LONG BEACH, CALIF 13 April 2018 - Long Beach Yacht Club kicked off the 39th annual Ficker Cup regatta today, greeting the eight teams from around the world with sunny skies and rousing competition. Racing will continue tomorrow and Sunday, for the Ficker Cup trophy; and a chance to compete in the Congressional Cup next week.
“It’s been a while since we’ve done any serious match racing, so it’s great to be back,” said Dean Barker, who sits in first place at the end of the first Round Robin. Barker won the Congressional Cup in 2000 and 2005; his tactician Terry Hutchinson won in 1992.
“But definitely, I think any racing is good racing, and with a new crew like American Magic (the NYYC challenge for the 36th America’s Cup) it’s good to go through the process of developing the communication and everything else,” he added, “and just a good opportunity to come out and do some racing.”
Barker’s prowess, and ability to gain on the runs, was evident, particularly in the final match of the day. Forcing Johnie Berntsson - who was 6-0 at the time - into a foul at the start, he aced that race to clinch first place on the leaderboard, at the end of day one of three days of racing.
Barker’s sole loss was to LBYC Staff Commodore Dave Hood, who won last weekend’s California Dreamin’ regatta in these same Catalina 37s. While Hood admitted to a “tough day,” he took full advantage of local knowledge to best Barker.
“We had a nice start,” explained Hood. “We got him in a tough place to defend himself, and got a good start, and got the right side, which we wanted.”
Blustery conditions that halted yesterday’s practice session, had eased for the start, providing six to eight knot south-westerly breezes for the kick-off of this World Sailing Grade Two event. But as the day progressed, the wind increased: and so did the intensity of the competition.
Each of the eight skippers, from around the globe, got a piece of the action today. Berntsson, who finished second in last year’s Congressional Cup, and had won the event in 2009, called it “a good day, really fun.”
Currently racing on the M32 multihull circuit, he added, “It is actually one year since we’ve raced in a monohull, so we are still improving. We try to get in some of these hard situations, so if we proceed to the Congressional Cup, the team is communicating and working together. Of course we did some misjudgements today, but I knew we could handle it, thanks to the crew. It’s great to be back.”
In addition to longstanding favorites, the event is also host to some new talent. Leo Takahashi made an impressive Ficker Cup debut, finishing in third place at 4-3.
“We’re having the time of our lives,” said Takahashi, 19. “It’s a great venue, the club’s very hospitable, and the host families are great. The racing is great as well, we’re having so much fun.”
About the custom fleet of one-design Catalina 37s, he noted, “The boats are cool. We’re still getting used to them; hopefully in the next few days we can crack down and get them to go fast.” Takahashi said it was his first experience helming with a wheel. “My first time ever, ever!” he laughed. “All the boats we sail are tiller steered. The boys have been doing a great job adjusting - they’re having great fun.”
He added, “Obviously I grew up watching Dean Barker race, and Johnie Berntsson, since I was young. It’s great seeing them; and racing against them is a dream come true.”
Racing will continue Saturday and Sunday, April 14 and 15, beginning at roughly 12 noon. Spectator viewing is available from Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, or for full results please visit www.lbyc.org
THE FICKER CUP
The Ficker Cup was established in 1980 to honor Bill Ficker, a legendary yachtsman who helmed Intrepid to victory in the 1970 America’s Cup, and won the Congressional Cup in 1974. The Ficker Cup is a World Sailing Grade Two event, and considered the gateway to the Congressional Cup - as the top two finalists advance to the Congressional Cup, which takes place next week, April 18-22. Both events are hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club, and raced in the Congressional Cup stadium waters adjacent the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.
Results Day 1
Photos available upon request.