What’s the recipe for an unpredictable, Grade 1 match racing regatta? Start with two women’s crews, add a dash of youngsters and throw in a handful of treacherous veterans and you get the 2019 Argo Group Gold Cup.
The 69th competition for the revered King Edward VII Gold Cup trophy, scheduled May 6th – 11th and hosted by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, features just such a sterling lineup. It includes the Women’s World No. 1, Pauline Courtois of France, and No. 6, Lucy Macgregor of Great Britain, and the top five in the Open Rankings including Eric Monnin of Switzerland, Ian Williams of Great Britain, Harry Price of Australia, Ettore Botticini of Italy and Maxime Mesnil of France.
The 12-team lineup was completed with the addition of Bermudian Kelsey Durham, the 2019 Bermuda Match Racing National Champion. Durham, 25, of Smiths, will race with Stephen Dickinson, Heath Foggo and Campbell Duffy.
Another Bermudian, Emily Nagel, of the past Volvo Ocean Race, will sail with Chris Poole of the U.S.A. Durham began sailing at age 7 and has had a diverse career in a short time frame.
Bermuda Optimist National Championship, Optimist North American Championship, Optimist South American Championship and the Optimist US Nationals. During his high school years Durham attended Brewster Academy in the U.S. where he was a skipper on the varsity team for all four years. In 2009 he helped the team win the Cummings Cup at the Gloucester Fall Fleet Regatta, topping a field of 32 teams, and also led Brewster to a sixth-place finish at the high school nationals in 2011.
In Bermuda, Durham has raced the local International One-Design (IOD, same boat used in the Argo Group Gold Cup) fleet and competed in the grueling Red Bull Youth America’s Cup Team trials. Last year he skippered Victory IV in Bermuda’s Fitted Dinghy racing season and placed fourth overall. Durham has also completed an ocean passage on the 112-foot sail-training vessel Spirit of Bermuda.
Durham has greater experience in team racing (three boats-on-three) as opposed to match racing (one boat-on-one), but after several years at the helm of an IOD he’s ready for the challenge of racing against the world’s best.
“It’s going to be a very challenging regatta. I am sailing against professional skippers that sail and train every day. They do this for a living so I’ve got my work cut out for me,” said Durham. “I’m up for the challenge. I feel comfortable sailing the IOD and getting it going, but the crew also has to be on point as they play a big role getting the necessary speed and boathandling needed around the course.”
Durham is one of three skippers aged 25 or younger in the regatta.