When the Quarterfinal Round of the 68th Argo Group Gold Cup gets underway Friday morning the eight teams will bring an array of experience to the storied regatta.
Crews led by Taylor Canfield (USA), Johnie Berntsson (SWE), Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN) and Nicklas Dackhammar (SWE) all qualified for the quarterfinals on Wednesday by placing in the top four of the Round Robin stage.
They’re joined by Torvar Mirsky (AUS), Lucy Macgregor (GBR), Ettore Botticini (ITA) and Charlie Lalumiere (USA). The four skippers led their crews to the next round after placing in the top four, respectively, of the Repechage Round.
The quarterfinal pairings pit Canfield versus Botticini, Berntsson against Lalumiere, Aschenbrenner against Macgregor and Dackhammar versus Mirsky. The winner of each match will be the first crew to score three points.
The octet represents a mix of experience and youth. Botticini (22) is the youngest skipper in the fleet and Berntsson (47) the oldest. Mirsky and Macgregor are the reigning Open and Women’s match racing world champions, respectively. Botticini, Dackhammar and Lalumiere each are competing in their first Gold Cup, while Aschenbrenner is in his second Gold Cup. Berntsson, Canfield and Mirsky have four Gold Cup titles to their credit, and Berntsson and Canfield have nine top four finishes in the past 10 years among them.
“It’s great to see such varied accomplishments among the quarterfinalists,” said Andy Cox, the regatta chairman from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. “The top guys like Taylor (Canfield) and Johnie (Berntsson) are sailing very well, but the conditions have been so shifty and puffy this week that really any one could get knocked out in any round.”
Mirsky, the champion in 2011, won the Repechage Round with a 5-1 record. Mirsky said racing in the Repechage Round was cut throat, but since he hasn’t raced monohulls in seven years he was happy to have the extra practice.
“I’m loving it,” Mirsky said. “In these boats, matching the mode to the windshifts and momentum is extreme. When it’s shifty we can find ourselves reaching upwind to get to the next pressure line, to make sure the other boat doesn’t have leverage, or to get leverage on the other boat. It makes for interesting sailing and tactics and decisions, and we have to think quite far in advance and do stuff that seems unconventional.”
Mirsky’s only loss in the repechage was to Lalumiere in Flight 2. Sailing in his first Gold Cup, Lalumiere has quickly learned the vagaries of Hamilton Harbour.
“We’re doing alright on the start line. Luckily, it’s so shifty here that the start isn’t the most important part of the race,” said Lalumiere. “There’s always a shift that can come your way and get you back in the race, so that helps. No matter the wind direction, being in the puff is most important. Whether your lifted or headed, it’s important to stay in the breeze.”
Macgregor finished second in the round robin after winning a three-way tiebreak with Botticini and Lalumiere. The two-time women’s match racing world champion said that qualifying for the quarterfinals was always the goal. Echoing a sentiment from all the skippers, she said that she’s been shifting on the fly from covering tactics to sailing to the breeze.
“It’s a constant game of trying to work out whether the shift or the other boat is the priority,” said Macgregor. “Luckily, we have five heads onboard and we’re using every single ounce of knowledge to make those decisions. When we do it well it makes a big difference and it seems simple. But we’re pleased to make this step and are looking forward to racing Aschenbrenner tomorrow.”
Botticini qualified by winning his final two matches, which raised his record to 3-3. He also spoke of the shifty conditions and likened them to Lake Ledro in Italy where the Youth Match Racing World Championship will be held in July. He finished second in the same regatta last year and feels the Gold Cup is good preparation for this year.
“This is our first Grade 1 match racing regatta so it’s fantastic to qualify for the quarterfinals,” Botticini said. “The week didn’t start too well but we’ve been improving and learning match by match. Our crew work is very good, but the problem is how to accelerate with these boats. When it’s gusty we need to move the traveler more and we need to have better communication because the helm isn’t very responsive.”
Argo Group Gold Cup Pro-Am
After the completion of the Repechage Round some of the skippers took part in the Argo Group Gold Cup Pro-Am. Among the guest sailors were students from the Endeavour Community Sailing Programme.
A youth education and community sailing initiative, the Endeavour Community Sailing Programme has allowed hundreds of young students to learn to sail in both the west end and the east end of Bermuda. In addition to sailing, students were also exposed to science, technology, engineering, arts and math educational activities in an experiential classroom to improve their overall learning experience and foster their interest in pursuing STEAM career pathways in the future.
Seven students took part in the Pro-Am, after which a check for $5,000 was presented to the Endeavour programme from Gary Grose, Group Producer Management and Marketing Leader for Argo Group
“We want to thank Endeavor for joining us today,” said Grose. “Argo Group is proud to sponsor the Pro-Am spots for the kids in today’s races and provide a unique sailing opportunity at the prestigious Argo Group Gold Cup. We hope everyone enjoyed it.
“Argo Group continues to partner with organizations like Endeavour and Argo Group Gold Cup who share our commitment to innovation, teamwork and sustainability,” Grose said. “We also want to thank Andy Cox from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club for helping us make this event happen.”
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, Bacardi, Guy Carpenter, RenaissanceRe and Aon Benfield.
ARGO GROUP GOLD CUP REPECHAGE ROUND FINAL STANDINGS
1. Torvar Mirsky (Perth, Western Australia) – 5-1
Crew: Lachy Gilmour (tactics), Cameron Seagreen (trimmer), Graeme Spence (bow)
2. Lucy Macgregor (Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom) – 3-3
Crew: Bethan Cardin, Hannah Diamond, Annie Lush, Kate MacGregor
3. Ettore Botticini (Porto Santo Stefano, Italy) – 3-3
Crew: Simone Busonero, Andrea Fornaro, Lorenzo Gennari
4. Charlie Lalumiere (New York, NY, USA) – 3-3
Crew: Scott Ewing, Bleddon Mon, Ian Storck
5. Sam Gilmour (Perth, Western Australia) – 3-3, 2.5 points
Crew: Adam Negri, Keith Swinton, Pat Voss
6. Chris Poole (Falmouth, Maine, USA) – 2-4
Crew: Brian McMarton, Trent Turigliatto, Ryan Zupon
7. Marek Stanczyk (Gizycko, Poland) – 2-4, 1.5 points
Crew: Stefaniuk Jedrzej, Jakob Pawluk, Michal Szmul
ARGO GROUP GOLD CUP QUARTERFINAL PAIRINGS
Match 1: Nicklas Dackhammar vs. Torvar Mirsky
Match 2: Joachim Aschenbrenner vs. Lucy Macgregor
Match 3: Johnie Berntsson vs. Charlie Lalumiere
Match 4: Taylor Canfield vs. Ettore Botticini
(The winner of each match will be the first to score three points)