Three of world’s top five and two America’s Cup teams among early entries
HAMILTON, Bermuda – Argo Group Gold Cup reigning champion Johnie Berntsson has one message to his rivals: Be prepared for a repeat.
Berntsson, the No. 10-ranked match race sailor in the world (based on the July 22, 2015, ISAF rankings), is among a stellar group of skippers who’ve confirmed their entry for the prestigious Argo Group Gold Cup, scheduled Oct. 6-11, and hosted by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Entries have also been received from world No. 1 Ian Williams of Great Britain, No. 3 Eric Monnin of Switzerland, No. 5 Björn Hansen of Sweden and America’s Cup teams Artemis Racing and Softbank Team Japan, which will be skippered by Dean Barker of New Zealand, who is a past match racing world champion.
“The early entry list is very impressive and confirms the special attraction the Gold Cup has with the world’s top sailors,” said Andy Cox, chairman of the Argo Group Gold Cup. “The lineup will be completed later in the summer with two qualification regattas, but we are hoping that another America’s Cup team will also enter.”
Berntsson, 42, of Stenungsund, Sweden, has been a regular fixture in recent years at the Gold Cup. Since 2007, he has two victories (2008 and ’14) and two runner-up finishes (2011 and ’12). Overall, the jovial Swede has seven top-eight finishes in the past eight Argo Group Gold Cups.
“It was extra special to win the Gold Cup a second time. It’s one of the greatest tour events to win,” said Berntsson. “A lot of good sailors have won, so to win it two times is a sign we’re doing something right. With a couple America’s Cup teams in the mix it’ll be more difficult to win this year, but we’ll see if we can take it to them.”
Entries from world No. 13 Reuben Corbett of New Zealand, No. 17 Keith Swinton of Australia and New Zealander Adam Minoprio (a two-time runner-up in 2008 and ’09) brings the early entry list to 11. That leaves three unconfirmed entries, two of which will come from the winners of the Bermuda National Championship (scheduled for September) and Knickerbocker Cup (Aug. 5-9) in Manhasset Bay, N.Y.
The banner lineup will set Hamilton Harbour ablaze with close quarter racing in the tricky, 33-foot long IOD sloops. Williams, the 38-year-old five-time World Match Racing Tour champion (2006-‘07, ’08, ’11, ’12, ’14-’15), knows the “rock-n-roll” boats all too well, so named because of the way the rock and roll from boom tip to the end of the spinnaker pole on windy downwind legs. The winner of the Gold Cup in 2006, Williams said it’s a game of multi-tasking.
“The IOD takes a lot of skill, they’re certainly a big challenge,” said Williams. “Hamilton Harbour is very shifty so you have to be on top of handling the boat as well as the shifts and gusts, all while keeping the boat going fast. It’s such a challenging event that you’re almost battling yourselves, the boat and conditions as much as your competitor.”
First awarded in 1907 by King Edward VII, the Gold Cup is one of the most coveted trophies on the World Match Racing Tour. Racing for the trophy began in earnest in Bermuda in 1937 after trophy holder C. Sherman Hoyt donated the King Edward VII Gold Cup to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. This year marks the 67th running of the regatta.
The Gold Cup is one of the first events that featured a stadium-style format when the racing was moved from Great Sound to colorful Hamilton Harbour in 1985. That put the racing smack dab in front of thousands of spectators, who line the pastel-colored shores of the harbour to catch sight of the racing.
“What’s so special about the Gold Cup is the fans’ familiarity with the event,” said Berntsson. “The spectators always cheer you on even though you might not be their favorite team. Everyone loves the excitement with the racing and they’re very dedicated to match racing as sport. I haven’t been around the world, but this is one of the most exciting places I’ve been to.”
The Argo Group Gold Cup is sponsored by the Argo Group, an international underwriter of specialty insurance and reinsurance products in areas of the property and casualty market. Additional sponsors include the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Guy Carpenter, RenaissanceRe, Aon Benfield, and the World Match Racing Tour and Match Racing Association.
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