Stage set for Quarterfinals at Argo Group Gold Cup

Published on October 9th, 2015

Hamilton, Bermuda (October 9, 2015) – Keith Swinton’s Black Swan Racing from Australia and Chris Steele’s 36 Below Racing from New Zealand have advanced to the Quarterfinal Round at the 67th annual Argo Group Gold Cup.

The two crews led the Repechage Round yesterday and then held on today through a long day of racing to advance to the next round. Swinton won the repechage with a 6-1 record while Steele was second at 5-2. Racing was interrupted for nearly four hours as the wind died from the west and filled in from the northwest.

“It was a challenging day for everyone. We had our share of luck,” said Swinton. “We felt like we were sailing well in the first round but had some bad luck that put us in the repechage, so we’re happy to go through.”

The two crews join six others that qualified after initial round robin racing at the $100,000 match racing regatta. With the multiple rounds robin complete the event moves into its ladder-style knockout phase. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final are all first-to-3 points.

Headlining the quarterfinals is Taylor Canfield’s US One team from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Canfield’s crew is the only one to go undefeated through the rounds robin. That earned the crew the right to choose their opponent and they’ll square off against Steele’s 36 Below Racing. Canfield won the Argo Group Gold Cup in 2012 and has placed third each of the past two seasons. He chose to race Steele because the Kiwi is the No. 8 seed in the quarterfinals.

“We’re not surprised,” said Steele. “We were the last qualifier and he was the first. But we’ve learned a lot in the last day and a half.”

Other quarterfinal matches pit Phil Robertson’s WAKA Racing against Adam Minoprio’s BlackMatch in a battle of Kiwi teams. “The winner picks up the tab Sunday night,” said Minoprio.

Eric Monnin’s Swiss Match Race Team races Björn Hansen’s Nautiska Racing from Sweden. “People have a tough time telling Swedish and Swiss apart, so we’re going to help them out,” said Hansen.

The remaining match pits Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar against Swinton’s Black Swan Racing. “Ian’s a master at starting, but it’s easy to put pressure on him when he loses a few races,” said Swinton.

Notable for not advancing were the two America’s Cup crews, Dean Barker’s SoftBank Team Japan and Francesco Bruni’s Artemis Racing. Both skippers are accomplished match racers and have enjoyed past success at the Argo Group Gold Cup. But they’ve spent more time in the past few years racing foiling catamarans, a far different craft than the International One-Design sloop featured in the Gold Cup.

Barker and Bruni both spoke of the difficulty of coming into a world championship match race regatta with new crews and little practice.

“It’s a big ask to come to a regatta like this with a new group and expect to do well,” said Barker, who’ll be skippering SoftBank Team Japan at the America’s Cup World Series next week. “I felt like we were sailing better at the end of the regatta, but we had a few races go against us when we were leading. The positive is that we got to sail together as a group and build our communications going into next week.”

The Argo Group Gold Cup competition goes through Sunday, October 11.

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Repechage Round (after seven flights)
1. Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing, 6-1 – 6 points
2. Chris Steele (NZL) 36 Below Racing, 5-2 – 5 points
3. Dean Barker (JPN) SoftBank Team Japan, 4-3 – 4 points
4. Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team, 3-4 – 3 points
5. Francesco Bruni (SWE) Artemis Racing, 3-4 – 3 points
6. Chris Poole (USA) Riptide Racing, 3-4 – 3 points
7. Blythe Walker (BER) Team RenRe, -2-5 – 2 points
8. Reuben Corbett (NZL) Corbet Racing, 2-5 – 2 points

Match 1: Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar vs. Keith Swinton’s Black Swan Racing
Match 2: Eric Monnin’s Swiss Match Racing Team vs. Bjorn Hansen’s Nautika Racing
Match 3: Phil Robertson’s WAKA Racing vs. Adam Minoprio’s BlackMatch
Match 4: Taylor Canfield’s US One vs. Chris Steele’s 36 Below Racing

Report by Sean McNeill

Background: The 2015-16 World Match Racing Tour is the leading professional match racing series sanctioned by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). The tour has six world championship events and 20 events in all (details). Prize money is awarded for each event, with event points culminating in the crowning of the “ISAF Match Racing World Champion”.

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