Ian Williams endured his most difficult part of the Long Beach Yacht Club's 49th Congressional Cup week Friday night when it came time to pick his opponent for Saturday's championship sailoffs.
"It's really a hard choice," he said after winning the privilege with a 16-2 won-lost record in the double round robins, well up on Simone Ferrarese (13-5), Ed Baird (12-6) and Mathieu Richard (11-7), who nudged out Adam Minoprio (10-8). "In this situation it's all bad options."
His choice: Ferrarese, the 15th-ranked match racer in the world who showed some skillfully aggressive form and whose only loss the last two days was to… Williams. By 5 seconds.
Williams leads Ferrarse. Image copyright Rich Roberts/Congressional Cup
The other three semifinalists are all former winners: Williams the previous two years, Baird in 2004 and Richard in 2007. The final foursome also represents four nationalities: a Brit, an Italian, a Yank and a Frenchman, in order of their round robin records.
A fifth national, a Kiwi - Adam Minoprio of New Zealand - missed by a point in a frustrating loss to Baird in the next to last flight. Minoprio was called for a pre-start foul and led around the course, but never by enough to clear himself with a penalty turn.
He praised his crew later, saying, "The guys sailed really well and gave us a chance to win. It just didn't happen."
Another hard-luck tale was Scott Dickson's loss toAustralia's young Jordan Reece. The Long Beach local hope, a native of New Zealand, had a runaway lead on the second upwind leg but rounded the alternate yellow mark buoy instead of the assigned orange buoy. Reece, sensing something was wrong and he had nothing to lose, followed Dickson around the yellow one, then also rounded the orange one.
Dickson's spinnaker sponsor, Bob Atkins of Friedman's appliance business, took the blame.
"They asked me to call the [layline to] the windward mark," he said, "and I'm color blind so I called the yellow one."
He was kidding. Although Atkins was on the boat, as an on-board guest he wasn't allowed to offer any suggestions.
Certainly, Ferrarese seemed more serious. While Williams noted that "I can't remember a real handling error we made all week," his upcoming opponent spoke cautiously.
"We're still feeling each other out," he said. "I'm happy that we're going to get a shot to win this event."
Minoprio (NZL) leads Baird (USA). Image copyright Rich Roberts/Congressional Cup
An unofficial exhibition fleet race into the harbor followed Friday's racing and was the highlight of the week for Eric Monnin of Switzerland, who won only 3 of 18 match races but led the flock of spinnakers back to LBYC.
The sail-offs will be best-of-three. There also will be a fleet race for the six non-qualifiers.
Competition is at Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier on the Long Beach outer harbor starting at 11:30 a.m., conditions permitting. Admission is free. Bleachers, comfort stations and a snack bar are available. Parking is at the base of the pier, with complimentary golf cart service available from the beach to the end of the pier.
The Congressional has a $60,000 purse, including $15,000 to the winner, along with the traditional Crimson Blazer. Financial support is from local, national and international sponsors.
Nick Blackman collects the jib on Adam Minoprio's boat. Image copyright Rich Roberts/Congressional Cup.
Correction: An earlier report here that Adam Minoprio's parents had come from New Zealand to watch the racing from the pier was inaccurate. It is the parents of Minoprio's bowman, Nick Blackman, whose father Ross is an executive with the Emirates Team New Zealand America's Cup team and is living in San Francisco through the competition this summer.
Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands, def. Ian Williams, