Exciting racing, lead changes and numerous penalties characterised the final day of round robin racing for the 16 unseeded skippers hoping to advance into Round One of the ISAF Grade 1, King Edward VII Gold Cup.
In the end, the top three skippers from each of two groups move on to face the top six of eight seeded skippers.
Top scoring skipper in Group 1 was Cameron DUNN (NZL), who will advance and race against #5 seed Russell COUTTS/Team Alinghi (SUI). "We're looking forward to it," said Dunn. "We've got to treat them like any other team that we've raced so far and take it race by race. So far our crew work has been really, really good and we've been sailing fast and hopefully we can keep that going."
The second skipper to advance is Staffan LINDBERG/Team Henri-Lloyd (FIN), who faces #4 seed Peter GILMOUR/Pizza-La Sailing Team (AUS). Paolo CIAN/Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team (ITA) is the third and final qualifier. He will match up with #1 seed Jesper RADICH (DEN), the defending champion.
"I am really happy to get through the round,"
said Cian. "My team has had a great time so far in this event; it is a mix of tradition and efficiency."
In Group 2 Ed BAIRD/Team XL Capital (USA) suffered his only defeat of the round robin against Scott DICKSON/Team Dickson (USA). Baird will go on to race #6 seed Dean BARKER/Team New Zealand's Omega Racing Team (NZL). Unfortunately for Dickson, he will not be advancing despite his success on the water. "My crew did a phenomenal job and we're disappointed not to be going through,"
said Dickson. "Any time you look at your score card and you beat the Swedish Match Tour # 1 and the current world champion and you know you're doing pretty well."
Dickson's fate was sealed by the final match of the day between Peter BROMBY/Team ACE (BER) and Andy GREEN/Renaissance Reinsurance (GBR). An earlier mistake by the race committee led to a re-sail of their originally scheduled first match - won by Bromby - after the end of the group's matches were completed. Bromby had to win to advance and it was looking like his chances were dwindling, holding a penalty into the last windward mark rounding. Green followed close behind, got too close during Bromby's penalty turn and the two boats wound up hooked together. Then Green found himself on the mark, holding two penalties, unable to get out of Bromby's way and headed for a nasty collision with Bromby. The on-the-water umpires handed him a black flag, an automatic disqualification. After a hearing by the jury, Green was docked one point and fined $1500 for damage.
"We ended up on the wrong side of Peter and it took us quite a while to get out of it,"
explained Green to a packed post-race press conference. "It was like two rutting dogs. I thought if we sprayed water on the boat that they would call the race off. It's been a while since we've gotten a black flag. I need to thank my crew - Jim (Turner), Chris (Main) and Jeremy (Elliot) - who kept me pointed in the right direction. I don't always listen to them and I should have when they said, 'this could be a no spinnaker rounding by Bromby' and I told them to hoist the spinnaker anyway. In retrospect, it was a bad move. This event is best of the Tour and we've had a lot of very good times. We even won it a few years ago and it wasn't too long ago that we were taking away $20,000 and a nice golden trophy, but this time we're a little lighter in the pocket."
For Bromby, it is a chance to settle a score with Jes Gram-Hansen/Team Colorcraft (DEN), who beat eliminated him in the 2002 edition of this event. "I have to thank my crew,"
said Bromby. "They stuck to me and got our act together. It was a long day and I'm happy we're able to go through."
Bill HARDESTY (USA) advances to face #3 seed Peter HOLMBERG/Team Gramicci (USVI). The two teams spent a weekend in Newport, R.I. practicing and Hardesty credited his mentor for teaching his survival tactics, "I think he took pity on me and showed me a few of his moves. They worked and now I'll have to test them out on him."
In the Bermuda International Women's Match Racing Championship, four skippers advance to tomorrow's semi-final round: Bermuda's Paula LEWIN/Team ACE, Sweden's Jenny AXHEDE/Team Panorama, and two U.S. teams Sally BARKOW/Team Seven and Elizabeth KRATZIG.
Title sponsor of the King Edward VII Gold Cup is Investors Guaranty(tm). The event is hosted by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the Bermuda Department of Tourism. Renaissance Reinsurance is the Presenting Sponsor. Primary Sponsors are Bacardi, Colorcraft, Continental Airlines, Coral Beach & Tennis Club, Horizons Resort, Oleander Cycles, Omega, The Waterloo House and Wedgwood.