Black Swan Racing at the Argo Group Gold Cup, Bermuda, part of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.
Black Swan Racing overcame breakages, winning its three last races to qualify for the quarterfinals in Bermuda only to go down 2-3 to Adam Minoprio and his Alpari FX team in the semi-finals. The team secured 7th position, beating Phil Robertson in a sail off.
We arrived in Bermuda for the Argo Group Gold Cup with confidence; improvements in our results since Germany have seen us climb up the overall leader board and into contention for the overall title. However Bermuda is the most difficult regatta on the tour with a combination of the slow turning 1930’s design of the IOD’s and the 20-team format was a big challenge.
The first race of the regatta was one of the more interesting for us. We took the start against Bermudian Lance Fraser but he showed his speed in the IOD boat and caught up with us by the top mark. Despite his gain we were overlapped on the inside at the top mark with right of way. We luffed, Fraser didn’t keep clear and was given a penalty we continued to luff, and Fraser still did not keep clear. He was given a second then third penalty and finally the black flag to end the race then and there!
Our second race against Ferrarese was more critical as he would be real opposition for a place in the quarters. Again we won the start and headed over to the left side of the harbour, which had better breeze all day. We took a good gain from this and rounded well ahead at the top mark. We kept the distance on the downwind and rounded the right gate mark to get back over to the left side of the course. As we stretched over to the left and began to bring the sails into maximum we heard a dreaded “Bang”. The mainsail halyard had broken; we were out of the race. This was the worst way to lose a race and there was nothing we could do about it.
Unfortunately this marked the beginning of our boat troubles. Another broken halyard prior to the next race and then rudder troubles the next day meant a few boat changes and a stutter in our performance. We lost crucial races to Minoprio and Canfield but kept ourselves alive with must wins over Stanczyk and Poole. This left us on 3-3 with three races to sail all of which were now must wins!
Going into the next day the first race was going to be critical. Our record against Berntsson had been strong in knockout rounds; however his record in Bermuda is one of the best. He showed us this by winning the start and opening a good lead at the top mark. To our credit we kept working away and an opportunity came as we split at the gate marks and headed to the right side of the course. Berntsson lost pressure and speed and we managed to keep the boat rolling along. Having reached the top mark lay line we tacked over towards the mark but it looked like Berntsson still had the lead. As the boats converged we made a late gain forcing Berntsson to tack in front of us, we had the better speed and sailed inside him at the top mark. Despite their protests and efforts to close us out we got round the mark penalty free whilst they were given a penalty for not giving us room. We went on to win the race, which was a well-needed win for us.
This was a big confidence booster for the team but there were still two more difficult races to come. Now had some momentum, smashing Bruni in the start, we forced a penalty on the Italian and started ahead. It was no walk over as a rainsquall passed; initially we made a big gain as the breeze increased but then struggled as the wind lightened. Bruni closed it up at the second top mark but we came in with more speed and forced another penalty on him when he couldn’t keep clear. This gave us come valuable breathing space down the final run and a win over the previously undefeated Luna Rosa team.
Next up we secured our position in the quarterfinals with another great start and win over Eric Monnin from Switzerland, a semifinalist for the last two years in Bermuda. This put us on form going into the quarterfinals and we felt much more confident in the boats and sailing in the tricky and shifty winds of Hamilton Harbour. Again Ian Williams had to pick his opponent after winning group B, he chose Canfield, Bruni chose Robertson, Minoprio chose us leaving Hansen v Ainslie.
The Minoprio v Swinton series turned into a to and fro between the teams as both managed to dominate a couple of starts each. Minoprio won the first start and sailed the shifts well, we did the same in the second race to level things up. It was the same story in the 3-4th races once you got ahead it was just a matter of sailing the shifts and sailing clean. All square coming into the 5th race we managed to get into a good position leading back to the start with a little bit of time to kill. With about 30 seconds left Minoprio continued to push us towards the line, we kept clear and as the boats came close to an overlap we came up and tacked away towards the start boat. Minoprio turned at the same time and collided immediately with our boat. We came off the line ahead but soon it was clear the umpires had decided to penalise us with an immediate penalty. This put us on the back foot but unlike the other races we did manage to make some gains during the race but unfortunately every time we did the next gain was theirs. It was a shame for the race to be decided by the umpires, but credit to Adam and his team who offered to for pay half of the damage.
This was our second close quarterfinal loss this year after a 2-3 loss to Richard in Korea. The positive thing is we are always in these series to the end. We finished the regatta off with a win over Robertson for 7th place after losing the first sail off to Hansen in a very strange wind and umpire-affected race.