Ben Ainslie, Great Britain’s four-time Olympic medalist and the fifth ranked skipper on the World Match Racing Tour, won the Argo Group Gold Cup and the $50,000 cash prize for the second year in a row. He and his TeamOrigin crew defeated Denmark’s Jesper Radich 3-1.
Ainslie used classic match racing tactics to continually attack Radich and his Gaastra Racing Team, ranked eighth on the tour. Radich’s second place finish earned the team $20,000.
Ainslie is the second skipper to win the King Edward VII Gold Cup Trophy two successive years since the event was reformatted in 1984. Russell Coutts had also pulled a double in 1992 and 1993.
The action on the water was tense and aggressive as expected. Radich took the first race, extending his winning streak to thirteen races in this Argo Group Gold Cup, but that was his unlucky number.
Ainslie got down to business. He shut out Radich the rest of the day, taking three straight races to seal the deal. Tied one to one, and trailing by less than a boat length on the first downwind leg of the third race, Ainslie pushed Radich toward the port lay line, staying in control and not letting Radich gybe for the mark.
Finally, Radich thought he was clear ahead with room to turn; but when he did, the on-the-water umpires ruled that he turned too close. Since the penalty maneuver put Radich in control, the umpires raised a red flag, too.
The red-flagged Radich had to take his penalty turn immediately because control in the match changed when he turned too close to Ainslie. From that point on, Ainslie continued to open his lead for his second victory of the day.
In the final race, with the score 2-1, Ainslie attacked again on the first down wind leg and put two penalties on Radich. At one time during the continuing luffing duel, the umpires flew simultaneous blue and yellow flags penalizing both boats and canceling the penalties immediately. Radich still had two penalties so he had to clear one immediately.
At the end of the final two lap race Ainslie led across the finish by close to half of the leeward leg. He dropped his spinnaker 50 yards from the finish and hugged his mates as they crossed the line to the tune of boat horns and cheers for the spectator fleet.
“We made it hard for ourselves all week,” Ainslie said, “But we were battle hardened and I think it helped us today. Today’s final was classic match racing all the way and it was fantastic sailing against Radich.
“We did put the match in the umpires hands. All of us know that when you play at this level, the race is sometimes decided by the umpire. We were lucky in both the third and the final race that the call went our way.
“There were plenty of flags in the final. Both teams made some mistakes and it was very tight. That is match racing. Some of our calls went our way at the right times.
“It has been a tough week for all of our guys from TeamOrigin and the win has been great for us. The day before we flew out from England, we learned that Sir Keith Mills had taken TeamOrigin out of the Cup. It has been hard on all of us. I have to thank the team for making the best of things this week.”
Gracious in defeat, Jasper Radich said, “It has been an honor racing against the best in the world. Ben and his team are definitely that. I have to say I highly disagree with the umpire in the last race. It was a tough way to end the finals. I would have liked to have gone to the full five races.
“Agreeing with Ainslie he also added, “When you race at this level it does can come down to umpires calls..
“I have to say that with conditions like we have had in Bermuda all week, match racing can't get any better. Sailing here is ideal. The boats have a certain momentum and it gives you the opportunity to really go on the attack. I am proud to be able to give them a fight. As I said, Ainslie and his team are the best in the world.”
Earlier in the day 2008 Gold Cup winner Johnie Berntsson of Sweden won the Petite Finals to take third place and $10,000 over Eric Monnin’s Swiss Match Race Team two wins to nil. Monnin’s fourth place finish earned him $7,000 for the week.
Saturday Matches had already determined fifth through eighth places. Adam Minoprio (NZL) was fifth for $5,500, Taylor Canfield (USVI) was sixth winning $,4000, Reuben Corbett (NZL) who was seventh took $2500 and Torvar Mirsky (AUS) at eighth won $1,000. -- Talbot Wilson
- Laurie Fullerton contributed to this report -