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Tropical Storm Gonzalo a threat to regatta

Argo Group Gold Cup organisers are tracking Tropical Storm Gonzalo which is threatening to disrupt next week’s regatta.

The storm is predicted to intensify into a category two hurricane by tomorrow — with winds ranging between 96mph and 110mph — on its final approach to Bermuda this week.

It could wreak havoc on the Gold Cup, which is scheduled to start on Monday with the opening ceremony and practice session in Hamilton Harbour.

“Obviously we are concerned about Gonzalo which looks to be approaching close to Bermuda or hit ting Bermuda this weekend — whether it’s Friday, Saturday or Sunday — and that could put a wrinkle into the start of the Gold Cup practice day on Monday,” Brian Billings, the Argo Group Gold Cup chairman, said.

“It’s early days yet so we can’t make any decisions on that and we will not be making any decisions yet. But we will be looking at various options of what we can and can’t do depending on what Gonzalo allows us to do.”

It is hoped that a cold front pushing across the south east of the United States will steer Gonzalo further to the east of its predicted track to Bermuda.

“As we all know it’s a moving target and these things can slip off to the east of us, which we hope she will do, and keep drifting to the east,” Billings said.

“But she’s a long way away at his stage of the game, and so it’s difficult to predict exactly how badly it may affect Bermuda and the Argo Group Gold Cup. We are all keeping our fingers crossed.”

Gonzalo could also impact on the arrival of participating teams, many of whom are scheduled to arrive on Sunday, a day after the storm is predicted to reach its closest point to Bermuda.

“Some teams are coming in on Saturday but the majority are coming in on Sunday with some still coming in Monday,” Billings added. “If there is a problem with the storm then we may have some plane delays which at this stage is more of an issue because if we have those delays then we don’t have the skippers or the crews here in order to start play.

“We are meeting on Wednesday to look at alternative options. It might mean we have to shorten the event because the sailors can’t get into Bermuda.”

Gold Cup organisers breathed a sigh of relief after the local International One Design fleet, that will be used for the regatta, emerged relatively unscathed from Tropical Storm Fay that lashed the Island in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“Prior to the arrival of Tropical Storm Fay we had all the boats hauled up at Mill’s Creek getting them prepped for the Argo Group Gold Cup and when Fay hit most of them were relatively unscathed with no damage,” Billings said.

“There was one boat, Impulse, that left her chocks and laid over onto the rigging of Shadow. No significant damage was done, but the rigging has to be closely looked at to see whether or not it is going to be OK.

“One may or may not have any real damage and we think they both may be OK. But until the masts are looked at we are not sure.

“Hopefully we will be fine and we do have contingency plans in place just in case there are other problems. So if we have to put that in play we will still be okay.”

Gold Cup organisers plan to have the IOD fleet safely secured on their moorings by tomorrow.

“They will be going overboard as of Wednesday on their moorings which will be a safer spot,” Billings said.

“We are not putting them at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club until that is a safe berth.”