The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s 70th Gold Cup for the King Edward VII trophy returns to its traditional format this year with a field of 16 crews plotting to win the venerable trophy and the lion’s share of the $100,000 prize purse.
Scheduled May 11-16, the King Edward VII Gold Cup is the second World Championship-level event of the World Match Racing Tour’s 2020 calendar. Such designation affords competitors greater points on the world tour leader-board and their qualification towards the WMRT Grand Final.
For the first time since 2015 the King Edward VII Gold Cup will feature a supersize 16-team format. The past two events in 2018 and ’19 featured 12 teams as the regatta reestablished its place on the calendar after the destination island hosted the America’s Cup in 2017.
Among the 16 entrants are three past Gold Cup champions, including reigning champion Ian Williams (Lymington, England), two all-women crews, including the World No. 1 and No. 2-ranked skippers, and three dynamite youth crews under 25 years of age, including the reigning Youth World champion.
Johnie Berntsson (far right) and crew, two-time winners of the King Edward VII Gold Cup in 2008 and 2014.
“It was a club decision to increase the size of the field to 16,” said event chairperson Leatrice Oatley, a Past Commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. “We had a lot of interest expressed from potential competitors and after discussions with the PRO, David Campbell-James, from a scheduling perspective, it was decided the event could accommodate 16 teams. Everyone involved is very happy and supportive that we’ve expanded the event.”
Early entrants include three two-time winners: Williams, the reigning champion who also won in 2006, Johnie Berntsson (Stenungsund, Sweden), who won in 2008 and ’14 and who has also finished runner-up four times, and Taylor Canfield (Miami, Fla.), the 2012 and ’18 champion.
The all-women crews are led by World No. 1-ranked Pauline Courtois (Brest, France), who’s back for a second try at the Gold Cup after debuting last year, and World No. 2-ranked Anna Östling (Lerum, Sweden), a two-time Women’s Match Racing World champion (2014, ’16) who also placed 2nd last year in the Women’s International Match Race Series.
Östling, 35, and her crew of Anika Carlunger, Anna Holmdahl and twin sisters Annie and Linnéa Wennergren will be making their first appearance at the Gold Cup and the skipper says it’s a “big step forward” for her team.
Swedish skipper Anna Östling and her Wings Match Race Team is one of two women’s crews
in the 70th King Edward VII Gold Cup (courtesy Anna Östling).
“In 2015 we did our first World Match Racing Tour Open event in Marstrand after winning the qualification that spring,” Östling says. “It was a big challenge and we loved everything except the result. After that we decided to aim for doing the WMRT the year after but that year it changed into M32 catamarans and even though we did jump into the M32 right away it was to physical to race the guys. Now that the Tour is going back to events with different boats, we said we really wanted to take on this task and dream again. Therefore, this invite means a lot.”
Youth is served with 24-year-old Harry Price (Sydney, Australia), who placed third overall last year in his Gold Cup debut, 21-year-old Nick Egnot-Johnson (Auckland, New Zealand), who won the New Zealand Match Racing Championship and Match Race Germany last year, and 21-year-old Tom Grimes (Belmont, New South Wales, Australia), the reigning Youth Match Racing World Champion. It will be the first time Egnot-Johnson and Grimes have raced the Gold Cup.
“The Gold Cup obviously has a long and proud history as one of the great match racing trophies you want to win. All the greats have, and we are looking forward to our first opportunity to compete,” says Grimes. “It looks like quite a tight and tricky start box so the pre-start will be interesting! We have seen any condition on the water from our research.”
Bermuda will be represented by the winner of the Bermuda National Match Racing Championship, scheduled March 1, as well as 26-year-old Lance Fraser (Toronto, Canada). Fraser grew up on Bermuda and learned how to sail in the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club youth program. He moved to Canada for education and work and is now an Assistant Vice President at Chubb and leads the transactional risk business for Canada while also retaining his membership at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
“Since my last Gold Cup, I took a break from sailing at a high level due to career priorities which I think helped a lot as it allowed me to approach the game from a fresh perspective once we started match racing more consistently again,” said Fraser, who has coached the Royal Canadian Yacht Club match racing program as well as helped out with the Canadian National Sailing Team.
