THE HEAT IS ON!
Hamilton, Bermuda – The Argo Group Gold Cup starts on Tuesday and is the last opportunity for teams to gather World Championship points before the final Tour showdown at the Monsoon Cup in December. The top 8 in the Tour standings are all in Bermuda and leading the charge for points will be Ben Ainslie and his Team Origin who need an outstanding result here to boost their podium chances. Also in the scramble are the French Match Racing Team pair of Sebastien Col and Damien Iehl. Col has been struggling to find form this year with his season high point at Match Cup Sweden back in July. Damien Iehl has sailed fewer events but has performed well at each one, he could be the surprise package in Bermuda. Under pressure is double world and 2006 Gold Cup champion, Team Pindar's sponsored by Argo Group Ian Williams who knows all too well how harsh the format is in Bermuda after crashing out of the event before the quarter-finals in 2007. He needs points to keep his hopes of a third consecutive World Championship alive. Chasing an unprecedented 5th Tour Championship is Australian Peter Gilmour. Currently lying 4th on the Tour leaderboard and gathering pace Gilmour isn't someone you'd choose to face in a fire fight. Another past Gold Cup Champion Mathieu Richard is back in Bermuda and is currently holding onto 3rd place on the Tour. Richard will be desperate to hold onto his podium position and looking to move up a step or two. 2008 runner up Adam Minoprio (NZL) will be looking to repeat last years performance or go one better and with it try to reclaim the number one spot on the Tour from friend and rival Torvar Mirsky (AUS). Mirsky will no doubt have other plans to keep himself as top dog by the end of the Argo Group Gold Cup
Joining the top 8 from the Tour leaderboard will be 16 more teams, making the event the biggest entry field on the Tour. Amongst those looking to upset the status quo are a triumvirate of Sweden's best, defending Gold Cup Champion Johnie Berntsson (SWE), 2008 Match Cup Sweden Champion Mattais Rahm and 2007 Match Cup Sweden Champion Bjorn Hansen. The antipodeans are also out in force joining Torvar Mirsky, Adam Minoprio and Peter Gilmour are Kiwi's Phil Robertson and Reuben Corbett along with Australian Keith Swinton. Dave Perry (USA) and Chicago Match Race Centre prime mover Don Wilson (USA) lead the US charge. From the home nation past semi-finalist Blythe Walker is back and hungrier than ever to get another Bermudian name on the Gold Cup Trophy, as is Olympian Paula Lewin who is setting her sights on London 2012 in the Women's Match Racing discipline, what a start winning the Gold Cup would be.
The format for the Argo Group Gold Cup splits the 24 teams into 3 groups of eight. The top two from each group qualify for the quarter finals, the next two in each group go to a 6 team repechage to find the final two for the quarters. From there on its pure knock-out first to score three points advances. It's a do or die format and the teams that emerge are the ones that display the ability to perform under pressure.
The points scored in Bermuda will ultimately define which teams get their passes to the Monsoon Cup as Tour Director Craig Mitchell explains “It is our intention to guarantee an invite (to the Monsoon Cup) for the first six teams on the World Tour leaderboard after the Argo Group Gold Cup. There will be a further two invites available from the Tour that will be awarded on application. However if there is a mathematical possibility of the teams in 7th and/or 8th place winning the World Championship they will also receive an invite.”
Filling out the 12 places in Malaysia will be two wild card invites that are currently being considered by the Monsoon Cup organisers. Invites will also go to the winners of the Malaysian Championship and the Asian Championship in November which have an unprecedented number of competitors queuing up to enter.