* Photo courtesy of Talbot Wilson.
So tight: Another week of close racing is expected in this year’s Bermuda Gold Cup.
* Photo courtesy of Talbot Wilson. So tight: Another week of close racing is expected in this year’s Bermuda Gold Cup.
Mathieu Richard (FRA) will be looking for revenge after the Troia Portugal Match. In Bermuda, he'll battle against fellow Frenchman Sebastian Col (FRA) who took first place in the finals of the seventh tour event last week plus six of the other top ten skippers from the ISAF open match race rankings.

Richard had been relegated to the petit finals after losing to eventual second place finisher Magnus Holmberg. Richard is the defending champion of Bermuda's King Edward VII Gold Cup presented by Argo Group and ranked #1 in the world by ISAF.

He currently stands third in the World Match Racing Tour championship. He will have to defeat #1 Ian Williams (GB) and #2 Sebastian Col to retain his Gold Cup crown.

Richard has sailed in the Gold Cup four times as a skipper. He was runner up in 2006 and winner in 2007.

"We sailed very well in 2006 and 2007, with the same crew." Richard said. "In 2008 we have again the same crew for the third time in a row, so I think that we can have a very good result. We feel very good on the International One Designs (IODs used in the Gold Cup). I love the tricky conditions that we often have in Hamilton Harbour. Experience sailing in IOD's helps a lot because the IOD are very specific and different from the other boats that we are used to sailing on the World Tour."

Two of his four Gold Cup events are most memorable for Richard. "The first one in 2004," Richard noted, "because in quarterfinal we were leading 2-0 against Russell Coutts, and we had the lead at the bottom mark of the third match. But we lost 3-2 and Russell won the event! It was frustrating but also very exciting. And our victory last year was great. A great feeling because in the last match we were 4 or 5 boat lengths behind Bjorn Hansen, but we passed him on the last beat and won the Gold Cup."

Bjorn Hansen (SWE) ranks #7 on the WMRT and #6 in ISAF world rankings. He also has great experience in the IODs having sailed the Gold Cup five times.

Hansen said he has to be in top form to win.

"All teams on this level have their good and bad weeks," he said. "We just have to hope we have a good week and can do as good or better than last year. We will have two newcomers compared to last year, but they have both been to Bermuda with me before.

"Last year one of our crew got ill and had to leave Bermuda before the event started, but fortunately Bermuda has really good local sailors and Will Thompson helped us to get second. We come to Bermuda year after year because it is a fantastic regatta in a fantastic environment. The members of RBYC do a great job and it is nice to come back to visit friends we have made during the years."

Great Britain's Ian Williams, winner of the 2006 Gold Cup and the 2007 WMRT Championship and now ranked #1 on the tour and #2 in the ISAF rankings, will be sailing hard to regain his championship form in the Bermuda classic.

He has skippered four times in Bermuda. He is sailing with a new crew this year and remarked, "Team Pindar has had a new team this year which has been consistent throughout the year - it is important to keep as much consistency as possible as the teamwork is very important.

"Winning the World Match Racing Tour last year is my greatest sailing accomplishment," Williams said. Winning two Tour championships in a row would be even greater.

As the second to last event on the Tour, teams will be looking to gather as many Tour points as possible to carry forward to the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia. Bermuda will be the place where the psychological games intensify.

This year's event also welcomes Ben Ainslie of Team Origin fresh from his Olympic success in Beijing. Eric Monnin returns to Bermuda for his fifth consecutive Gold Cup, along with Bermuda's threat for the gold, Blythe Walker.

Walker, a favourite with the locals and has competed in numerous Gold Cup regattas and other international match racing events.

He thrilled Bermudian spectators at the 2006 Gold Cup when he won the Petit Finals to place third.

In 2007, he placed fourth. He will team up with his same Bermuda crewmembers from 2007... Adam Barboza, Somers Kempe and Carola Cooper and is looking for his chance to take the cup for Bermuda.

Match Racing in Bermuda is a spectator sport and a top attraction for visitors and Bermuda residents alike. Multiple Gold Cup matches are sailed simultaneously all week just off the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club marina in Hamilton Harbour. Sometimes the action is so close that spectators seated on the marina wall must lift their feet to allow competitors to skim the bulkhead or tack for water.

* Talbot Wilson is the public relations officer for the Bermuda Gold Cup