Semi-finalists nearly final at Congressional Cup

Published on September 17th, 2021

Long Beach, CA (September 17, 2021) – Today the top three skippers racing in the 56th Congressional Cup regatta at Long Beach Yacht Club here cemented their positions in the semi-finals, but the battle is still waging for fourth place and who will advance to the next stage.

In round robin racing, Johnie Berntsson (SWE) and Eric Monnin (FRA) joined the ranks of the untouchable and will move into the semi-finals tomorrow. Ahead of them, Taylor Canfield (USA) continued to flaunt the form that earned him his second World Match Racing Champion title in 2020, and four Crimson Blazers.

The Crimson Blazer is yacht racing’s equivalent to the The Masters’ green jacket. It’s more than just a red sport coat: it a sign of joining the legion of celebrated skippers who have donned it before. Dennis Conner, Peter Holmberg, Dean Barker, Harold Cudmore, Chris Dickson, Ted Turner, Bill Ficker, Ken Read, Francesco Bruni … LBYC members tease that when Simone Ferrarese won his Crimson Blazer in 2013, ‘He was like a little kid on Christmas morning, he was so smitten with winning it. We think he slept in it.’

In today’s racing, in a light breeze that freshened up to 10 knots, penalty flags flew and collisions continued. Infringements of the strict rules of racing – determined by an expert team of on-the-water umpires – come at a hefty price, as a penalized boat is required to do a 360-degree penalty turn; while their opponent slips away.

But all collisions, Monnin pointed out, are not bad. The Swiss competitor, who has long sailed with his brother Marc on his team – along with Julien Falxa, Mathieu Renault, Lukas Gerig, Simon Brugger – has a new crew on traveler and main this year: his wife Ute Wagner.

They met on the racecourse in Lake Constance, Austria, Wagner said: “A nice meeting at the starting line.”

“A big t-bone,” Monnin clarified.

On opposing teams, at the start of a match race, Wagner explained, “But they were blue and we were entering yellow (on starboard tack) …”

“… and I got the penalty,” Monnin conceded. “We call it the Big Bang!”

The couple married last month and jokingly say they are honeymooning at the regatta. “I always wanted to come to Long Beach to the Congressional Cup as a honeymoon,” Ute interjected with a laugh. “It was my dream from the day I met Eric.”

In truth, winning the Congressional Cup has been a long-standing dream of Monnin’s. He has competed in the event six times in the last decade, yearning to add the Crimson Blazer to his impressive list of accomplishments, which includes current top-ranked match racing skipper in the world.

His team has never made the Congressional Cup podium, but poised to enter the semi-finals, Monnin’s chances have never been better.

“We didn’t have so much racing this year, so the challenge has been to get back to doing what we know we can do, as soon as we can, and improve day to day,” said Monnin. “We’ve never had a coach or trainer, but I’ve found it’s okay to figure it out ourselves, working with our strengths. It’s working … slowly, but it’s working.”

His wins today came at the expense of Jeffrey Petersen (USA) and Emil Kjaer (DEN) who are among a tightly packed posse – which also includes Sam Gilmour (AUS), Chris Poole (USA), and David Wood (USA) – battling for the fourth and final slot in the semi-finals which will commence tomorrow.

Racing on September 15-19 is held off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, beginning with a Double Round Robin followed by semi-finals, petite finals, and finals.

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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.

Source: LBYC

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