dirk-Jan Korpershoek collides with Francesco Bruni's boat © Charles Anderson / AGGC

Dirk-Jan Korpershoek collides with Francesco Bruni’s boat © Charles Anderson / AGGC

In Group 1, Team Alpari FX got off to a disappointing start losing to the Raymarine/Ocean Electronics team of Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Commodore Somers Kempe. They then went on to win their next three matches, ending the day second in Group 1 to Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar team, level with France’s Pierre-Antoine Morvan’s Vannes Agglo Sailing Team and Stena Match Cup Sweden winner Björn Hansen.

Argo Group Gold Cup defending champion Francesco Bruni was not in the best of spirits coming off the water on 1.5 points, a half point having been deducted due to a collision during his team’s boisterous second match against Ian Williams. “We were in the lead in many races, but it was not easy with the wind shifts,” bemoaned the Luna Rossa skipper. “We made a couple of bad decisions about when to tack or when to gybe, so the lead was changing all the time. We should have been in much better shape.”

However one of Bruni’s wins was also one of the most compelling races of the day. Up against Dutch skipper Dirk-Jan Korpershoek, Bruni picked up two penalties at the start for barging but managed to rid himself of one while pulling into the lead and extending. However he was unable to get rid of his last penalty and was forced to match race his opponent past the finish line and beyond. A prolonged series of dial-ups ensued by which time all the other matches in the flight had long since finished. Finally Korpershoek gently collided with the Italian team’s yacht cancelling out their penalty, Bruni then calmly bore away to gain the point.

Qualifying continues tomorrow, however the weather is set to turn again overnight as a front associated with a depression off the US East Coast brings rain and 20+ knot winds to Hamilton Harbour. Five days after Hurricane Gonzalo’s strike, the locals are barely likely to notice.

Stage 6 Argo Group Gold Cup, Alpari World Match Racing Tour

Group 1 Results After Flight 5
1 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 3.5-0
2 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 3-1
3 Pierre-Antoine Morvan (FRA) Vannes Agglo Sailing Team 3-1
4 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 3-1
5 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena Sailing Team 2-2
6 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa 2-2
7 Arthur Herreman (FRA) Match The World 1-3
8 Somers Kempe (BER) Raymarine/Ocean Electronics 1-3
9 David Storrs (USA) Pequot Racing Team 0.5-3
10 Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NED) Korpershoek Racing 0-4

Group 2 Results After Flight 5
1 Marek Stanczyk (POL) Henri Lloyd Rainmaker Racing 4-0
2 Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Race Team 3-1
3 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One 3-1
4 Staffan Linberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team 3-1
5 Nathan Outteridge (SWE) Artemis Racing 2-2
6 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 2-2
7 Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing 2-2
8 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 1-3
9 Lance Fraser (BER) Digicel Bermuda 0-4
10 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 0-4

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Qualifying Groups set for Argo Group Gold Cup

Posted on 22 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Argo Group Gold Cup] In spite of Hurricane Gonzalo’s thrashing of the Onion Patch last week, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the people of Bermuda are ready to host the 2014 Argo Group Gold Cup, Stage 6 of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT). All 20 teams have arrived safely from their corners of the world and will practice for a day and race on Wednesday.

Thirteen countries are represented in the 2014 Argo Group Gold Cup. The teams have been divided into two groups of 10 for the Qualifying Session round-robin knockout matches:

Group 1 features Tour leader leader Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar, Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team, Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX, Francesco Bruni (ITA) Luna Rossa , Pierre Antoine Morvan (FRA) Equipe de France, Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Stena sailing Team, Arthur Herreman (FRA) Match the World, David Storrs (USA) Pequot Racing Team, Somers Kempe (BER) Raymarine/Ocean Electronics, and Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NED) Opportunity Team.

Group 2 is led by 2nd on the Tour Taylor Canfield (ISV) Team One, Mathieu Richard (FRA) Luna Jet, Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing, David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour, Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, Eric Monnin (SWI) Swiss Match Racing Team, Marek Staqnczyk (POL) www.470sailing.org.pl , Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing, Lance Fraser (BER) DigiCel Bermuda, and Nathen Outteridge (SWE) Artemis Racing.

Seedings in the groups are based on AWMRT and ISAF rankings and other performance factors. Teams sail a 10-team Round-Robin knock-out elimination within their group. Then the top four teams from each group move on to directly to the knockout phases with Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Finals scheduled. There is no second-chance Repechage sail-off in the Argo Group Gold Cup… 12 teams are beached at the end of the Round-Robin Qualifying matches.

The 2014 Argo Group Gold Cup will be sailed with the same 20-team format used in 2013. This Argo Group Gold Cup format is unique on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. It starts with Qualifying in two 10-team groups. Skippers in the groups are ranked and divided by Alpari World Match Racing Tour officials and the organizers at the RBYC.

