LONG BEACH, CALIF. 31 JANUARY 2019 - The Long Beach Yacht Club Congressional Cup regatta, April 3 to 7, 2019, promises rousing competition, as past champions Ian Williams, GBR, and Johnie Berntsson, SWE, return to face challenges by newcomers Will Boulden, AUS, Nicklas Dackhammar SWE, and Nick Egnot-Johnson, NZL; along with the most decorated Ficker Cup titleholder in history, Scott Dickson, USA.
The Congressional Cup was founded by LBYC in 1965 and is recognized as the ‘grandfather’ of modern world-class match racing. One of the leading yacht clubs in the nation – celebrating its 90th anniversary this year – LBYC set the standard for premier-level match racing worldwide, and pioneered the concept of on-the-water umpiring.
Six skippers have been named to the field so far, to compete in the 55th running of the five-day event, which culminates with the winner receiving the coveted Crimson Blazer.
Three-time Congressional Cup victor Ian Williams will return with a bid to recapture the title he last won in 2017. Ranked No. 1 in the world of match racing, Williams is a six-time World Champion and formidable opponent.
Johnie Berntsson also comes back with the hopes of repeating his Congressional Cup victory of 2009. Last year he nearly did: scrapping his way through the Ficker Cup qualifier, and making it all the way into the Congressional Cup semi-finals.
“This year is guaranteed to be incredibly exciting, as our seasoned veterans return to face these new skippers,” said Congressional Cup Chair Arleen Tolle. The event has long been a proving ground for young talent, although Tolle pointed out, “When I say ‘new,’ I mean, ‘new to our event.’ All are top-ranked World Sailing Match Race skippers, and are raring to give our returning pros a run for their money!”
Making his Congressional Cup debut is Nick Egnot-Johnson, who received a personal invitation from Tolle and LBYC Commodore Camille Daniels at the conclusion of the Grand Slam Series in September, when he aced that four-part program of Grade 2 events. Just 20 years old, Egnot-Johnson promises a solid threat to his older, more established rivals.
Also new, from the land down under, is Will Boulden of Perth; winner of the Harken International Youth Match Racing Championship and ranked No. 9 in the world.
Nicklas Dackhammar, another Congressional Cup greenhorn, is ranked No. 8, and recently captured the World Match Racing Tour’s Regata de Portugal Trophy.
Rounding out the lineup is Scott Dickson, USA, a member and Director at LBYC. Dickson is no stranger to the podium, and is a 13-time winner of the Ficker Cup; a Grade 2 match racing event founded in 1980 to honor legendary America’s Cup yachtsman Bill Ficker. This year marks Dickson’s 19th representing LBYC in Congressional Cup, as he hopes to improve on his personal best of 2nd place, in 1998.
Two more skippers will be named, and joined by two final contestants who will earn their berths in the 2019 Ficker Cup qualifier March 29 to 31.
Then, the Congressional Cup begins! Racing in a fleet of equally matched Catalina 37 keelboats, teams will battle through several days of double round-robin competition, famous for turning the leaderboard upside down. The lively matches will escalate as the sailors advance to semi-finals and petit finals, with one team ultimately prevailing in the Sunday, April 7 finals – and named 2019 Congressional Cup champions.
“I’m excited about the world-class match racing the Congressional Cup brings to our city, but it’s more than just that,” added Tolle. “This is the 55th annual Congressional Cup, and my 35th year of participation. In that time, I’ve seen a lot of changes: changes in the boats we sail, our umpiring technique, the sailing venue and of course the skippers and crew. But one thing that never changes is the dedication and commitment of the members of Long Beach Yacht Club. Congressional Cup could not and would not exist if we didn’t have this amazing group of volunteers who enthusiastically support this world-class event.”
Over 300 volunteers will serve on several fronts of the regatta; from planning, hosting, and serving the bountiful breakfasts each morning at the club, to on-the-water experts. “The Race Committee is totally volunteer, and each member willingly spends over 30 hours on the water that week.”
“This year we welcome back Principal Race Officer Mike Van Dyke, also a previous Congressional Cup chair, and past commodore of LBYC,” Tolle continued. “A highly competitive sailor, having sailed all over the world, he will lead a well-vetted, talented and experienced Race Committee.”
Spectators can enjoy live race action from a vantage point on Long Beach’ Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, with expert commentary and camaraderie, free of charge, April 3 through 7. Matches are held directly off the pier between the hours of 11:30AM and 5:00PM daily.
Live-streaming coverage introduced by LBYC last year will return; bringing the Congressional Cup to viewers around the globe. Tolle said expanded coverage of racing and special features, “will entertain an even bigger audience.”
The Congressional Cup is hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club, renowned for its outstanding hospitality and organization, utilizing the talents and energy of more than 300 member volunteers to host this Grade 1 Match Racing competition. Since 1965 the world’s top-ranked skippers have come here to vie for the esteemed Congressional Cup and the Crimson Blazer – an honor bestowed to sailing icons like Dennis Conner, Dean Barker, Ken Read, Ted Turner, Taylor Canfield and more. Races are sailed in a fleet of identical 37-foot Catalina monohulls designed specifically for the event, which guarantees an even platform and exciting competition.
HOW TO FOLLOW
To get a full dose of race atmosphere with stadium viewing and live commentary, spectators are invited to enjoy the action free-of-charge from Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, at 15 39th Place, in Long Beach, Calif. View live-streaming on Facebook @CongressionalCup and on the Congressional Cup website at thecongressionalcup.com. Coverage will include skipper interviews, results and daily highlights; press conferences and special events. For broadcast schedules and more information visit thecongressionalcup.com.
For a preview of Congressional Cup action, go to: YouTube
CONGRESSIONAL CUP SKIPPERS Ian Williams (GBR)
Nicklas Dackhammar (SWE)
Will Boulden (AUS)
Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL)
Johnie Berntsson (SWE)
Scott Dickson (USA)