THE HISTORY OF THE CONGRESSIONAL CUP
Fifty three years is a long time for an all-volunteer regatta of the caliber of Congressional Cup. Particularly impressive is that it has become a prestigious annual event regarded around the world as the "grandfather of modern match racing."
The Long Beach Yacht Club's 1,000 members look back with admiration and respect for those officers, directors, committee chairs and volunteers who made LBYC - and the Congressional Cup regatta - grow and prosper over the years. In 1963, the goal of the Club's Congressional Cup founders was to create an annual, world-scale regatta that would run over a short course with intense action, be spectator-friendly and, most importantly, offer a competition that would be a true test of skill by using equal and identical boats. The Deed of Gift which was established for the purpose of encouraging yacht racing in the United States with the desire to promote the highest standards of excellence in the design of ocean racing yachts, and in the recognition of the skill and high performance of those men who sail them was drafted by then-R/C William Dalessi, and the text was personally typed on the parchment by Congressman Craig Hosmer. The deed, signed by Congressman Hosmer, Senator Thomas Kuchel and then-Commodore Richard Brookins, was presented to the Club in 1964 by Congressman Hosmer. The first regatta was held in 1965.
Early Congressional Cup regattas were raced in privately owned Cal-40s. These were followed for a short period by Columbia-50s, Ericson-39s and Catalina-38s. In 1990 Catalina Yachts provided 11 identical Catalina-37s specifically designed for match racing.
Through the years, Congressional Cup has attracted an increasingly impressive following of internationally renowned skippers and crews. The first international competitors were from Canada in 1969. Since then, skippers and crews from around the world -- including many America's Cup participants -- have sought an invitation to the regatta.
In 1974, LBYC's match race concept was taken to Europe and introduced to British and European waters by the Royal Lymington Yacht Club. In 1983-84, the International Yacht Racing Union (now International Sailing Federation, ISAF) recognized Congressional Cup as a premier event. In 1985, the World Match Race Conference was created at LBYC with Staff Commodore Tom Shadden as founding president. Other match race cups based on the LBYC concept then followed with New York, New Zealand, Australia, France, England and Bermuda in the lead. A significant improvement was initiated in 1987-1988. Match racing was great, but protests simply were taking too long. There was need for instant-penalty decisions that could add to the challenge and excitement of the event. Led by Chief Umpire Tom Ehman and a group of club race officials, LBYC invited a blue-ribbon group of rules experts and sailors to the 1988 event; they served as the first umpire team at a major world-level match race. The plan was a success and umpiring is now standard at every match race in the world. National and international umpire certification ensures that sailors receive consistent calls at every event.
Because of the skill required of skippers and crews in racing identical yachts under the current match race concept, skippers are ranked by their history of races and wins. Only the highest ranked or most promising are invited to participate in Congressional Cup. Accordingly, the level of competition produces a roster of world-class skippers, crews and umpires that reads like a Who's Who of Yachting.