Fight on to advance at Congressional Cup

Published on April 20th, 2018

Long Beach, CA (April 20, 2018) – With only two flights left in the 54th Congressional Cup regatta’s Round Robin series – to determine which four skippers will advance to the semi-finals – the hard-hitting competition escalated.

Dean Barker (NZL) and American Magic remained on top, with Taylor Canfield (ISV), Johnie Berntsson (SWE), Sam Gilmour (AUS) and Ian Williams (GBR) all within striking distance of qualification.

Long Beach Yacht Club’s Principal Race Officer John Busch postponed racing 30 minutes this morning, to let the robust but shifty breeze settle.

But that’s the only thing that settled down.

The action was electric, on the third of five days of racing at this prestigious World Sailing Grade One competition; as the door began to close for those at the bottom of the field.

Barker was undefeated in today’s five races, which were held in solid breeze that ranged from 12 to 16 knots in San Pedro Bay: while American Magic supporters watched the live stream at New York Yacht Club.

Canfield advanced to second place with 11-5, after a re-sail of a match with Aschenbrenner that was annulled due to a procedural error. Along with Berntsson and Gilmour, at 10-6 each, and Williams, 9-7; he will be scrapping for one of the four berths in the semi-finals, that will start tomorrow.

Competing here for the third time, Gilmour is poised in the midst of current rivals/past Congressional Cup champions Berntsson (2009), Williams (2011, 2012, 2017), Canfield (2014, 2015, 2016) and Barker (2000, 2005).

“We’re in pretty good company,” said the 25-year-old from Perth, Aus. “Tomorrow is going to be moving day. There are just a couple of races left, we’ve just got to finish up strong.”

Qualifying for the semis, with the prospect of winning the Crimson blazer; Gilmour would be following in the footsteps of his father Peter Gilmour, who won the Congressional Cup in 1988.

Williams, who is one point out of the top four, admitted, “The breeze was up today, it was very challenging.” He was lauded by Berntsson for “keeping the boat upright.”

Berntsson admitted, “The wind was strong, really puffy, and I was pushing it a little bit too hard. We had a broach, and had to take the spinnaker down before it could go up again.” Williams took that match.

The sailors weren’t the only ones to find the racing exhilarating. As momentum for the semis and finals builds, the crowd of spectators grew on Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier; where onlookers have a front-row view to the action.

“Just see my smile,” said Alfredo Ricci, a leading International Umpire from Italy, who has experienced the top yacht racing action in the world. “It is an amazing regatta. It’s a great opportunity for young guys to face top sailors … a mix between young and experts. And it’s amazing having Dean Barker with American Magic,” added Ricci. “You just have to come and see live the Congressional Cup!”

Another LBYC tradition is the Junior Congressional Cup: pairing the club’s young sailors with the skippers in a dinghy regatta in Alamitos Bay. In a light breeze, just off the LBYC clubhouse today, ten FJs set off on a lively buoy race, as the shadows grew long on the bay.

Preston Woodworth, 13, racing with Gilmour, had a clean start and never relinquished the lead, to win the Crimson tee-shirt, and trophy. Woodworth explained his race strategy, saying, “Sam was kind of like my tactician, but we both had our own ideas, so we mixed them up a little.”

Woodworth was one of eight youngsters who had interviewed and introduced the Congressional Cup competitors at the annual Meet the Skippers dinner.

“It feels good to win,” said the young helmsman, who has sailed mostly Sabots but recently began racing FJs. He said his sailing career will “definitely continue,” and supporters should look for him in the Congressional Cup in the future.

Somewhat lighter breeze is forecast for tomorrow’s Congressional Cup racing: a stroke of luck for competitors, who have been battling hefty breeze and chop the past three days in. Racing will commence around 11:30am off Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, with the final two flights of the qualifying Round Robins; advancing to semi-finals, petit final, and finals through the weekend.

Racing is being held from April 18 to 22.

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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 WC competition.

The Congressional Cup is one of the most prestigious top-level yachting events in the world. Established in 1965, it is recognized as the “grandfather” of match racing, pioneering the concept of on-the-water umpiring 30 years ago.

Each year, this World Sailing Grade One competition features an elite delegation of the world’s best sailors competing in five days of rousing matches. Racing takes place directly off the Belmont Memorial Veterans Pier which offers superb viewing with live commentary, food and drink vendors, and the camaraderie of other sailing fanatics.

For the skippers, their prize is 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.

Source: Congressional Cup

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