Saturday, 5 March 2011
Close racing at the Congressional Cup 2009 Day 3. Image copyright Rich Roberts.
by Rich Roberts
San Francisco is in the books, and now the California Dreamin' Series for raw but talented match racing sailors comes to Long Beach for the Butler Cup Saturday and Sunday.
In the absence of Shawn Bennett, who won last weekend's series opener on the Bay, the two favorites in the event apparently will be Will Tiller, 21, a successful upstart from New Zealand, and Russ Silvestri, 49, who raced a Finn dinghy for the U.S. in the 2000 Olympics in Australia and at San Francisco finished second behind Bennett, who is skipping this event.
All will be increasing the crews of three or four they used on the J/22s last week to six or seven on the C/37s. Some of the younger skippers with limited experience behind a wheel have found the sturdy C/37s to be a handful.
No problem, says at least one. Asked if a guy named Tiller would have trouble driving with a wheel, he laughed and said, "I have sailed quite a few boats with wheels so I have the hang of it. Our team is competing in the Butler Cup with the aim of developing our team in these larger boats going into future regattas."
He has been match-racing at all levels for four years and been competitive in Grade 1 events against the likes of Congressional Cup winners Francesco Bruni and Rod Davis.
Later this month the winner could find himself facing Bruni and other top professionals in the 47th Congressional Cup at Long Beach March 22-26, but they'll be sailing the same Catalina 37s on the same tight windward-leeward course within spitting range of the spectator friendly Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Racing will start at around noon each day, conditions permitting.
First place this weekend earns advancement into the Grade 2 Ficker Cup at Long Beach March 17-19. Others may take a detour to San Diego for the last stop of the Grade 3 CDS March 12-13 that also will earn a Ficker slot for the overall winner of the series.
The Ficker will determine that contest's traditional entry into the Congressional Cup against the world's top pros March 22-26.
Six of the eight San Francisco competitors will be racing in Long Beach: Silvestri and John Horsch, 5-2 last weekend; Dustin Durant, Long Beach, 4-3; Bruce Stone, San Francisco, 3-4; Dave Storrs, Pequot Yacht Club of Southport, Conn., and Saverio Ramirez, Italy, 2-5.