The Investors Guaranty presentation of the King Edward VII Gold Cup begins today with the world's top match racers battling it out on Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda

American Ed Baird, the International Sailing Federation’s Number 1 ranked match race sailor and a helmsman with the America’s Cup defender Alinghi, will be going for Gold in Bermuda when today’s first stage of The Investors Guaranty presentation of the King Edward VII Gold Cup begins.

Action will be intense as eight top ranked match racers will face off against six skippers from the Qualifying Event plus the champion and runner-up from the Virtual Spectator ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship which has just concluded in Bermuda.

Baird commented: “I have never won the Gold Cup before and we would like to make it happen. That is a top priority. We also return to this event year after year because it set the standard for match racing a long time ago. I have been coming here to race for so long that when the taxi driver dropped me off at my host’s house he said ‘welcome home’.”

Baird will be sailing with members of the Swiss America’s Cup defender Team Alinghi including Mike Drummond, Dean Phipps and Pieter van Nieuwenhuyzan. They face Swiss qualifier Eric Monnin in the first knock out.

Russell Coutts, the returning 2004 champion and seven-time Gold Cup winner is ranked Number 3 by ISAF. He faces the 5th place qualifier Takumi Nakamura from Japan. Nakamura had won a Bottle of Bacardi as the OOPS award the night before qualifying and said he may need more rum in preparing for matches against the undisputed Gold Cup King.

“I am going to go for number eight,” Coutts said on his way out to a practice session yesterday (Wed) with his teammates Jes Gram Hansen, Christian Kamp and Rasmus Kostner. The same team he sailed with in 2004. “That is what I am here for.”

Wednesday was a practice day for the seeded skippers as well as for the women’s winners who have to transition from J/24s to IODs. The action begins today with the six unseeded skippers and the two top women from the Virtual Spectator Women’s Match Racing World Championship, Americans Sally Barkow and Betsy Alison facing off in the hope of winning The King Edward VII Gold Cup and a share of the $100,000 purse.

James Spithill, the runner-up for the 2004 Gold Cup, is the reigning ISAF Open Match Racing World Champion and helmsman of the Luna Rossa AC challenger. He’s the fifth seed and has drawn second ranked qualifier Cameron Appleton. Spithill came second to Coutts in 2004 as the Gold Cup was shortened by a 35 knot Sunday storm. Appleton, sailing for local sponsor Triangle Rigging, had an impressive 9-2 run in the qualifier and will be a tough opponent.

Chris Dickson, the BMW Oracle America’s Cup challenge skipper and two-time Gold Cup winner has drawn Sally Barkow, just crowned Virtual Spectator ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Champion. Women’s championship runner-up Betsy Alison faces New Zealander Gavin Brady.

“This is such a unique event and there are very few opportunities for men and women to sail against each other like this,” Brady said. “There are no guarantees out there and if the breeze is light it will be a race that is more about finesse than physical strength. Both teams will come out on the water sailing strong.”

In other Stage 1 matches, Number 3 seed Mathieu Richard of France, ranked Number 4 by ISAF, will meet Bill Hardesty of San Diego, California who was fourth in the qualifier with a 6-5 record.

Ian Williams, ranked Number 6 by ISAF is paired against Cameron Dunn who finished the qualifier series with a 10:1 score. Dunn is racing with his Mascalzone Latino America’s Cup teammates Michele Paoletti, Marco Constant and Matteo Auguadro.

Stage 1 of the Gold Cup tournament is a knock-out round. No team can afford a bad day and for the seeded sailors, in particular, to be knocked-out on the first day is a tough way to go. The first team to win three races goes forward while the loser slots into a 5th-8th consolation bracket to determine prize winnings for those teams.

The event will be sailed in Hamilton Harbour just feet from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. The unique format of The King Edward VII Gold Cup, sailed in Bermuda’s famous International One Design sloops, includes a Grade 3 qualifying event where the top six skippers advance to round one of the tournament and face the eight seeded skippers along with the winner and runner-up of the Virtual Spectator ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship.

The winner of The King Edward VII Gold Cup will be presented with The King Edward VII Trophy and a share of the $100,000 prize purse.