Monday, 7 March 2011

California Dreamin' Match Race Series: Butler Cup, Day One

Nesbitt, Tiller (NZL) 1-2 after Butler Cup round robins

Butler Cup day one. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

by Rich Roberts

With a bright sun sparkling off the water at a drowsy 77 F. and a southwest breeze blowing a benign 9 knots, the midway venue of the California Dreamin' Series was more like day dreamin' at the Butler Cup match racing competition Saturday.

Chris Nesbitt, 33, from Balboa Yacht Club down the coast, swept his seven races and Will Tiller, 21, of New Zealand, one of two foreign entries, lost only to Nesbitt. The eight teams were on their best behavior for the on-water umpires. The peak of excitement for anyone watching from Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier was when a drowsy fisherman snagged one of the Catalina 37s that whipped too close in a pre-start joust.

Butler Cup day one. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Then at mid-afternoon the tempo picked up after four of the scheduled round robin flights. The sea breeze swung hard right to west-by-northwest from downtown and increased to 13 knots … like, that's more like it, Long Beach!

That worked for the fourth and fifth flights, but late in the sixth the breeze gasped and died before recovering from downtown again. That's when the lead in the event turned as Nesbitt met Tiller.

Butler Cup day one. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

On the first upwind leg Tiller, on the inside, carried Nesbitt well past the starboard layline before tacking to the mark … but Nesbitt didn't follow. Instead, sensing another wind shift to the right, he stayed on course and tacked on it.

"We rolled them at the weather mark," Nesbitt said.

But the two boats kept close company until the leeward mark, where Tiller drew a penalty for a minor tap and carried it through the finish, following Nesbitt across.

So Nesbitt would lead his rivals into Sunday's best-of-three sail-offs through quarterfinals, semifinals and finals to determine the winner.

Butler Cup day one. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

"It's supposed to be windier [Sunday]," Nesbitt said. "We practiced in that to we're looking forward to it."

But in the larger picture, the ultimate winner of the Dreamin' series that will send its overall champion to the Ficker Cup - the final steppingstone to the Congressional Cup March 22-26 - is very much up in the air. It won't be Nesbitt or Tiller.

Butler Cup day one. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Tiller is the highest ranked match racer in this event at 35th on the ISAF scale - Nesbitt is 121st - but neither is dreamin' to win the series because they didn't race at San Francisco last week and they aren't entered at San Diego next week.

Shawn Bennett, who won at San Francisco, skipped this one but will be at San Diego, while Russ Silvestri was second at San Francisco and currently is tied for third here at 4-3 with Bruce Stone of San Francisco, but he also will miss San Diego.

Butler Cup day one. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Behind them heading into the sail-offs are Dustin Durant, Long Beach, and John Horsch, of San Francisco's Treasure Island Sailing Club, at 3-4; David Storrs, Long Beach, 1-6, and Saverio Ramirez, Italy, 0-7.

Butler Cup, Long Beach YC