Bermuda's Olympian Jessie Kirkland joins Lance Fraser's all-Bermuda crew for his first Argo Group Gold Cup. In 2010, Fraser was the youngest skipper to try for the King Edward VII Gold Cup, a coveted prize boasting multiple winners like Russell Coutts (NZL), Peter Gilmour (AUS) and Ben Ainslie (GBR).
Bermuda's own Jessie Kirkland has always been a big fan of the Argo Group Gold Cup. So when the opportunity to compete in this year’s Alpari World Match Racing Tour event presented itself, naturally the Olympic sailor grasped it with both hands.
Kirkland, who competed with elder sibling Zander in this year’s Summer Games in the UK, forms part of the youngest team in the 2012 Gold Cup that also includes brothers Jason and Jordan Saints and skipper Lance Fraser.
Kirkland, who at 24 is the oldest member on the team, is excited to be sailing in a regatta he has long held in high esteem.
“It’s going to be pretty amazing because I grew up watching this event,” he said. “Every October I would run out of school and run down to the yacht club (Royal Bermuda Yacht Club) and watch these guys race and get their autographs and it’s pretty amazing to be a part of it now."
“This is my first Gold Cup, first match race and first IOD (International One Design) regatta so it’s charting unchartered territory all the way around. It’s going to be interesting because there’s a lot of universal concepts in that and team racing is a step towards match racing from fleet racing and I’m banking on that to assist me somewhat.”
Kirkland is also looking forward to sailing with his team-mates.
“I’m pretty stoked to be working with Lance and working with a youthful and all-Bermuda team,” he said. “I think we have all good, young and talented sailors and it’s going to be great working with them. This is going to be great for the sport.”
Kirkland will be working the main sail during the Gold Cup in a boat he has fond childhood memories of.
“The first sail I remember as a child was on a IOD,” he said. “The IOD is a part of Bermuda’s history and more specially my first sail was on an IOD.
“It is a great classic sloop and my dad (Malcolm) actually used to sail in the IOD named Blitz.”
When asked about hometown advantage, Kirkland replied: “Hamilton Harbour can be very unpredictable so home court advantage is somewhat limited. I also haven’t been in a race in the harbour since I was 17-18 years old so it’s been a while.”
Fraser was extended an invitation to sail in the Gold Cup after producing some good showings in the US this year.
“Lance has been playing in the Grand Slam in the US and he did very well so we invited him as well,” said Argo Group Gold Cup committee chairman Brian Billings.
In 2010 the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (RHADC) sailor became the youngest skipper to compete in the Gold Cup at the tender age of 18.
Also representing Bermuda this year is Blythe Walker who qualified after being crowned national IOD champion.
Walker’s finest moment to date in the Gold Cup arrived in 2006 when he finished third overall.
The son of legendary sailor Jordy Walker is sailing with crew Somers Kempe, Adam Barboza and Phil Worboys in this year’s Gold Cup.
Text by Colin Thompson