An international fleet of men and women representing the best match racing sailors from around the world were the focus of intense on the water competition in Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda on Saturday.
The inaugural qualifying round of the Investors Guaranty presentation of the King Edward VII Gold Cup and the Cicada International Women's Match Racing championship took place in winds gusting to 30 knots and three groups of match racers divided into flights were locked in a series of on-the-water duels where the points scored set the pace for the next three days of racing.
The top six finishers of the unseeded men will go on to qualify to race for the Bermuda Gold Cup and the top two women finishers will also qualify for a shot at winning the Gold Cup whose prize money totals $100,000.
The morning's racing included Group 1 of the qualifying round, where the unseeded men sailed three flights. America's Cup sailor and New Zealander Cameron APPLETON dominated his races with three wins. Facing Bill HARDESTY of the U.S.A. and Chris LARSON of the U.S.A. in his first two rounds respectively, Appleton said he faced his toughest competition in his first two races and what was one of the most dramatic starts of the day's racing.
"Our first race was hectic against Hardesty as we had four lead changes and four penalties. It was an intense race but it got us going for the rest of the races,"
Appleton said. "I think we had our toughest match races today and we thought we would get through those smoothly, that was our game plan, but they were a scramble. During our third race we were in the groove."
Hardesty is trailing on the first day of racing in an event where he placed sixth overall in 2003 he hopes to improve tomorrow when he will race two flights. "The first race was very close with Appleton and we ended up tight at the finish,"
Hardesty said. "But, we were disappointed today and know that it sometimes goes this way. We are hoping we sail better tomorrow."
Additional strong performances in the first round by American Brian ANGEL puts him at two points in the standings where he beat Chris LARSON of the U.S.A. and Hardesty. Bermudan Adam BARBOZA has two points with a particularly strong performance in his final race against American Chris LARSON. "There is a high level of talent here this week and our two wins today are great,"
Barboza said. "I look forward to good sailing tomorrow."
Among others, there was a collision during the second leg of racing causing a delay, and during the third race of the morning, Appleton struck the Italian team as they were heading for the downwind mark. "That was just a moment where we were not concentrating on the course and we didn't see them,"
Appleton said. "I think my brain shut down for a moment."
Conditions on the first day of racing intensified for the mid-afternoon flight where Group 2 sailed Flight 1 of their qualifying round just as the wind began to pick up to nearly 30 knots. The second race of Flight 2 was delayed while the race officials required the teams to reef their mains and sail without spinnakers.
When they wrapped up their series, Cameron DUNN of New Zealand had two strong performances beating Blythe WALKER and Mason WOODWORTH and is now 2-0. "Today was a tough day. We sailed well in these conditions and we are relieved with our two wins,"
Dunn said. "We stayed in the game and that was our goal. We plan to sail into the qualifying rounds and this gives us some momentum."
Scott DICKSON, another New Zealand sailor who is a veteran sailor in the Bermuda Gold Cup sailed only one round of his second flight after a gear failure in the second race caused it to be abandoned. "We basically sailed the first leg of the second race without a jib as it had malfunctioned and the race committee did wisely choose to abandon the race,"
Dickson said. "Handling these boats becomes a test of seamanship and heavy air sailing. At present we have one done one race but our goal is to qualify and based on how we sailed today we are doing well. Anyone who sailed this race today on the first day of the qualifying round should be commended. The conditions were very tough out there today."
King Edward VII Gold Cup Match Racing Tournament
Saturday 16 October 2004
Win/Loss Record - 16 October 2004
C. Appleton 3 - 0
B. Angel 2 - 1
A. Barboza 2 - 1
P. Campbell-James 2 - 1
R. Ferrarese 1 - 2
Y. Funazawa 1 - 2
C. Larson 1 - 2
B. Hardesty 1 - 2
C. Dunn 2 - 0
A. Kotoun 2 - 0
S. Dickson 1 - A
E. Kratzig 1 - 1
E. Monnin 1 - 1
J. Singsen 0 - 2
B. Walker 0 - A
M. Woodworth 0 - 2