Seedings in the groups are based on AWMRT and ISAF rankings and other performance factors. Teams sail a 10-team Round-Robin knock-out elimination within their group. Then the top four teams from each group move on to directly to the knockout phases with Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Finals scheduled. There is no second-chance Repechage sail-off. 12 teams are beached at the end of the Round-Robin Qualifying matches.

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Canfield Wins First Dutch Match Cup

Posted on 29 September 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source:WMRT] Taylor Canfield and US One have won the inaugural Dutch Match Cup after a thrilling final against arch-rival Ian Williams and GAC Pindar. The breeze was very light and patchy, creating multiple opportunities for lead changes. No race lead, however big, was ever safe.

Matches between the world’s top two match racing skippers are always aggressive affairs on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT). In the pre-start of the first match, Canfield stuck two penalties on Williams, leaving the British boat playing catch-up. However on the downwind leg, Williams found a sliver of stronger breeze by the harbour shore close to the cheering crowds in Lelystad. The British came close to rolling over the top of US One but failed to keep clear from a Canfield luff. Another penalty for Williams, then another penalty towards the leeward gate, and Canfield was uncatchable. 1-0.
In the second match, Williams got the slightly better start and converted that into a five-length lead by the first windward mark. Canfield sailed over to the shore on the second beat and used the cheers of the crowd to waft him closer to Williams. GAC Pindar was still in the lead at the final turning mark, but US One again went shoreside and managed to sneak ahead of their opponent just before the finish. 2-0, and the Dutch Match Cup went to Canfield.

In the Petit Final to determine 3rd overall, Mathieu Richard took the first match but David Gilmour bounced back to win the next two and secure his first podium finish at a Tour event. The LunaJets skipper will be kicking himself for some unforced errors earlier in the day, particularly at the finish of match 4 in his Semi Final against Williams. Richard had to offload a penalty at the finish, although he had a huge lead and was not under too much pressure. When the crew went to lower the spinnaker before turning up to begin their 270-degree penalty turn, the sail dropped in the water and started trawling behind the boat like a fishing net. In just 4 knots of wind, the boat’s all-important momentum was lost, the French boat hit the finish mark as they took their penalty around it, and Williams breezed past to secure his spot in the Final.

It was that kind of day – very, very easy to make mistakes or to fall into a hole as you watched your opponent sail on by. Gilmour took an easy win in his first Semi Final match against Canfield and was showing the kind of form that could have yielded overall victory. However in another match Gilmour seemed to have an unassailable lead but allowed too much separation on the final run. So often the chasing boat would take its chances by the shore, and would be frequently rewarded for doing so. You can’t give Canfield too much rope. Give him an inch, and he’ll take a mile, all done with an assassin’s smile.

Canfield’s laid-back demeanour serves him well when the conditions get squirly. “It was never-say-die out there,” said Canfield, “and I have to pay tribute to my crew, Rod Dawson, Mike Rehe and Hayden Goodrick, for keeping at it, however we were doing in the race.” It was a vital win for the reigning World Champions who have a lot of work on to defend their crown against the frighteningly consistent GAC Pindar.

Williams might have lost the battle, but the four-time World Champion is still winning the war. “Of course we’re disappointed not to have won here today, but we’re pleased to have made this the sixth final in a row that we’ve reached on the Tour, stretching back to Monsoon Cup last year. Congratulations to Taylor and US One, they sailed extremely well, and we look forward to the next one.” That ‘next one’ is the Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda in three weeks’ time. After the light and responsive Maxfun25s used in Lelystad, the larger and heavier International One Designs present a different kind of challenge.

This was the first time that Holland has been represented on the Tour, and Canfield paid tribute to the organisers and people of Lelystad. “This has been a fantastic event, great people, great racing, and we can’t wait to come back next year.”

Overall results of Stage 5 Dutch Match Cup, Alpari World Match Racing Tour
1 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One
2 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar
3 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour
4 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets
5 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari
6 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing
7 Arthur Herreman (FRA) Team Herreman
8 Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team
9 Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN) Aschenbrenner Racing Team
10 Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NLD) Opportunity Team
11 Philip Bendon (IRL) Glenmar Racing Team
12 Klaartje Zuiderbaan (NLD) Team BSC

Finals
Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One beat Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 2-1

Petit-Finals
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour beat Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 2-1

Semi Finals
Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One beat David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 3-1
Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar beat Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 3-1

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Canfield wins qualifying while six are set for battle in the quarters

Posted on 26 September 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: WMRT] Going into the final of 22 flights of Qualifying at the Dutch Match Cup, two of the big guns on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT) were staring down the barrel of elimination. Either Bjorn Hansen of Sweden or Ian Williams of Great Britain would be facing an early bath in Lelystad.

