In the first round eight seeded entrants go up against six qualifiers and the top two from the Women's Worlds for the quarter final slots. The eight seeds this year include current ISAF Match Racing World Champion James SPITHILL (AUS) and three three-time Worlds winners: number one in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings Ed BAIRD (USA); three-time America's Cup winner Russell COUTTS (NZL) and; BMW Oracle skipper Chris DICKSON (NZL). Last year COUTTS won the event, defeating SPITHILL in the final with BAIRD taking third place. COUTTS winning could hardly be called a rare occurrence anywhere in the World, but even by the legendary Kiwi's standards, Bermuda has been a happy hunting ground. Victory last year was his seventh, with his appearance this year marking the 15th anniversary of his first win back in 1990. Amongst the rest of the field, only DICKSON can boast Gold Cup victories, although both of his wins came before COUTTS's dominance began, back in 1987 and 1989.
Heading up the American BMW Oracle America's Cup syndicate, DICKSON, has been a rare sight on the ISAF Graded circuit in recent years, whereas COUTTS, after his split from Swiss Defender Alinghi, has been back amongst the thick of it in the smaller boats, and already has two victories under his belt this year and has risen back up to number three in the World Rankings as a results. Both BAIRD and SPITHILL have managed to combine America's Cup helming duties, for Alinghi and the Italian Luna Rossa respectively, with appearances on the ISAF Graded circuit, with BAIRD a regular sight in the number one Ranking spot, although a repeat of his second last year could well see SPITHILL topple the American after his recent Worlds win.
|Cameron DUNN on his way to
victory in the qualifier
© Charles Anderson/PPL
2002 ISAF Match Racing World Champion Karol JABLONSKI (POL) arrived a day late in Bermuda due to passport issues. However the delay had seemingly little effect and JABLONSKI soon found his feet to qualify comfortably behind Cameron APPLETON (NZL) of the French K-Challenge and Cameron DUNN (NZL) in the ISAF Grade 3 Qualifying event. The USA's Bill HARDESTY, Japan's Takumi NAKAMURA and Switzerland's Eric MONNIN make up the remaining three qualifiers.
The final two World Champions come from the women's scene, with 1998 Worlds winner Betsy ALISON (USA) joining 2004 and 2005 winner Sally BARKOW (USA). ALISON has competed on the open circuit before, most recently coming third at the ISAF Grade 3 Chicago Match Racing Regatta, whilst for BARKOW this will be her debut appearance with the men.
The 16 skippers had the opportunity to practice in the IODs yesterday, whilst racing gets underway today at 0900 hours local time, with racing each day through until Friday.
King Edward VII Gold Cup Entrants
(- ISAF World Match Race Ranking)
Ed BAIRD (USA) - 1
Russell COUTTS (NZL) - 3
Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) - 4
Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) - 6
James SPITHILL (AUS) - 8
Staffan LINDBERG (FIN) - 12
Eric MONNIN (SUI) - 22
Takumi NAKAMURA (JPN) - 34
Gavin BRADY (NZL) - 37
Chris DICKSON (NZL) - 44
Karol JABLONSKI (POL) - 45
Bill HARDESTY (USA) - 75
Cameron DUNN (NZL) - 149
Cameron APPLETON (NZL) - 195
Betsy ALISON (USA) - 429
Sally BARKOW (USA) - Not Ranked
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