March 27, 2012
Sailing Pros Zero in on Congressional Cup
If you’re an ambitious sailor who wants to make it big in match racing, you couldn’t find a better place to start than Long Beach.
It’s worked for several of the competitors in the Long Beach Yacht Club’s 48th Congressional Cup running Tuesday through Saturday, including past winners Ian Williams of the UK (now ranked No. 1 in the world), Johnie Berntsson of Sweden and four-time winner Gavin Brady of New Zealand and Annapolis, Md. All built successful professional careers on the foundation of the game’s granddaddy event.
Simone Ferrarese plans to follow that path. The young Italian was a 23-year-old unknown until he wangled an invitation to last year’s Ficker Cup qualifying event and won his way into the Congressional Cup, where he finished an impressive sixth in the 10-team field.
From there he jumped onto the World Match Racing Tour, where he has raised his world ranking to 17 with a steady stream of successes in Grade 1 and 2 events—good enough to secure a Tour Card for automatic entry on this season’s Alpari World Match Racing Tour. Ferrarese, Williams, Berntsson (No. 7) and Laurie Jury of New Zealand (No. 11) are among only nine WMRT card holders with automatic entry to the series’ 2012 events.
Others competing here are Staffan Lindberg, Finland (14); Eric Monnin, Switzerland, (15); Will Tiller, New Zealand (19), and Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands (27).
Ferrarese can almost make a decent living at it now—and is well aware that this $60,000 purse, with $15,000 to the winner, would help.
And it can’t hurt that two of his crew’s given names are Michelangelo and Leonardo and another’s surname is Mantovani, making them the most artistic-sounding team in the sport.
In an interview with the VSail.info website late last year, Ferrarese said, “We pay for all the match races we do all around the world [and are] working a lot in fleet races in order to raise the necessary funding.
“This year we won the Ficker Cup … finished fourth at the Open de España, were fourth at the Grade 1 in St. Petersburg and [then] won the Master De España.”
In three of those events he outsailed Tiller, another rising star.
“My team is very proud of these results, and because we are Europeans we felt it important to let you know our position,” Ferrarese told VSail.info.
Another of his rivals can relate to that. Dustin Durant, 24, won last week’s Ficker Cup to claim the 10th berth in the Congressional Cup. Now he steps up to a higher level, where he isn’t a total stranger.
“The thing with the really good guys is they’re way more predictable in their maneuvers,” Durant said, “so there will probably be a lot less surprising action.”
There will be two round robins, with the top four advancing into best-of-three semifinals and finals.
All racing will be in the outer harbor off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach. Admission is free; snacks, refreshments and comfort stations will be available. Parking in the lot at the base of the pier will be complimentary.
The event also has political support in this election year. The Long Beach City Council has proclaimed March as “Congressional Cup Month” in the city of 462,257.
Congressional Cup teams will sail the Catalina 37s with standard crews of six, including the skipper, rotating boats daily. The boats, designed and built by Catalina Yachts primarily for match racing, are owned and maintained by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation.
The Congressional Cup has maintained a high level of organization with a unique volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families. Each crew is assigned boat hostesses and a housing team to deliver the outstanding local hospitality the Congressional Cup has offered now for 48 years.
March 28, 2012
Brad's back to Congressional Cup... and how at 5-0
Jet-lagged, ranked 451st (!) in the world after being away from the match racing game for two long years … no big deal. Gavin Brady quickly found his Long Beach touch to sweep his five races on Day 1 of the Long Beach Yacht Club’s 48th Congressional Cup Tuesday.
That launches him to a two-win lead in his bid to collect an unprecedented fifth Crimson Blazer, the iconic winner’s prize in the event. Only a day earlier, when nine upcoming rivals were already out practicing in the Catalina 37s, Brady arrived at noon after 18 hours in the air from Down Under, where he sailed to second place in the New Zealand IRC Nationals, which is what world-class professional sailors do.
A few of his crew also arrived late from another event in the Caribbean, but none appeared to miss a beat as they defeated Italy’s Simone Ferrarese, Finland’s Staffan Lindberg, New Zealand’s Laurie Jury, Switzerland’s Eric Monnin … and, oh year, the UK’s Ian Williams, the defending champion and No. 1 ranked match racer in the world.
“It was a surprise coming out with five wins today,” Brady said. “We were all a bit jet-lagged, but we know the boats … and we know where to go at night [to unwind].”
His ranking is so low because the last match race he did was the 2010 Congressional Cup, when he finished second.
