Elite hospitality keeps them coming back
Published on August 5th, 2021
With just six weeks to go until the start of the 56th Congressional Cup, Long Beach Yacht Club has rallied the troops and organized an army of volunteers to orchestrate this world-renowned competition, slated for September 14 to 19, 2021.
Not only is the Congressional Cup one of the premier match racing events of its kind – it is also one of the most popular in the eyes of the pro athletes who come to compete each year.
The Congressional Cup is unique in its unparalleled level of personalized hospitality to the crews and officials, alongside top-notch competition. Club members host skippers and crew in their homes; provide transportation and rides; volunteer on the water, pier, ashore and more, to run every aspect of this week-long regatta.
“The Congressional Cup is our marquee event,” announced Chairman Chris Macy. “Not only is it the only Grade One Match Race in the US, but it is also a favorite among the racers who keep coming back.”
At most other regattas competitors stay in hotels, he explained. “It’s segregated and sterile. When they’re done racing they go back to their rooms. It’s not the warm welcome and friendliness we have here at LBYC. And that’s because of our volunteers and members.”
The event takes over 300 volunteers, he explained, and while most are LBYC members, others from neighboring clubs join in: understanding what a major event and huge benefit it is to the region and sailing community.
Volunteers range from Becky Martinez of nearby Navy Yacht Club of Long Beach, who is keen on being a golf cart driver on the pier; to new LBYC member Jim Parker, who admitted. “It wasn’t very difficult to rope me in!
“I’m getting ready to retire and want to get back into sailing, so I told the organizers my schedule is flexible: put me wherever they need help.” Parker added, “And I volunteered my wife too!”
There are morning crew who staff the breakfast buffet, on-the-water marshals and race committee, pier hosting, boat hosting and the ubiquitous ‘Yellow Hats.’ Appropriately outfitted in yellow baseball caps, these busy bees swarm the dock pre- and post-racing, to ensure the fleet of one-design Catalina 37s is fully prepared, repaired, maintained, and safe for racing.
And then there is the Snow family.
Julie Snow said they have been volunteering for 10 years. She started off as a boat hostess and expanded to housing a crew in their home. Meanwhile, husband Bob is co-chair of the Sponsorship committee.
“All of the guys we host are literally part of our family!” said Snow. “When we started and our son was little, the crew used to take him to elementary school in the morning in the golf cart. Now he is 15 and they are literally like brothers to him, and even take him sailing with them. Hosting has brought so much friendship and camaraderie into our lives.”
“It’s like having your favorite baseball team come stay at your house,” Macy added. “You develop a personal relationship and suddenly you’re rooting for them: not just in this event, but all over the world. There’s no better way to get immersed in it.”
On the other hand, Macy pointed out, volunteer posts aren’t all as intensive as hosting: helpers don’t need to have a specialized skill set nor commit every day of the week. “And they’re not all ‘sexy’ jobs,” he conceded. “But all the elements combine to make one amazing event!”
Macy is clearly proud of LBYC members’ ongoing accomplishment and the worldwide recognition and prestige the Congressional Cup brings to the 92-year-old yacht club. “It’s the only Grade One and the only World Match Racing Tour stop in the US; on one of the most premiere sailing venues in the world, with consistent wind and a breakwater that creates a flat inland sailing environment,” he boasted.
It’s this mix that will bring 10 of the worlds’ top match racing pros to Long Beach, Calif. September 14 to 19 for the 56th Congressional Cup.
“The Congressional Cup is synonymous with Long Beach Yacht Club,” Macy continued. ”And we rely on everyone to get involved in every aspect, because there’s no-one else to turn to, to make it happen. It’s us! It’s who we are and what we do, every year: pull together to host this world-class, one-of-a-kind event. And the sailors love us for it. They’re so excited to be here and we are so excited to have them!”
This year’s Congressional Cup roster includes: defending champion Ian Williams (GBR), Eric Monnin (SUI), Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL), Maxime Mesnil (FRA), Johnie Berntsson (SWE), Taylor Canfield (USA), Phil Robertson (NZL).
The Congressional Cup was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, making 2019 champion Williams the longest reigning title-holder in history. But the six-time World Champion is also a quadruple winner of the Crimson Blazer – 2011, 2012, 2017, and 2019 – and tied with Taylor Canfield, Gavin Brady, Rod Davis, and Peter Holmberg with four wins each.
If Williams can clinch victory in 2021, he’ll also become the winningest skipper in the 56-year history of this prestigious event. However, Canfield – with Congressional Cup victories in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018 – also has his eye on the title.
Racing commences September 15 off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, beginning with a Double Round Robin followed by semi-finals and petite finals, with finals on September 19.
The Congressional Cup is a World Championship Event in the 2021 World Match Racing Tour, but is best known as the ‘grandfather of match racing.’ Founded in 1965 by Long Beach Yacht Club (LBYC), organizers revolutionized the game of match racing with on-the-water umpiring, and by providing a fleet of identical 37-foot Catalina sloops to ensure the competition is a test of skill and strategy.
For further information: thecongressionalcup.com/
WORLD MATCH RACING TOUR
Founded in 2000, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) promotes the sport of match racing around the world and is the longest running global professional series in the sport of sailing. The WMRT is awarded ‘Special Event’ status by the sport’s world governing body – World Sailing – and the winner of the WMRT each year is crowned World Sailing Match Racing World Champion.
Previous champions include Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR), Taylor Canfield (USA), Peter Gilmour (AUS), Magnus Holmberg (SWE), Peter Holmberg (ISV), Adam Minoprio (NZL), Torvar Mirsky (AUS), Bertrand Pace (FRA), Jesper Radich (DEN), Phil Robertson (NZL) and Ian Williams (GBR).
Since 2000, the World Match Racing Tour and its events have awarded over USD23million in prize money to sailors which has helped to contribute to the career pathway of many of today’s professional sailors. www.wmrt.com