LONG BEACH, USA 29 March 2017 - - Brilliant sunshine greeted the all-star line-up of Congressional Cup 2017, racing along the shores of Long Beach, California. Conditions were nothing like last year’s dismal, drizzly weather. But the wind played havoc with racers none-the-less. Light breezes from the southwest built auspiciously, then plunged. The drop was so sudden, it threw Qualifying flight three into a frenzy …. a Swan Lake-like performance of boats grazing across the course with no apparent clue as to who was racing who. Caught in the shifts – from 185 degrees to 230 degrees – Congressional Cup defending champion Taylor Canfield (ISV) lost to Harry Price (AUS) by a full minute, while Sam Gilmour’s (AUS) time over Nicolai Sehested (DEN) was nearly the same. And Johnie Berntsson (SWE) hammered Joachim Aschenbrenner (DEN) by a remarkable two minutes: a huge spread for such a highly-ranked field of sailors.
But just as suddenly the sea breeze filled in to a brisk 12-14 knots. Aschenbrenner rebounded with a win over David Storrs (USA), and Canfield returned to his winning form: ending the day 4:1 – tied with Berntsson.
Both skippers are past Congressional Cup champions: Berntsson in 2009, and Canfield, 2014 – 2016. Like most of the teams on Day One, Berntsson said they “struggled with the details,” but added, “I’m happy, we had a good day and are staying in the game.” Tied with three points each were Price, Gilmour, Phil Robertson (NZL) and Eric Monnin (SUI); followed by Aschenbrenner, Ian Williams (GBR), Chris Steele (NZL) and Scott Dickson (USA) each at two points.
Sehested and Storrs ended the day with one win each. “It was a bit of a tough day,” admitted Sehested, but he pointed out last year they moved up the leaderboard to second place overall, nearly capturing the title from Canfield, and was undeterred by his 1:4 start to the week. And yet today, everyone got a piece of the pie, heralding the incredible level of competition expected over the next four days of Congressional Cup 2017. This 53-year tradition, hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club, is the second stop on the 2017 World Match Racing Tour, attracting a dozen of the top match racing teams from around the globe, as they vie for the Crimson blazer. Races will continue through Sunday April 2, beginning at 11:30 Pacific Time each day off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.
ABOUT THE CONGRESSIONAL CUP
The Congressional Cup has been a model and innovator in the game of match racing since 1965, introducing the concept of on-the-water umpiring in 1988. The Grade W event combines expert race organization with outstanding hospitality, to make it a favorite among match-racing skippers worldwide.
At Tuesday’s opening dinner Aschenbrenner announced, “After our first time here, I knew we had to come back!” – a point seconded by two-time Congressional Cup winner Williams, who said, “It’s absolutely our favorite regatta.” The event is almost entirely volunteer run, utilizing the talents and energy of a unique force of more than 300 members of LBYC – one of the premier boating institutions in the United States since 1929.