After a year in which too many regattas were postponed or cancelled due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the specter of International One-Design (IOD) sloops thrashing about Hamilton Harbour is welcomed by all associated with the 70th Bermuda Gold Cup and 2020 Open Match Racing Worlds, which begin tomorrow with gold and silver awaiting the winner at week’s end.
“Our schedule was affected quite a lot, like everyone,” said Eric Monnin of Switzerland, the world’s No. 1-ranked match racer and leading Bermuda Gold Cup veteran who’s making his 13th appearance. “We’ve done some sailing at home since June, but very little match racing. It’s very difficult to know where we stand with the others.”
In his first travel outside of Switzerland since the pandemic began, Monnin doesn’t feel threatened by the coronavirus. Everyone associated with the event had to get tested within one week of traveling to Bermuda and then again at Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport upon arrival. All 69 sailors, race officials, umpires and support staff have tested negative with the regatta set to begin.
“I’m impressed with the efforts, it’s above expectations,” said Monnin. “Here on the island, the testing is organized very well. It’s much better than I thought. We’ll see how the week goes, but I think we’ll show the world that if you do things responsibly, it’s possible to host a world caliber regatta.
“The prospect of having a world championship event is quite unique,” Monnin continued. “It’s been a long time since the world championship was one event in monohulls. That’s also why this event is so interesting for all of us.”
The first warning signal is scheduled for 1030 Monday morning with Monnin’s Capvis Swiss Match Racing Team taking on Bermuda’s son, 26-year-old Kelsey Durham and his Triangle Racing Team. Sweden’s Berntsson Racing Team, led by Johnie Berntsson, a six-time finalist at the Bermuda Gold Cup, races top-ranked American Chris Poole’s Riptide Racing in Match 2.
Match 3 sees young Matthew Whitfield’s Dragon Racing Team of Great Britain racing Nicklas Dackhammar’s Essiq Racing Team of Sweden while New Zealander Phil Robertson and his China One Ningbao Team, the reigning world match racing champion, races Sweden’s Anna Östling’s Team WINGS, a two-time winner of the Women’s Match Racing Worlds, in Match 4.
VIEW Schedule of Races
In afternoon racing, the Bermuda Gold Cup reigning champion Ian Williams’s Team GAC Pindar of Great Britain races France’s Pauline Courtois and her Match in Pink by Normandy Elite Team, the women’s World No. 1-ranked match racer, in Match 1. Match 2 sees Denmark’s Borch Racing Team, led by Jeppe Borch, square off against Jelmer van Beek’s Team Dutch Wave of the Netherlands.
In Match 3 the Mirksy Racing Team, led by Australian Torvar Mirsky, a past event and world champion, races Mati Sepp’s Gleam Energy Sailing Team of Estonia. The final match pits the Stars+Stripes Team, led by Taylor Canfield of the U.S., also a past event and world champion, against Lance Fraser of Canada in Match 4. (Full crew list at bottom of release.)
The 16-skipper field is loaded with accolades and accomplishments:
Four past winners of the King Edward VII Gold Cup trophy account for seven championships: Berntsson (2008, ’14), Canfield (2012, ’18), Mirsky (2011), Williams (2006, ’19)
Four Open Match Racing World champions account for 10 championships:
Canfield (2013), Mirsky (2017), Robertson (2016, ’19), Williams (2007, ’08, ’11, ’12, ’14, ’15)
One Women’s Match Racing World champion: Ostling (2014, ’16)
Four past participants of the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup
Canfield (2003), Durham (2004-’07), Fraser (2003-’04), Whitfield (2011)
Two women skippers: Courtois, Östling
Three skippers age 25 or younger: Borch, van Beek, Whitfield
Skippers’ average age: 33.7 years
11 returning skippers with cumulative 63 appearances since early 2000s
3 returning skippers with cumulative 33 appearances: Monnin (12), Williams (11), Berntsson (10)
12 countries represented: Australia (1), Bermuda (1), Canada (1), Denmark (1), Estonia (1, first time), France (1), Great Britain (2), New Zealand (1), Netherlands (1), Sweden (3), Switzerland (1), US (2)
Perry on IOD’s
American Dave Perry is a bona fide rules expert. He regularly contributes to the quadrennial updating of the Racing Rules of Sailing and is also chairman of the US Sailing Appeals Committee and a US Sailing National Judge. He is a five-time winner of the Prince of Wales trophy, the U.S. Match Racing Championship, and has also raced the Bermuda Gold Cup in three different decades. It’s an event for which he holds fond memories.
