HAMILTON, Bermuda (Oct. 3, 2023) — Day 1 of the 71st Bermuda Gold Cup is in the books with veterans Eric Monnin and his Capvis Swiss Match Racing Team and Johnnie Berntsson’s eponymous crew from Sweden leading their respective groups.
The race committee, led by Principal Race Officer David Campbell-James, reeled off four flights each for Group 1 and 2 for a total of 32 races in light and shifty conditions. The wind direction ranged between 350 degrees and 060 degrees, and the strength mostly ranged between 6 to 9 knots but built slightly stronger for the final races of Group 2 later in the afternoon.
“We didn’t have a race where we didn’t shift positions, except for the one against Harry (Price), where he had a good start and led us all the way,” said the 47-year-old Monnin, who’s racing the Bermuda Gold Cup for the 14th time.
Monnin leads Group 1 with a 3-1 record after posting wins over Taylor Canfield’s (USA) Stars+Stripes Team USA, Nick Egnot-Johnson’s (NZL) KNOTS Racing and Chris Poole’s (USA) Rip Tide Racing. His race against Canfield, the event’s reigning champion, was emblematic of many of today’s races—a back-and-forth affair that came down to the run to the finish.
“We rounded the windward mark and leeward marks next to each other, but he always just had an edge,” Monnin said. “He led just a bit at the second windward mark, but we were able to jibe to starboard and get to windward of him and roll over him heading to the finish. In these winds you can roll quite easily on the last downwind leg, but the race was really open.”
Throughout the fleet there were tales of missed opportunities amid the shifty conditions. Australian Price, winner of the Jordy Walker Award for best performance by a newcomer in 2019, admitted to being dusty in the pre-starts before saying that he struggled quite a bit. “We just need to strip it all back and simplify it. I was just unsure at times what to do, sort of forgot the plays,” he said.
Dave Hood (USA) lamented a missed opportunity against Canfield in his last race. Hood held a big lead around the first lap, but Canfield split on the last upwind leg and sailed away to victory. Hood said he was taken aback by the weight of the International One-Design. “You have to think a few steps ahead,” he said.
Aboard Gavin Brady’s (USA) boat, his crew implored him to be more aggressive. Brady is racing the Bermuda Gold Cup for the first time since 2005, after managing three racing programs for private owners over the past 15 years.
“My crew kept telling me, ‘There’s a cougar on the boat!’” Brady, 49, said with a laugh, referencing the movie Talladega Nights, where the lead character, Ricky Bobby, is forced to drive his car around a racetrack with a cougar in the back to make him more aggressive. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in a couple of crossing situations. I just need to be more aggressive.”
In Group 2, Berntsson’s 4-0 record was the only perfect score today and included wins over Ian Williams’ (GBR) Chinaone.Ningbo team, Jeffrey Petersen’s (USA) Golden State Match Racing crew, Brady’s True Blue Racing and Jeppe Borch’s crew from Denmark. Borch and Williams are one win behind, each at 3-1.
“We’re happy and lucky to get out with four wins because we came from behind in three of the matches,” said the 52-year-old Berntsson, sailing for the 12th time in Bermuda. “We’ve sailed here many years, so we know the conditions and the boats. A couple more years in the boats helps at the beginning of the regatta, but tomorrow is a new day.”
Much like Monnin and Canfield in Group 1, Berntsson and Williams had a great match in the last race of Flight 1 in Group 2. Williams forced Berntsson over the line early and had him tucked well astern around the first lap of the two-lap race.
Berntsson, however, used his position to his advantage and gained a split at the leeward gate for the second upwind leg. There he found a shift to the right and sneaked around Williams at the windward mark and then held on down the run to the finish.
“It’s always tricky when the wind’s out of the north, it’s hard to read the breeze,” said the 46-year-old Williams, who’s racing the Bermuda Gold Cup for the 13th time. “You think you’re getting a shift and go for a tack, but there’s a big lift mid-tack and it’s a fake shift. It happens frequently and is hard to read. It made starting not important today.”
It’s no coincidence that four of the top five in the regatta are the most experienced at the Bermuda Gold Cup. Besides Berntsson, Monnin and Williams, Canfield is racing the Gold Cup for the eighth time. Only Borch is the newcomer among the group, sailing for the second time after winning the Jordy Walker Trophy in 2020 when he finished fourth.
“It was a decent day, we had some close races,” the 25-year-old Borch said understatedly.
Racing resumes Wednesday morning at 0930 ADT. Rights free images for editorial use only may be downloaded at the Bermuda Gold Cup Photoshelterpage. Visit the Bermuda Gold Cup and World Match Racing Tour websites for more information.
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