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Walker takes opportunity to get his feet wet

Back in action: Walker will take to the water today with Kempe

A new champion will be crowned at today’s Bacardi Bermuda National Match Racing Championships — well, sort of.

Somers Kempe, the champion, has opted not to defend his title as a skipper but is still competing as crew aboard Blythe Walker’s International One Design.

“Somers wasn’t going to do it because he’s busy with his commodore work so I said I would jump in and go for it,” Walker said. “It’s just an opportunity to go and get the feet wet.

“It’s been a few years since we’ve been back in there and with the Gold Cup potentially moving to M32s I thought why not try and get in one last time while it’s the IODs. But at the same time if it does move to M32s I will be happy to try those out too.”

After the announcement of Aston Harald AB’s acquisition of the ISAF-sanctioned World Match Racing Tour in June, there has been a shift in emphasis towards the high-performance M32 catamaran for next year’s championship.

The Stena Match Cup has already announced that it will be raced in new M32 multihulls and James Pleasance, the executive director of the World Match Racing Tour, has made clear his ambition to extend use of the M32 across more events on the series, including the Gold Cup.

Meanwhile, also among Walker’s crew are Adam Barboza and Will Thompson. Kempe is the team’s trimmer, Barboza is on mainsail while Thompson is working the bow.

Walker and crew warmed up for today’s event sparring with America’s Cup Challenger Softbank Team Japan who are also competing in today’s national match racing championships in Hamilton Harbor.

“We went out with Dean [Barker, Team Japan skipper and chief executive] on Monday and he showed me how much I had forgotten,” said Walker, who placed third at the 2006 Gold Cup after beating Switzerland’s Eric Monnin in the Petite Final.

The remaining teams registered for today’s championships will be led by young skippers Joshua Greenslade and Jordan Saints who have both competed in the Gold Cup in recent years.

“It’s great to have some more youth in it,” Walker said. “I am really looking forward to racing.”

Walker is competing with a shoulder injury which has yet to fully heal.

“The shoulder is still a little tender, but we will be fine,” he said.

The winner of today’s 2015 Bacardi Bermuda National Match Racing Championships, which will comprise of a qualifying series and a final series, will receive an invitation to next month’s Gold Cup.

However, should the winner decline the invite, the spot will then go to the second-place finisher.