Hamilton, Bermuda - The big question of the day at the Argo Group Gold Cup was whether overall World Match Racing Tour leader Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team would fail to qualify for the Quarter-Finals and blow the title race wide open as the Tour heads towards its finale, the Monsoon Cup.
To make the Qualifying play-off, the French team needed a victory against Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team, however a slow start from Richard put Radich in the driving seat. Richard has had to play catch up all week and this race proved no different. As they reached the first windward mark, Richard had a monumental task on his hands, with the Danish skipper rounding eight lengths ahead. The French team then took the right hand side of the run to hope for a change of fortune. Instead they sailed into a hole, leaving Radich with a huge and ultimately unassailable lead.
Mike Buckley (USA) MB Racing also had to win his final race to make the play-offs, but would loose the tie break at the bottom of his group if he lost against Terry McLaughlin (CAN). The American made a great start, leaving McLaughlin stationary on the line to take an early 45-second lead. Seeking every puff and favourable windshift the veteran Canadian fought back hard to slip just ahead of Buckley at the leeward mark and stayed ahead to take his second win of the event.
The Race to Avoid the Play-Offs
If Richard and Buckley were in a race to make the play-offs, many teams competing in Qualifying Session 3 were racing to avoid them. Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing had the added pressure that, following Richard’s early departure, a win in Bermuda would put him on equal points with the French team in the title race. Standing in his way though was last year’s Argo Group Gold Cup winner Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN. A tack by Minoprio just before the start left the Kiwi with no time to accelerate before the gun, handing Ainslie control of the race. He was 20 seconds ahead at the first windward mark and held the lead to the finish.
The prospect of competing in the play-offs also weighed heavily on Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team, Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group, and Alvaro Marinho (POR) Seth Sailing Team. A great start by Berntsson in his match against Marinho allowed the Swede to follow the wind shifts up the first beat to pull out a substantial lead by the first mark. The super-light conditions suited him – he extended his advantage all the way to the finish.
With his place already assured in the Quarter-Finals, Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team had the chance to seriously dent the title ambitions of one of their nearest rivals, Ian Williams. Mirsky forced the Brit into a rushed tack on the start line, leaving Williams parked on the line and struggling to accelerate in the super-light wind. The young Australian excelled in the challenging conditions to take a huge victory over Williams, to win the group and consign Williams to join Marinho in the play-off.
Commenting on the task ahead, Williams, said: “The Qualifying play-off will be a really tough round – there are some top sailors in the group and only a one-in-three chance of going through. That said, we are confident we have the skills to win enough races to proceed.”
Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team 6-0
Jesper Radich (DEN) Gaastra Racing Team 6-1
Taylor Canfield (USA) 6-1
Eric Monnin (SUI) Swiss Match Racing Team 5-1
Johnnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 5-1
Reuben Corbett (NZL) Black Sheep Racing 4-2
Proceeding to Qualifying Session Play-Off
Adam Minoprio (NZL) ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing 4-2
Ben Ainslie (GBR) TEAMORIGIN 4-2
Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar sponsored by Argo Group 4-2
Alvaro Marinho (POR) Seth Sailing Team 3-3
Phil Robertson (NZL) Waka Racing 3-4
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Hansen Racing Team 3-4