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Walker’s mixed emotions over Gold Cup spot

Gold Cup qualifier: Walker earned a place in next month’s event after Saturday’s sailing on Hamilton Harbour (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Blythe Walker experienced mixed feelings after claiming the sole spot up for grabs in the Argo Group Gold Cup qualifier in Hamilton Harbour.

On one hand the veteran skipper is happy to be returning to the Gold Cup, on the other he is sad that one of his younger compatriots he competed against during Saturday’s Bacardi Bermuda National Match Racing Championships will not be flying the Island’s flag at next month’s World Match Racing Tour event instead.

“I have mixed feelings because the reason I left was to encourage more youth to get into it,” Walker said. “By going back into it myself I guess I am depriving one of them of a spot.”

Sailing with last year’s winning skipper Somers Kempe, Adam Barboza and Will Thompson as crew, Walker did just enough to punch his ticket for next month’s Gold Cup after finishing runner up to winners Softbank Team Japan, the America’s Cup challenger, led by Dean Barker, the team’s skipper and chief executive.

Barker defeated Walker 2-0 in a lopsided first to two points final.

Team Japan had already entered into the Gold Cup. Therefore the qualifying spot went to second place skipper Walker who is certainly no stranger to the Gold Cup having made several appearances in the event.

Walker struggled during the round robin stage where his team posted a 1-2 record. Walker lost close matches against Joshua Greenslade and Barker, with his sole victory coming against Jason Saints.

However, Walker struck form during his semi-final match with Greenslade who he beat 2-0 to avenge an earlier loss against the latter and set up a final showdown with Barker.

Barker reached the final unbeaten and managed to maintain his unblemished record after brushing aside Walker to capture the title.

“It was a pretty disappointing final actually,” Walker said. “We were definitely a little rusty and made some mistakes I would not have made had I been sailing more.

“It just goes to show time on the water makes a big difference.”

With the Gold Cup just around the corner, Walker and crew intend to practise as much as possible in the International One Design sloop to get themselves up to par.

“We need to lift our game a fair bit if we are going to compete at the level we need to for the Gold Cup,” Walker said. “Hopefully we can do much better for Gold Cup which I am looking forward to.”

Saints beat Greenslade 1-0 in the Petite Final of Saturday’s national match racing championships contested in shifty 8-15 knot breezes.