Storm disrupts Bermuda Gold Cup

Published on October 5th, 2023

The field of 16 teams for the Bermuda Gold Cup (October 3-7) has been reduced to the top four, but the World Championship event of the World Match Racing Tour will be paused on October 5-6 due to the approach of Tropical Storm Philippe.

Still alive are Harry Price (AUS), Johnie Berntsson (SWE), Taylor Canfield (USA), and Ian Williams (GBR), but with wind strengths forecasted to reach upwards to 45 knots, it was an easy decision for Principal Race Officer David Campbell-James to keep the IODs off of Hamilton Harbor until the storm passed.

The top four teams will be back at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club on the final day in the hope of sailable conditions to decide the 71st title.

Due to the postponed schedule, a Repechage round was eliminated and the top eight advanced after one round robin series: Berntsson, 7-0, Monnin, 6-1, Canfield at 6-1, Williams at 5-2, Price at 5-2, Gavin Brady (USA) at 5-2, Jeppe Borch (DEN) at 5-2, and Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL) at 4-3.

For the quarterfinals, Berntsson chose to race Egnot-Johnson, Monnin picked Price, Canfield selected Brady, and Williams raced Borch.

The Monnin-Price match was easily the best of the bunch. “We were happy he picked us,” said Price, winner of the Jordy Walker Trophy for most improved newcomer to the regatta in 2019. “We were sailing the boat fast and gave him his only loss in the round robin. We were comfortable with the matchup.”

Monnin, however, jumped out to a 2-0 lead, mostly due to Price’s mistakes. “The first two races didn’t go our way,” said Price. “We got a penalty in the first race. We had a good lead but couldn’t complete the penalty turn in time. It sort of started raining and everything kind of hit the fan. Then we got two penalties in the next one.”

With no margin for error, Price’s young crew settled down. They won Flight 3 to get on the board and then won Flight 4 to even the score. On the second upwind leg Monnin was hit with a penalty for windward/leeward as the leeward boat, which he felt could’ve gone either way. “It was a tough call,” said Monnin. “I think the umpires felt I didn’t give him time to maneuver.”

In the deciding Flight 5, Price led by about one boat length after the first lap, where both crews rounded the right-hand gate mark on starboard. With his regatta on the line, Monnin initiated a tacking duel that saw the two crews tack 12 times each. “I thought we were gaining on him,” said Monnin. “We were carrying our speed better.”

Price held the power of positioning, inside on port tack, and luffed Monnin head-to-wind as the two drifted past the windward mark. Price faked bearing away a couple of times before finally pulling out of the dial-up and sailing towards the finish for an eventual win of two boat lengths.

“In the last race we went into protection mentality,” said Price. “Wherever possible we wanted to be next to him. All you have to do is win by one millimeter and you win the race and progress through to the semis. It felt like we did 600 maneuvers; maybe not really but the crew was gassed.”

Berntsson could’ve advanced to the semis with a 3-0 record, but he ran afoul of the umpires in his Flight 3 match against Egnot-Johnson. Berntsson picked up a penalty in the pre-start for windward/leeward when the pair was fishtailing approaching the start, sailing up and down while overlapped with Berntsson trailing.

Egnot-Johnson led at the windward mark and Berntsson pulled a quick jibe to starboard and Egnot-Johnson had a slow set. But Berntsson was hit with a second penalty for what he presumes was not giving enough room to keep clear.

Forced to do one of his penalty turns, Berntsson’s crew lowered their spinnaker and headed up but then Egnot-Johnson was penalized for failing to keep clear as windward boat. Berntsson’s crew rehoisted the spinnaker to leeward of Egnot-Johnson, both on starboard, as they continued down the run.

In a controlling position to leeward, Berntsson forced the match well above the layline to the gate and was able to unload his second penalty by tacking to port and heading to the leeward gate. It’s a classic old man’s move in match racing.

“In that position, he couldn’t do anything,” said Berntsson. “I was looking at him and I don’t know if he was sure about what was going on. There were so many things happening. I don’t think he realized we could equalize the penalty at the windward mark.”

Canfield seems well on his way to defending the title he won in 2020, the last time the Bermuda Gold Cup was held. He defeated Brady 3-1 and is happy with the way the crew is progressing.

“We always talk about getting better every day, especially after not match racing for three years and with two new guys (Robbie Bisi and Ian Liberty) in the crew,” said Canfield. “We need to make sure we’re getting off the start line even. If we do that, we’re confident in our boat handling and tactics to get around other people.”

Williams took care of Borch in three races, continuing a winning streak against the Dane that began in the semifinals in 2020, where Williams also won 3-0.

“I think that experience in these boats is important, especially when conditions change,” said Williams. “I think that was the difference. I think we were faster at sailing the boat, tacking and getting the rhythm of boats.”

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Founded in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) promotes the sport of match racing around the world and is the longest running global professional series in the sport of sailing. The winner of the WMRT each year is crowned World Sailing Match Racing World Champion.

Previous champions include Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR), Taylor Canfield (USA), Peter Gilmour (AUS), Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Peter Holmberg (ISV), Adam Minoprio (NZL), Torvar Mirsky (AUS), Bertrand Pace (FRA), Jesper Radich (DEN), Phil Robertson (NZL), and Ian Williams (GBR).

Since inception, the World Match Racing Tour and its events have awarded over USD23million in prize money to sailors which has helped to contribute to the career pathway of many of today’s professional sailors.

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