Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Battle For World Match Racing Tour Championship Hots Up

[Source: World Match Racing Tour] The world’s leading sailors will be fighting for precious points at The Argo Group Gold Cup in Bermuda, with next week’s match race representing the last chance saloon for skippers to move up the leaderboard ahead of the the ISAF World Match Racing Tour’s season ending finale - The Monsoon Cup in December. Racing for the Argo Group Gold Cup starts October 5 and concludes October 11 at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

The Argo Group Gold Cup is the eighth event of the WMRT season and invites to the final Tour event, the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia, are only guaranteed to the top six teams in the year’s points table. With both the Tour Championship and the ISAF Match Racing Championship that rides with it still hanging in the balance the battle for points in Bermuda this year is sure to be even more fierce than usual.

At the top of the WMRT leader board France’s Matthieu Richard (French Match Racing Team) has seen his mid-season lead cut to just 27 points with reigning champion Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing breathing down his neck, while two time World Champion Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar and Australia’s Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team are still within striking distance.

All four teams are set to lock horns in Bermuda as they scrap for vital points but will have to overcome the challenge of defending Champion Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN if they want to take the title. And given the unique 24-team format in Bermuda, they may suffer upsets in the early round robin and not even meet on the course.

All eyes will be on Richard to see if he can learn from his previous experiences and avoid another late season meltdown. The Frenchman has led the series at the halfway point for the past two years but suffered dramatic collapses in both those seasons. While he has been the model of consistency this year, with five podium finishes in seven events, his position is by no means unassailable.

Fears of Richard’s vulnerability resurfaced again after his disastrous semi-final at the Danish Open earlier this month when he let slip a 2-0 lead against Mirsky. However Richard believes this year he has what it takes to go on claim his first world crown. He won the Gold Cup in 2007 and consistently races well in the classic International One Design (IOD) sloops sailed in Bermuda.

“We have done a lot of training with our sports psychologist and feel stronger from our experiences of the last few years,” said Richard who lost out to Minoprio in the Quarters in Bermuda last year. “We have trained a lot as a team and the fact we were able to take third in Denmark gives us confidence. We have good memories of Bermuda. Our first time at the event was in 2004 and was a one of the best experiences in my match racing career. We were against Russell Coutts in the quarter-finals, and although he went on to win the event for the seventh time, we won our first two races against him.”

Racing at the Argo Group Gold Cup takes place in the confined waters of the island’s Hamilton Harbour where sailors are always faced with fickle and shifty winds. Also experiencing these conditions will be some of the world’s best Opti sailors racing their finals of the Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup. The young sailors from 17 countries will come in from the Great sound on Argo Group Gold Cup finals day, Sunday October 11, to follow in the wakes of their heroes and finish their regatta in the shadow of the Argo Group Gold Cup finals.

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