Winds for the racing before spectators on the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier were a moderately chilly and brisk 10 to 14 knots from the normal southwest, leaving boat handling paramount and the rest of the fleet tightly bunched at 3-2 or 2-3, except for local hope Dustin Durant, who pulled off the upset of the day by beating Williams in the second flight—his only win of the day after going 12-2 in last week’s Ficker Cup to qualify for the event.
“We went 1 and 4 but we sailed well in every race,” said Durant. “The competition is tougher now.”
Monnin gave Brady one of his fiercest fights in the final flight before losing by 32 seconds. At the first leeward mark protest flags flew like autumn leaves as each tried to claim the inside rounding position, and the on-water umpires called six fouls—two on Brady and four on Monnin.
Monnin said later, “I hope the umpires had time to dry their flags. It was a good match, fighting as hard as we did and just losing.”
Williams, meanwhile, noted that with 13 flights remaining in the double round robin, “We’re not out of it yet.”
Of course, no one knows that better than Brady, a native of New Zealand who has been competing in the Congressional Cup for nearly 20 years since moving to Annapolis, Md. He recently moved with his family back to Auckland, where sailing is always taken seriously.
After the two round robins, the top four teams advance into best-of-three semifinals and finals.
All racing is in the outer harbor off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach. Admission is free; snacks, refreshments and comfort stations are available. Parking in the lot at the base of the pier is complimentary, as is transit out to the end of the pier.
March 29, 2012
Brady holds lead as penalty flags fly on Day 2
Can world-class match racers be friends?
Fair question after watching Thursday’s roughhouse competition on Day 2 of the Long Beach Yacht Club’s 48th Congressional Cup. The 10 competitors waved an estimated 39 protest flags in 30 races and the on-water umpires imposed 17 penalties. Matches turned on a few of the calls.
“I am aggressive,” said Simone Ferrarese (5-5), who won two protests against four-time winner Gavin Brady (9-1) in dealing him his first loss in the last race of the day. “We started that much with the idea of being more aggressive because Gavin is so fast.”
Steve Steiner, the public address announcer for spectators on Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, dubbed Ferrarese “the Wild Man,” and Brady said on the dock afterward, with smiling exuberance, “My [gosh] they were aggressive. I never saw one of these boats come at me so fast.”
At one point crew from one rival was overheard hailing the Italians, “Will you just stop yelling?”
But why stop, one might ask … if it works?
In a brisk chilly southwest breeze of 17 knots in late afternoon, Ferrarese nailed Brady, who had been untouchable to all other opponents, to win the last race of the day by 22 seconds.
All of that intensity was brought to the post-race skippers press conference, where the comments were generally humorous but edgy.
Switzerland’s Eric Monnin, who thought he had nipped Lindberg in a spinnaker finish, described it as his “one very close race” … then added, solemnly, “I can’t remember the race committee boat being so late in showing the [colored] flag of the winner. We thought we were first to the committee boat.”
Principal race officer Pete Ives said, “We’d like to thank the skippers for the action at the leeward mark [just upwind from the race committee boat]. It kept us awake all day.”
They were wide awake for the start of the late match between two former winners, Ian Williams of the UK (2011) and Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson (2009).
Berntsson, on port tack, collided with the Brit’s boat in a tight squeeze against the committee boat a few seconds before the start. Berntsson drew a penalty, but Williams was left dead in the water as his opponent sailed away with an apparently unbeatable lead in the two-lap race.
“It was quite an exiting day,” Williams said. “We had a real battle, Johnie and I, and he picked up a penalty there. We thought he should have had a black flag [disqualifying] penalty.”
But in the end it didn’t matter. Once Williams got his Catalina 37 back in gear and steadily picked away at the Swede’s lead until passing him at the final mark and winning by 24 seconds.
Most of the sailors seemed exhausted. Skipper Taylor Canfield (5-5), asked which was his toughest match, paused to think, then said, “I can’t even remember. Everyone still has a shot at the semifinals.”
Indeed they do. Brady increased his overall lead to three wins, followed by Williams and Lindberg at 6-4 and Canfield, Monnin and Ferrarese at 5-5. Even New Zealand’s Laurie Jury and homeboy Dustin Durant are still in the chase at 3-7 with eight more round robin matches remaining before Saturday’s semifinals.
March 30, 2012
Royalty Boosts Williams to within One Win of Brady
Maybe it was the lucky tiara his team’s boat hostess wore or perhaps the pelicans that showed them the way around the course, but Ian Williams raced like the world’s No. 1-ranked match racer that he is on Day 3 of the Long Beach Yacht Club’s 48th Congressional Cup Thursday.
