The 2011 Argo Group Gold Cup burst into life today after several Tour Card Holders tasted defeat against wildcards and qualifiers in the second Qualifying Session in Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda.
In the opening exchanges, the headlines were all about Taylor Canfield (ISV) and Lance Fraser (BER). A shock win for 18-year old Fraser against Torvar Mirsky (AUS) was then superseded by a great run of wins for Canfield against three Tour Card Holders.
Johnie Berntsson (SWE), Mirsky and Peter Gilmour (AUS) all fell foul to Canfield, the young skipper looking every bit as impressive as last year in the Gold Cup when he finished in sixth place. Reflecting on his performances, Canfield said, "Beating the top seeds in the group is the ideal start. This is our first Tour event for the year and we're aiming to match, if not better, last year."
There's little room for error in the Argo Group Gold Cup Qualifying Sessions where just two losses can put a team into the repechage. A crop of teams in Group 2 face that very prospect after Gilmour and Mirsky all finished the second Qualifying Session on 2-2. "We should be winning our first races in the group stages - the guys who beat us deserved to win,"
said Mirsky. "We may be able to pick things back up but it depends on how the rest go. Usually two loses puts you into the repechage group. We've got tough matches coming up and every one of them counts now so the pressure is really on."
In stark contrast to the opening day, a consistent breeze of 12 to 14 knots swept through a sunny Hamilton Harbour to allow plenty of racing. In Group 3, the Tour Card Holders started to assert their authority with Ian Williams (GBR) and French Match Racing Team mates Mathieu Richard and Damien Iehl all posting 4-0 scorelines. The pressure in that group will rise tomorrow though when those three face one another with only two automatic qualification places on offer, something Williams is only too aware of, "With these IOD boats you have all 3 crew trimming and I've got 3 really strong guys so that's working well for us - when we started behind we were able to overtake, even with a penalty in one match. That said, it all comes down to tomorrow with Iehl, Richard and myself gunning for two spots."
It was always going to be a tall order for Peter Miller (BER) to reach the knock out stages however the young skipper was able to raise a smile after a winless day in Group 2, "It was a tough but fun day. I've never had so much fun getting my ass kicked! We got better as the day went on and we got more comfortable with the way things go. Hopefully we do better tomorrow and manage to get a win. Things can only get easier from here hopefully."
Group 1 resumed their racing after completing only one flight on the opening day. After a series of shock wins for the wildcards and qualifiers earlier in the day, the Tour Card Holders continued to turn the screw. Francesco Bruni (ITA), who sits in second place in the Championship race and needs a high score here to really put the pressure on Williams going into Malaysia, was in fine form. Wins against Jakub Pawluk (POL), Jordan Reece (AUS), local skipper Blythe Walker (BER) and Keith Swinton (AUS) took him to a 4-0 overnight score alongside Jesper Radich (DEN) and Staffan Lindberg (FIN). Fellow Championship contender Bjorn Hansen (SWE) finished the day on 3-1.
Again though, with only two automatic qualification places, one of these teams, if they're still in the hunt after their seven races, will have to give way and fight it out in the repechage.
The third qualifying session gets underway at 09:00 local time (-4hrs GMT) on Thursday 6 October. Catch the preview on The WMRT Morning Show with Hannah White and a review of each day on The WMRT Today Show after racing finishes at www.wmrt.com.
Results after Qualifying Session Two:
Overall Championship Standings - after 6 stages:
1 Ian Williams (GBR) Team GAC Pindar - 90pts
2 Francesco Bruni (ITA) Bruni Racing - 89pts
3 Torvar Mirsky (AUS) The Wave Muscat - 84pts
4 Peter Gilmour (AUS) YANMAR Racing - 74pts
5 Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Mekonomen Sailing Team - 73pts
6 Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 67pts
7 Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team - 63pts
8 Jesper Radich (DEN) Adrian Lee & Partners - 61pts
9 Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team - 48pts
10 Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing - 43pts