Thursday, October 11, 2007

Baird, Lindberg and Cian lead after second day of Bermuda Gold Cup

As the round robins at the King Edward VII Gold Cup wind down, time’s running out for some crews in Hamilton, Bermuda.

The three group leaders – American Ed Baird, Staffan Lindberg of Finland and Italy’s Paolo Cian – are all undefeated at 4-0.

Second in each group – Bermudian Blythe Walker, Mathieu Richard of France and Glenn Astwood, also of Bermuda – have one loss each and control their destiny.

Behind the top two in each group a mad scramble’s about to ensue.

The top two from each group at the end of round robin racing advance to the Quarterfinal Round. Third and fourth from each group advance to the second chance Repechage Round, from which the top two advance to the quarterfinals.

That means that accomplished skippers such as New Zealander-cum-Californian Scott Dickson, Sweden’s Magnus Holmberg and Björn Hansen, and American Sally Barkow, a past Women’s Match Racing World Champion, could be eliminated tomorrow.

Baird is among the skippers who’ll likely advance. The America’s Cup winner from Alinghi won his only match of the day and moved to 4-0; good for first in Group A. Baird’s one win today came against the event reigning champion Ian Williams of England.

Baird wasn’t happy with his start, slightly late and tight to leeward of Williams, but he used his position to luff Williams away less than one minute into the race. Later up the first leg Baird easily crossed Williams approaching the windward mark, and was never seriously threatened from there.

“I was a little late for the start,” Baird said. “I turned down to burn some time and when I turned back up I realized I was late. But it wasn’t too bad because I didn’t want to get stuck down in the coffin corner and hit the pin.”

Walker is second in Group A with a 4-1 record. Last year’s third-place finisher scored two wins on the day, one over Denmark’s Peter Wibroe, which he won after luffing the Dane halfway down the run to the finish.

His second win came over Dickson, and the Kiwi who lives in California basically gifted the race to the Bermudian. Dickson had gotten a pre-start penalty on Walker, and then Walker compounded the problem by being on the course side at the start.

Walker, however, cleared himself on the start line and then had starboard advantage on the port-tack Dickson. Dickson tacked to avoid, but then hit the pin end of the start line. That penalty canceled out Walker’s, and then Walker sailed away to the win.

“At 30 seconds I thought I was looking good,” said Dickson. “At 20 seconds I thought I was looking great. At 10 seconds I was patting the crew on the back. And then I hit the pin.”

Lindberg (4-0) and Richard (3-1) look solid to advance from Group B. Both have been here several times before and their prior experience is helping them move forward. Behind them Johnie Berntsson of Sweden and Finland’s Jon Eriksson are both 2-2, while Holmberg is one loss behind at 2-3.

Cian, the Italian helmsman of South Africa’s Team Shosholoza at the Louis Vuitton Cup in May, has streaked out to a 4-0 lead. Cian had a huge win against David Tabb of England in his first race when he tacked to port off the start line and found a lifting puff. In his second race rival Brian Angel of the U.S. aided Cian’s win by being on the course side at the start.

Another Bermudian, Glenn Astwood, is second at 4-1. Astwood, who won the Bermuda National Match Race Championship, scored a come-from-behind win against Brazil’s Daniel Glomb in his first race and then took down Robbie Allam of the U.K. in the second race. Allam also was on the course side at the start and had a penalty.

Racing today was postponed for nearly five hours while the race committee waited for the wind to settle on Hamilton Harbour. An 8- to 10-knot southwesterly eventually filled in.



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