Soon after the defending champion and his crew from the UK reached the dock after a perfect 4-0 day, Rebekah Bennett arrived bearing a plate of post-race goodies and wearing the glistening silver hairpiece they had asked her to display.
The occasion marked their comeback from a modest 2-3 start in the regatta with an eight-race win streak that has them only one step behind early leader Gavin Brady with four matches remaining in the double round robin.
Brady was only 2-2 on the day, including a close loss to Williams that saw them never more than a boat-length apart over the one-third-mile, two-lap windward leeward course in the Long Beachouter harbor. Brady is assured of reaching Saturday’s semifinals, with Williams just a breath away.
Winds were more moderate than a day earlier at 6 knots building to 10, wandering slightly from the southwest.
Until the breeze settled in, an active array of California brown pelicans put on a pre-game show for the sailors and spectators, swooping among the milling boats and performing like dive bombers to pluck their lunch from below.
But by the second flight of the day, the scene became more serious than sublime when Williams and Brady lined up. The Brit, on a confident roll, started at the committee boat end and went right, as Brady took the left side. They were essentially even when they met at the windward mark, but Williams’ starboard tack advantage allowed him to cross Brady and round ahead.
The margin didn’t change much in the final mile before Williams won by eight seconds.
“We convinced our boat hostess to wear her tiara,” said Williams, who knows about the influence of royalty. “That made the difference.”
That and, of course, “We’re just trying to improve every day,” Williams said, “getting used to the boat and remembering how to do it.”
His Team GAC Pinder hadn’t raced since December when they won the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia to clinch the 2011 World Match Racing Tour title that elevated them to numero uno on the planet.
Meantime, Brady (11-3) also lost to Laurie Jury (5-9) of New Zealand, but the four-time winner here wasn’t overly concerned.
“I don’t feel too bad about today,” he said. “You don’t win all 18 [round robin] races. We qualified for the semifinals … and we’re having fun.”
But another former winner was struggling. Johnie Berntsson of Sweden, who donned the Crimson Blazer in 2008, is 6-8 after a 2-2 day.
“We’re trying to get the team together,” Berntsson said, citing “strategy problems.”
He lost to New Zealand’s Will Tiller (7-7) by only two seconds in what could become a turnaround result in the semifinal solution.
March 31, 2012
Williams streaks into Congressional Cup sailoffs
Ian Williams all but surprised himself.
“I don’t think we’ve ever won 12 [match races] in a row,” he said Friday after leading the pack into Saturday’s sailoffs of the Long Beach Yacht Club’s 48th Congressional Cup.
The streak by Williams, the defending champion and world’s No. 1-ranked match racer, equaled the score of 14 wins and 4 losses by week-long leader Gavin Brady, a four-time winner, and Williams won the tiebreaker by virtue of his win over Brady a day earlier.
Williams thus was privileged to pick Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands (10-8) as his opponent in the best-of-three semifinals, leaving Brady to meet third-place Simone Ferrarese ofItaly (11-7), who won all four of his races Friday.
The best-of-three finals will follow. Racing is scheduled to start at noon off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach. Admission is free; snacks, refreshments and comfort stations are available. Parking in the lot at the base of the pier is complimentary, as is transit out to the end of the pier.
Live streaming video of the racing and post-race press conferences may be seen at http://ustre.am/egtA
All hands were hoping for better breeze than the 4 to 6 knots from the south they saw Friday.
Canfield placed last in the double round robin a year earlier but said, “Same crew, but the difference was time in the boat.”
And a recovery from two early losses Friday to wins over Brady and Will Tiller of New Zealand also helped.
Ferrarese, in his native language, was en fuego (on fire) Friday with four wins, all against non-qualifiers, who will sail a fleet race over a harbor course Saturday.
“We felt really fast,” Ferrarese said. “We played the best side of the course in every race. The goal was the semifinals. Now, we need to have a strong mentality.”
Canfield had that in his turnaround win against Brady, whom he trailed at the last windward mark until slipping past for the lead and a 15-second win.
“We jibed and went over the top [windward side],” Canfield said . . . or, as Chris Larson, Brady’s tactician, described it: “When we jibed he was able to roll us. But we’re happy being in the semifinals.”
Now it’s time for the serious showdowns. Williams noted, “Having 14 wins is no good for us [Saturday].”