A once-in-a-lifetime competition is set for October 18-26 when the greatest America's Cup skippers will gather in Bermuda for the Investors Guaranty Presentation of the King Edward VII Gold Cup.
Russell COUTTS, Dean BARKER, Peter GILMOUR, Peter HOLMBERG, Dennis CONNER and Chris DICKSON are among the invited skippers and will be joined by Danish sensations Jes GRAM-HANSEN and defending champion Jesper RADICH. Sailing takes place in International One Design class sloops on Hamilton Harbour and will feature live on-the-water commentary by Peter MONTGOMERY, New Zealand's "Voice of the America's Cup."
The King Edward VII Gold Cup will mark the first time since New Zealand that these America's Cup skippers will face each other in competition. Bermuda, the 21-square-mile English Colony set in the Atlantic might seem an unusual venue for the greatest sailing show on earth, but it is revered by the world's best sailors as a mecca for match racing.
"I love Bermuda,"
said Chris DICKSON, a two-time Gold Cup champion who will represent ORACLE BMW Racing with teammates Gavin BRADY, Ross HALCROW and Dirk DERIDDER. "I have planned to be in Bermuda since the beginning of the year. IOD Racing in the Gold Cup is always tough and exciting, and with a star studded line up of teams the racing is sure to be intense."
Dickson and his ORACLE BMW Racing team recently squared off against another Gold Cup team, ALINGHI in San Francisco, Calif., beating them in the first in a series of ACC regattas. ALINGHI is represented by skipper Russell COUTTS, a six-time Gold Cup champion, with crew Simon DAUBNEY, Warwick FLEURY and Dean PHIPPS.
"The Gold Cup is a fantastic event,"
said Coutts. "The races take place in an enclosed harbour, with shifty winds, so there are always good opportunities. The boats are quite heavy, they turn slowly so they are comparable to Cup boats although much smaller. I also like the fact that the public can watch the races very easily. At ALINGHI, we work hard at promoting match racing and sailing, so it is a good source of inspiration for us."
Two-time Gold Cup champion Peter GILMOUR returns with his Pizza-La Sailing Team: Yasuhiro YAJI, Mike MOTTL and Kazuhiko SOFUKU. The foursome sailed together with the OneWorld Challenge and placed third at the 2003 Danish Open. "The Gold Cup has always been a highlight on the match racing calendar and we are really looking forward to participating once again. It will also be a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and enjoy the wonderful Bermuda hospitality."
ORACLE BMW Racing alumnus Peter HOLMBERG returns to Bermuda for the first time since winning the event in 2001. The Olympic Silver Medallist relishes the thought of Gold Cup competition. "Bermuda offers the most testing boats and conditions on the Tour, and the line-up this year is the toughest I've ever seen, so I expect it to be a true battle,"
said Holmberg, who will sail with Tony REY, Morgan AVERY and Ben BEER. "I am excited about testing myself in equal boats against all the big guns in Bermuda."
The "Great Danes" returning to Bermuda are last year's runner-up Jes GRAM-HANSEN/Team Colorcraft and Jesper RADICH, defending champion and winner of the Swedish Match Tour 2002/2003. Radich counts among his 2003 victories two Swedish Match Tour events: Match Race Germany and ACI HTmobile Cup.
Prior to round one of the King Edward VII Gold Cup, 16 unseeded skippers will compete in a three-day round robin qualifier round from October 18-20. The top six skippers will advance to Round One and go head-to-head with the eight seeds and the winner and runner-up of the Bermuda International Women's Match Racing Championship.
Topping the impressive list of unseeded skippers is Magnus HOLMBERG/Team Continental Airlines of Sweden, who sailed with the Swedish America's Cup team Victory Challenge and ISAF World Match Racing champion Ed BAIRD/Team XL Capital of the US. "I've been going to the Gold Cup since 1989, but this is the first year that I'm not among the seeded entries,"
said Baird who will sail with Andy HORTON, Jon ZISKIND and Tom BURNHAM. "The Gold Cup has been a trend-setting event for three decades. It always has the best competition and great race management. Whoever wins will seriously deserve it, as they will have performed well in varied conditions and against the world's best.
Hopefully, we can make it through to the main event. Then we hope to have a chance at the top four. It's always a tough event because the boats are so unique and the wind in Hamilton Harbour is different every day."
Rounding out the unseeded roster are Kelvin HARRAP of New Zealand, who sailed with OneWorld Challenge, Olympic Soling bronze medallist Paolo CIAN of Italy and 1999 Gold Cup champion Andy GREEN/Team Renaissance Reinsurance of the U.K.
Other 2003 America's Cup sailors participating are Team New Zealand's Cameron APPLETON and Oracle BMW Racing's Cameron DUNN. Rounding out the skippers roster is Scott DICKSON of the US; Mattias RAHM/Team Stena Bulk of Sweden; Staffan LINDBERG of Finland, Bill HARDESTY of the U.S., Maxim TARANOV of Russia, Matthew GREGORY of the US, and Bermuda's Blythe WALKER/Team Bacardi, Adam BARBOZA/Team Bacardi, and Peter BROMBY.
The winner of The King Edward VII Gold Cup will be presented with the King Edward VII Trophy and a take home a share of the $100,000 prize purse.
The Bermuda International Women's Match Racing Championship will be held October 18-21.