In the final day of the qualifying round robin competition, six unseeded competitors optimized their light air sailing skills and bested the field to advance to the first stage of the Investors Guaranty presentation of the King Edward VII Gold Cup.
The winning teams relied on a keen eye across the racecourse and split-second tactical decisions featuring strong performances by Chris DICKSON of New Zealand (6-1) who sailed a classic match race in the final against fellow New Zealander Cameron DUNN (4-3) who will also enter the qualifying round.
"Even with one loss going in to today, we knew we had to sail well as a team and today just re-emphasized that,"
said Dickson. "The team is doing a brilliant job and we would have been disappointed, quite frankly, if we didn't get to the qualifying rounds."
The six unseeded teams now remain in the hunt to take on seeded sailors including six-time Gold Cup winner and three-time America's Cup helmsman Russell COUTTS, America's Cup legend Dennis CONNER, Peter GILMOUR and James SPITHILL amongst others.
The sixteen sailors were divided into two groups where the top three from each group advance to race against seeded skippers in a knockout 'first to three points wins' elimination format.
For Dickson, the ultimate reward would be to hold the precious Gold Cup trophy aloft.
"If you want to win The King Edward VII Gold Cup you have to beat everyone and we are looking forward to it,"
Dickson noted. "The seeded skippers are professional sailors, but we are professional sailors, too."
Sailors Anthony KARTOUN (5-2) of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Newport RI, Cameron APPLETON (5-2) of New Zealand, and Brian Angel of the U.S.A. (5-2) also have a shot at the qualifying round and have joined the quest to win The King Edward VII Gold Cup.
"We are happy we qualified and we came here with that goal in mind,"
Appleton said. "Although we would love to hold that Gold Cup aloft at this stage we also face seeded Australian skipper James SPITHILL in the first round so anything can happen."
Kartoun is also optimistic about his chances of advancing and although he faces last year's winner Peter GILMOUR in the first round he plans to "take a crack at the home run. When you come to race here you always schedule your plane ticket for after the finals next Sunday and just try to maintain your normal program and not get nervous,"
Brian ANGEL of the U.S.A. also came to the event here in the hopes of entering the qualifying rounds. "We were hoping to qualify and we thought we could do it,"
American Chris LARSON (5-2) of the United States will also enter the qualifying rounds although he started the regatta on Saturday with a deficit and went on to win four races in a row to take his position in the qualifying round.
Larson is equally optimistic about his chances in the seeded rounds of the King Edward VII Gold Cup. "It is a knockout series and we are confident that anything can happen. I have raced against these guys many times and I know we can go all the way."
Larfson faces #1 seed Ed BAIRD of St Petersburg FL, top ranked match race sailor in the ISAF World Match Race Rankings and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Nominee for 2004.
Finally, Cameron DUNN of New Zealand (3-2) was the final of the six to qualify for a shot at the seeded skippers. In a complicated five-way tie, Dunn won out over Elizabeth KRATZIG of the U.S.A. (3-2), Mason WOODWORTH of the U.S.A. (3-2), Eric MONNIN of Switzerland (3-2), and Adam BARBOZA of Bermuda (3-2). Because Dunn was the only skipper in tie to beat Dickson in an earlier round he was able to advance to face #2 seed Mathieu RICHARD in the knockout round.
I feel very fortunate to advance to the qualifying rounds and I am looking forward to the next set of races,"
Dunn said. "I feel badly for the other competitors to lose in a tie breaker but I will take it."