“I’m thrilled that the Gold Cup and the Worlds will go on, provided the Bermuda government’s safety measures are observed and respected,” said Perry. “I always appreciate the Bermuda way. It’s friendly, welcoming, sunny… an island feel. And there’s rum. They play hard and work hard. I smile when I think of Bermuda.”
At least two crews have leaned on Perry for advice and coaching about the IOD prior to this regatta. Designed in 1936, the 33-foot, open-cockpit IOD is a throwback boat, heavy with a full keel and long overhangs. Boats just aren’t made that way anymore. In Perry’s opinion, those features are what makes it a perfect boat for match racing.
“Of all the boats used for match racing it’s the heaviest and doesn’t have a rudder, there’s a skeg on the back of the keel,” Perry said. “One thing I stress is that it turns slowly and every maneuver costs more. You can’t spin out of trouble, like in a boat with a large rudder. If you’re good you can get someone in jail. But if you’re not careful, you can find yourself in jail easily.
“It’s a purer form of match racing,” Perry continued. “But you overlay that with sailing in Hamilton Harbour and it’s a jungle ball environment. The venue itself is not pure match racing. There are a lot more splits, more crazy things happen. As much as the boats are pure, the venue has many more chutes and ladders than other venues. No race is over until it’s over.
“It’s fun. It’s an elegant boat to match race, and there’s something special about the boats in Bermuda. They take good care of the boats and they’re all different colors. I have fond memories of racing there,” Perry said.
Junior Gold Cup Legacy
While the 70th Bermuda Gold Cup was postponed from May to October, this year’s scheduled 17th RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup was postponed until next year. Given the importance of social distancing in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and the various travel restrictions that are in place around the world, the decision was made to forgo this year’s event. The obstacles proved too challenging to warrant inviting 15 to 20 teenagers to Bermuda given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
Four skippers in this year’s fleet, however, are graduates of the Junior Gold Cup: Canfield, Durham, Fraser and Whitfield.
The Junior Gold Cup was founded as a means to give Bermuda’s youth sailors a taste of international competition, and it has proven valuable in forging lasting friendships as the international sailors are housed with Bermudians. It has also proven valuable in giving youth sailors recognition on an international stage.
“Growing up sailing the RenRe Junior Gold Cup amid the Bermuda Gold Cup was always one of the best parts of the year for me as a young sailor,” said Fraser, who raced the Junior Gold Cup in 2007-’08. “Any Opti sailor of my generation (and likely others) will remember fondly running around the docks of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club getting that year’s Gold Cup posters signed by the likes of Russel Coutts, Dennis Conner, Jimmy Spithill and many more. It is an inspirational event for young sailors and has consistently produced sailors who now compete in the Bermuda Gold Cup. The integration of the youth event with the professional event is second to none and is one of the best parts of the impact of this event on sailing in Bermuda and around the world.”
The King Edward VII Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Bermuda Gold Cup, is the oldest trophy in the world for competition involving one-design yachts. First presented in 1907 by King Edward VII at the Tri-Centenary Regatta at Jamestown, Va., honoring the 300th anniversary of the first permanent colony in America, the trophy is the only King’s Cup ever to be offered for competition in the United States which could be won outright.
The Bermuda Gold Cup, an event of the World Match Racing Tour, is presented by Argo Group in benefit of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), an independent US non-profit scientific research and educational organization based in Bermuda. For over 100 years BIOS-based researchers and visiting scientists have worked to explore the ocean and address important local and global environmental issues, including climate change, coral reef resilience, and environmental monitoring. As a Bermuda registered charity, BIOS is committed to providing local students with educational programs that build a foundation for an appreciation of Bermuda’s marine environment, as well as future careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
The Bermuda Gold Cup is proudly presented by the Bermuda Tourism Authority.