“Answering questions about tactics from great sailors with limited to no match racing experience has been extremely helpful for my own tactics,” Fraser said. “When we took a step back, the plan was always to keep our ranking up high enough so that when we wanted to, we could start sailing at a higher level again and the whole team is extremely excited to get back racing at the Gold Cup level.”
The 70th edition of the King Edward VII Gold Cup comes on the heels of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s 175th anniversary last November. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club was formally started on Nov. 1, 1844, by a mix of British Army officers and Bermudian sailors. The following year, Prince Albert agreed to become a patron of the club and in 1846 the club received its Royal Charter, making it the 20th royal yacht club in the world and the third oldest outside of the UK. The club moved to its home at Albouy’s Point in 1933.
2020 KING EDWARD VII GOLD CUP PRELIMINARY ENTRANT LIST
Bermuda National Match Racing Champion (to be determined)
Johnie Berntsson (49, Stenungsund, Sweden) – World No. 7 Open Match Race Rankings, 11th King Edward VII Gold Cup (champion 2008, ’14), 2nd place in 2019
Taylor Canfield (31, Miami, USA) – World No. 31 Open Match Race Rankings, 7th King Edward VII, two-time winner (2018, ’12)
Pauline Courtois (30, Brest, France) – World No. 1 Women’s Match Race Rankings, 2nd King Edward VII Gold Cup
Nicklas Dackhammar (30, Gothenburg, Sweden) – World No. 15 Open Match Race Rankings, 4th King Edward VII Gold Cup, 6th place 2018
Nick Egnot-Johnson (21, Auckland, New Zealand) – World No. 2 Open Match Race Rankings, first King Edward VII Gold Cup, winner 2019 New Zealand Match Racing Championship, Nespresso Youth Match Racing Championship and Match Race Germany
Lance Fraser (26, Toronto, Canada) – World No. 38 Open Match Race Rankings, 6th King Edward VII Gold Cup
Tom Grimes (21, Belmont, New South Wales, Australia) – World No. 18 Open Match Race Rankings, reigning Youth Match Racing World Champion, 1st King Edward VII Gold Cup
Maxime Mesnil (30, Le Havre, France) – World No. 4 Open Match Race Rankings, 2nd King Edward VII Gold Cup
Torvar Mirsky (33, Sydney, Australia) – World No. 27 Open Match Race Rankings, 5th King Edward VII Gold Cup, 5th place in 2019
Eric Monnin (44, Immensee, Switzerland) – World No. 1 Open Match Race Rankings, 13th King Edward VII Gold Cup, 8th place in 2019
Anna Östling (35, Lerum, Sweden) – World No. 2 Women’s Match Race Rankings, World No. 36 Open Match Race Rankings, first King Edward VII Gold Cup, two-time Women’s Match Racing World champion
Harry Price (24, Sydney, Australia) – World No. 5 Open Match Race Rankings, 2nd King Edward VII Gold Cup, 3rd place in 2019, 2017 Youth Match Racing World Champion
Jelmer van Beek (25, The Hague, Netherlands) – World No. 11 Open Match Race Rankings, 1st King Edward VII Gold Cup
Ian Williams (42, Lymington, England) – World No. 3 Open Match Race Rankings, 12th King Edward VII Gold Cup, two-time champion (2019, ’06), six-time Match Racing Worlds champion
Patryk Zbroja (42, Szczecin, Poland) – World No. 9 Open Match Race Rankings, 1st King Edward VII Gold Cup, 2018 Polish Open Match Racing Champion
Rankings based on Jan. 8, 2020 World Sailing Rankings – Match Racing.