Lucy MacGregor and Torvar Mirsky, respectively the reigning Women’s and Open Match Race World Champions, headline a championship field slated for the Argo Group Gold Cup, the most prestigious match race regatta in the world.
Hosted by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the 68th running of the Argo Group Gold Cup is scheduled May 8-12. Twelve teams will be vying for the $100,000 prize purse, of which $30,000 is earmarked for the champion. First awarded in 1907, the King Edward VII Gold Cup is one of the most coveted trophies in match racing and carries a panache that regularly attracts the world’s best sailors.
This year’s field is no exception. Johnie Berntsson of Sweden is a two-time past champion (2008, ’14) and two-time runner-up (2011, ’12). Taylor Canfield of the U.S. won the Gold Cup in 2012, finished 3rd in 2013 and ’14, and placed 4th in 2015. He comes into the regatta with a hot hand having won the Congressional Cup two weeks ago in Long Beach, Calif.
Mirsky, who’ll be competing at the Gold Cup for the fourth time, won the coveted trophy in 2011 and the match racing worlds last year in China. MacGregor is a two-time winner of the Women’s Worlds (2010, ’17), represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics, and will be racing the Gold Cup for the second time after her debut in 2010.
“The Gold Cup is always going to be special because it’s so steeped in history,” said the 31-year-old MacGregor. “Everyone holds it quite highly. It’s such a unique event with the boats and the style of racing that it makes you come back for more. To be an expert on the IOD in that venue is a tricky thing to achieve.”
“I’m stoked to be going back,” said the 31-year-old Mirsky. “Because it’s such a traditional event, with so many famous sailors having won it, it’s easy for other sailors who rank competitive sailing to understand the importance of winning the Gold Cup. I’ve been lucky enough to raise the trophy above my head once before and I’m looking forward to another chance at it.”
The list of past champions is a virtual Hall of Fame roll call. America’s Cup legend Sir Russell Coutts of New Zealand won the trophy a record seven times between 1990 and 2004. Bermuda’s own A.F. “Bert” Darrell won the trophy six times between 1939 and 1959. Australian Peter Gilmour is a three-time winner. England’s Sir Ben Ainslie and New Zealand’s Chris Dickson join Berntsson as two-time winners. John Kolius and Peter Isler of the U.S. are past champions, as are Peter Holmberg of the USVI, Jimmy Spithill of Australia and Francesco Bruni of Italy.
They’ve all mastered the shifty and puffy conditions of Hamilton Harbor as well as the IOD, the 33-foot full-keel sloop that is tricky unto itself. When Hamilton Harbor is serving up a wet and wild fare the IOD’s tiller extension becomes more of a leash as crews can only hope to hold on and guide it in the right direction.
“The IOD is not like any other boat that we sail. It’s so unique and what makes the Gold Cup special,” said the 29-year-old Canfield.
Racing for the King Edward VII Gold Cup began in earnest in Bermuda in 1937 after trophy holder C. Sherman Hoyt donated the trophy to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. The Gold Cup is one of the first match race regattas that featured a stadium-style format when the racing was moved from Great Sound to colorful Hamilton Harbor in 1985. That put the racing smack dab in front of thousands of spectators, who line the pastel-colored shores of the harbor to catch sight of the racing.
After the 2015 Gold Cup the event took a two-year hiatus due in part to the America’s Cup being held in Bermuda last summer. But during the Cup plans were underway to reignite the Gold Cup and the generous support of Argo Group has made it possible. At Argo Group’s request the regatta was moved to May from its traditional October timing.