Bermuda National Match Racing Champion, Blythe Walker and youngster Lance Fraser have gotten their Argo Group Gold Cup challenge off to a strong start on the first day of competition, as the local favourites went head-to-head against the world's top match racers at the Alpari World Match Racing Tour's (AWMRT) penultimate stage.
Walker (BER) and Lance Fraser (BER) Fraser Digicell Match Racing Team draw the majority of local support on the island and finished first and second respectively at the National Championships. Sweden's Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team is one of the Tour Card Holders who has also gained a fanbase in recent years due to his regular appearances and success at the event. Walker, said, "Johnie [Berntsson] is one of the Tour Card Holders that I've raced a few times before at this event. He has a very good handle on these boats and knows how to sail them as well as anyone.
"Having the local support out there is great for all of us and it feels good. When we're racing we have to be single-minded but it certainly helps to know that people want us to do well."
On his own ambitions for the event, Walker, said, "For the guys here competing for the first time, I think the boats take a bit of getting used to but some of the guys that have been here once or twice before, they can figure them out pretty quickly. We've done well today but know that we have the likes of [Ian] Williams and [Staffan] Lindberg tomorrow and I think they'll be important matches for our progression."
Lance Fraser has lived in Bermuda for 17 years and currently studies in Canada when not skippering his crew that includes Team Bermuda Olympian, Jesse Kirkland, who recently returned from London 2012 where he competed in the 49er class. Fraser recorded an impressive 3-1 record in his first session as he looks to be one of four who will progress from his group, through to the knockout stages. He said, "Our pre starts today were really good and they were key for us as I don't think we were the fastest in boat speed.
"It's great having Jesse [Kirkland] on the boat and he did a good job guiding us around the course. He's barely match raced but his experience is important to us and the communication with him is working well.
"Blythe [Walker] has been sailing well today too from what I've seen and in this light stuff I think the local knowledge gives us a good advantage. We've trained together quite a lot and hopefully we'll both go out tomorrow and repeat the same again."
Taylor Canfield (ISV) Canfield Racing once again staked his claim to being one of the up and coming teams on the match racing circuit, having made the Semi Final of the Chicago Match Cup Tour event earlier in the season. He finished the day with three victories from three and will go into the second day of Qualifying confident that he can make the knockout rounds once again. He said, "We haven't set a target number of wins in Qualifying, we just want to take as many points as possible in the first few days. It's one at a time until we make the Quarter Finals, that's all we'll focus on and we'll keep at it and fighting until that's done.
"Everything is working well and our speed was good today. We feel comfortable together and the attitude and communication is working on the boat.
"We were happy out there and it's nice to have the same guys on board as I had in Chicago. We felt like things were going well in practice yesterday so I'm glad we've managed to continue that."
Staffan Lindberg (FIN) Alandia Sailing Team was another who started brightly today, remaining undefeated in his three opening matches, including a victory over defending Tour Champion, Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar, who finished the day 3-1. Lindberg feels that his team are working well together and expects more of the same in tomorrow's second Qualifying Session, he said, "We had some practice time on these boats in Gothenburg with Johnie [Berntsson] and I think it has helped us get used to handling them. The team are working well and I won't look to make any adjustments tomorrow. It's our third Tour event of the year and that match racing experience seems to be helping us here."
The Argo Group Gold Cup second Qualifying Session will take place on Wednesday 3 October from 09:00 local time (GMT-3). Live updates are available at:
Tour regular Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt
Live event Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/wmrt_liverace
Live broadcast coverage of all the action will be available online at www.wmrt.com/live
from Friday 5 October at 11:00. TV listings are available at http://www.wmrt.com/live/tv-schedule.html
Replays of live video footage from the whole season are available at http://new.livestream.com/WorldMRT/
Argo Group Gold Cup, Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda - Qualifying standings after session one:
Taylor Canfield (ISV) 3-0
Staffan Lindberg (FIN) 3-0
Blythe Walker (BER) 3-1
Ian Williams (GBR) 3-1
David Chapman (AUS) 2-1
Stratis Andreadis (GRE) 1-2
William Tiller (NZL) 1-2
Marek Stanczyk (POL) 0-3
Magnus Sandberg (SWE) 0-3
Peter Wickwire (CAN) 0-3
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) 3-0
Lance Fraser (BER) 3-1
Bjorn Hansen (SWE) 3-1
Eric Monnin (SUI) 2-1
Adam Minoprio (NZL) 2-1
Sally Barkow (USA) 1-2
Henrique Haddad (BRA) 1-2
Nicolai Sehested (DEN) 1-2
Sergy Musikkin (RUS) 0-3
Jurjen Feitsma (NED) 0-3