Friday, October 12, 2007

Bermudians Astwood and Walker provide thrills at the Bermuda Gold Cup

[Source: World Match Racing Tour] Bermudians Glenn Astwood and Blythe Walker joined four others in advancing to the Quarterfinal Round of the $100,000 King Edward VII Gold Cup match race regatta in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Today all three groups completed their initial rounds robin racing, with the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals.

Afterwards, the first three flights of the Repechage Round were completed. The second-chance round features the third- and fourth-place finishers from the three groups, and the top two advance to the quarterfinals.

Walker, last year’s third-place finisher, won Group A with a 5-1 record. In the quarterfinals he will meet the second-place finisher from the repechage. Walker thrilled the locals when he defeated America’s Cup-winning skipper Ed Baird of the U.S. in his last race of the round robin.

The exciting race saw Baird get a penalty on Walker in the pre-start, but Baird gave away his advantage when he started the race early. Baird caught up halfway through the match, but then Walker opened a big enough lead in shifty winds to be able to complete his penalty turn on the finish line and score the upset.

“I can’t deny that I’m happy,” said Walker. “In the pre-start we tried to tack to starboard, but Ed put a snafu in that plan. We just concentrated on the wind shifts, and it worked out for us.”

Astwood placed second in Group C with a 5-1 record. He lost a tiebreaker for the group win to Italy’s Paolo Cian because Cian beat him head-to-head in Flight 2.

Astwood, the reigning Bermuda National Match Race champion, will face Frenchman Mathieu Richard in the quarterfinals. Richard placed second overall last year, and advanced to the quarters by finishing second in Group B with a 4-2 record. Astwood will have the home crowd advantage tomorrow.

“He’s in a no-win situation,” Astwood said of Richard. “If he loses, he loses. And if he wins he’ll have 60,000 people chasing him off the island.”

The Astwood-Richard match is in the bottom half of the ladder, which also features a match between a pair of America’s Cup helmsman – Baird and Cian. Baird led Alinghi to victory in the 32nd America’s Cup Match and Cian helmed South Africa’s Team Shosholoza in the Louis Vuitton Cup.

“I watched some of the repechage today and let me say that I’m lucky not to be in it,” said Cian. “But we don’t have a lucky route through the quarterfinals. Tomorrow will be tough going up against Baird’s centuries of experience.”

The other quarterfinalist is Johnie Berntsson of Sweden. Berntsson won a three-way tiebreak to claim Group B with a 4-2 record. Berntsson in the quarters will face off against the winner of the repechage.

In the repechage, two Swedes are trying to write incredible comeback stories. Sweden’s Björn Hansen and Magnus Holmberg are both in the mix, along with Finland’s Staffan Lindberg and Brian Angel of the U.S.

Hansen, the world No. 6-ranked skipper, awoke this morning on the verge of elimination. But he rattled off two wins to get to the repechage round and then won his first three matches to lead the round at 3-0.

“It was a very tricky day. We needed a bit of luck, especially against Staffan,” Hansen said of his final repechage race against Lindberg, which was a come-from-behind win. “We’re trying to work on our communication. We’re speaking more in English because we have a local, Will Thompson, onboard.”

While Hansen leads at 3-0, Holmberg, the skipper of Sweden’s Victory Challenge in the Louis Vuitton Cup, Lindberg and Angel are tied at 2-1.

In a surprising development, England’s Ian Williams of Team Pindar likely will not have a chance to defend his title. Williams placed fourth in Group A with a 4-2 record, but has lost all three matches in the repechage round.

“How am I feeling? Well, pretty bad,” said Williams, the world’s No. 1-ranked match racer. “Mathematically, we’re done for the week. The repechage went wrong.”

Racing today was conducted in a challenging southerly wind that shifted through 90 degrees at times with the strength ranging between 2 and 7 knots at the windward mark and up to 12 knots at the leeward mark.

Final Group A Standings
(After 7 of 7 flights)
1. Blythe Walker (BER), 5-1
2. Ed Baird (USA) Alinghi, 5-1
3. Alvaro Marinho (POR) Team, 4-2
4. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 4-2
5. Scott Dickson (NZL) Dickson Racing Team, 2-4
6. Eric Monnin (SUI) Team Monnin, 1-5
7. Peter Wibroe (DEN), 0-6

Final Group B Standings
(After 7 of 7 flights)
1. Johnie Berntsson (SWE), 4-2
2. Mathieu Richard (FRA) Saba SailingTeam, 4-2
3. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team, 4-2
4. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 3-3
5. Jon Eriksson (FIN), 3-3
6. Sally Barkow (USA) Team 7 Sailing, 2-4
7. Chris Van Tol (USA), 1-5

Final Group C Standings
(After 7 of 7 flights)
1. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Shosholoza, 5-1
2. Glenn Astwood (BDA), 5-1
3. Björn Hansen (SWE) Team, 4-2
4. Brian Angel (USA) King Harbor Match Race Team, 3-3
5. Daniel Glomb (BRA), 3-3
6. David Tabb (GBR), 1-5
7. Robbie Allam (GBR), 0-6

Repechage Round Standings
(After 3 of 5 flights)
1. Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Team, 3-0
2. Brian Angel (USA) King Harbor Match Race Team, 2-1
T. Magnus Holmberg (SWE) Victory Challenge, 2-1
T. Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Team Alandia, 2-1
5. Alvaro Marinho (POR) Team, 0-3
T. Ian Williams (GBR) Team Pindar, 0-3

Quarterfinal Matches
Blythe Walker (BER) vs. Repechage No. 2
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) vs. Repechage No. 1
Paolo Cian (ITA) vs. Ed Baird (USA)
Mathieu Richard (FRA) vs. Glenn Astwood (BER)



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