Williams pedigree coming to fore
Defending champions Ian Williams and Phil Robertson were among those taking the shortest route to the quarter-finals of the Bermuda Gold Cup and Open Match Race World Championship in Hamilton Harbour yesterday.
Williams, the defending Gold Cup champion, produced an impressive clean sweep of victories over Estonia’s Matti Sepp, Australia’s Torvar Mirsky and Canada’s Lance Fraser to top the group two standings with a 6-1 record.
World match-racing champion Robertson finished second in group one behind Chris Poole, of the United States, with an identical 6-1 record.
Britain’s Williams and Poole topped their respective qualifying groups via a tiebreak, having won their head-to-head matches against Mirsky and Robertson respectively.
“Good day for GAC Pindar, winning all our races, albeit by fine margins,” Williams said.
“We still need to throw off some rust and make faster, instinctive decisions. But, generally, things feel smooth on board and we are looking forward to the quarter-finals.”
Robertson, of New Zealand, suffered his only loss of the qualifying stage after squandering the lead in his final group match against Poole.
“Dropping our first race in the last match and dropping down to second in our group is a little disappointing,” Robertson said.
“We had a comfortable lead after the first lap and let him get back into it up the second beat.
“Poole did a nice job to keep it close enough and get back into the game. We learnt some tough ones there.”
The remaining skippers clinching their spot in the quarter-final yesterday were Mirsky, USA’s Taylor Canfield, Robertson and Switzerland’s Eric Monnin respectively.
Mirsky, a former Gold Cup winner, finished second in group two with a 6-1 record and Canfield third after compiling a 4-3 record.
Canfield, the two-times Gold Cup winner and 2013 world match-racing champion, pipped Denmark’s Jeppe Borch on a tiebreak for the third automatic qualifying spot in group two.
“I think for the most part we are sailing petty well and I’m not too worried moving forward,” Canfield said.
“We have had some great practice here and some great breeze here and are looking forward to it [the quarter-finals], no matter who we race.”
Robertson was second in group one with a 6-1 record followed by Monnin in third at 5-2.
Among those bowing out at the first hurdle was Bermuda’s Kelsey Durham and France’s Pauline Courtois, who both finished bottom of their respective groups with identical 0-7 records.
Courtois was one of two female skippers making history at the Open Match Racing Worlds as the first to do so at the event.
The other was Sweden’s Anna Ostling, whose team boasts Bermuda’s Julia Lines and will compete in today’s repechage round for the two remaining quarter-final spots up for grabs.
Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson and Nicklas Dackhammer, Borch, Sepp, Fraser, Britain’s Matt Whitfield and the Netherland’s Jelmer van Beek make up the rest of the field for the Repechage.
Berntsson, the two-times Gold Cup winner and runner-up last year, endured a tough day at the office competing in yesterday’s southwesterly breezes, which ranged between 10 and 16 knots, to fall shy of automatic qualification to the last eight at the $100,000 World Match Racing Tour-sanctioned regatta.
Despite his team’s misfortunes, though, Berntsson is not pressing the panic button just yet.
“We’ve done it before, so it’s nothing new to us,” he said.