If both teams won or lost their respective matches, Williams’ half-point advantage on the leaderboard would see GAC Pindar safely through to the six-boat Quarter Final. To go through, Hansen Sailing Team would need to win their final match against reigning ISAF World Champion Taylor Canfield while Williams would need to lose against Mathieu Richard.

After reaching the Finals of all four Tour events thus far in 2014, it was unthinkable that Williams would fall at the first hurdle. But qualification proved much tougher than normal. It was almost a photo finish across the line between the British and French crews, although Williams was narrowly ahead and Richard, in his final desperation to win, was penalised for going for a gap between his rival and the committee boat. Williams had squeaked through to the Quarter Final. 

No one has dominated the racing up to this point, although Taylor Canfield and US One topped Qualifying with a score of 9 wins and 2 losses. This puts the reigning World Champions straight through to the Semi Final, while the next six teams will battle for the other three places. US One crewman Mike Rehe was relieved to have topped the group in Lelystad. “We definitely like being at the top of the leaderboard, especially with the light wind forecast for the end of the week. It’s definitely advantageous to be up the top if they start having to cancel rounds because the wind doesn’t show up. We feel comfortable in the boats, and we feel light airs is our strong suit.”

For their concluding match in Qualifying, US One were up against their great friends from Sweden, Hansen Sailing Team, who needed to win their final match to stay in the competition. “We spoke with Bjorn before the race,” said Rehe, “and we both knew how it stood. We said, ‘We want to be top of the leaderboard. So, we’ll have a good race and see what happens.’ It was a good race going up to the top of the first leg, then Bjorn fouled us unfortunately, and we extended from there. With the forecast and our Tour standing on the line, we wanted to make sure we were the top seed going into the next Tour events.”

Just when it seemed that Qualifying was over, Keith Swinton appealed for a re-match against Phil Robertson after sailing to the wrong mark following a course change. The skipper of Team Alpari FX claimed he hadn’t been alerted to the change of course and that he had been prejudiced. In the re-match, Robertson was leading but sailed to the finish a lap too early. Swinton won, and Robertson was far from happy.

This placed Team Alpari FX in 4th to WAKA Racing’s 5th, which hardly seems significant other than the fact there is a real threat of losing racing to a lack of wind during the coming weekend. If the Quarter Final is scrapped, the top four from Qualifying go straight through to the Semi Final. No wonder the Aussie and Kiwi rivals were so keen on getting into the top four. 

A curtailed race schedule could affect Williams too, who narrowly avoided an early bath today. “Nothing we can do about that,” said the four-time World Champion when asked about the implications of a no-wind forecast. “It would be a shame if that were to happen after such good wind over the past three days. Today we didn’t really bring our A game. Not sure why, because we’re certainly trying. We just didn’t have that extra bit of speed that I feel like we often have, and it just meant that a lot of the races were scrappy, with umpires involved which we never like. Sometimes if you’re not clean and fast, you need to get them involved, and when they go against you it can make it difficult.”

The surprise package of the event thus far has been the young French team skippered by Arthur Herreman who have plugged away on the match racing circuit over the past three years to rise from 340th to 20th in the world rankings. They won six matches including two Tour Card scalps – Hansen and David Gilmour. Next, however, Herreman faces his compatriot and occasional training partner Mathieu Richard who finished 2nd in Qualifying and therefore had his pick of opponent for the Quarter Final. “I choose Arthur so at least we have one French team in the Semi Final,” was the LunaJets skipper’s decision. Gilmour said he would use similar logic to pick his fellow Western Australian, Swinton, for his Quarter Final opponent. This left Robertson and Williams to face each other in their Quarter Final.

Stage 5 Dutch Match Cup, Alpari World Match Racing Tour

Quarter Finals
Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets vs Arthur Herreman (FRA) Team Herreman
David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour vs Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX
Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing vs Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar

Final Results of Qualifying
1 Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One 9-2
2 Mathieu Richard (FRA) LunaJets 8-3
3 David Gilmour (AUS) Team Gilmour 7.5-3
4 Keith Swinton (AUS) Team Alpari FX 7-4
5 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 7-4
6 Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 7-4
7 Arthur Herreman (FRA) Team Herreman 6-5
8 Björn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Sailing Team 4.5-6
9 Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN) Aschenbrenner Racing Team 4-7
10 Dirk-Jan Korpershoek (NLD) Opportunity Team 2-9
11 Philip Bendon (IRL) Glenmar Racing Team 2-9
12 Klaartje Zuiderbaan (NLD) Team BSC 1-10

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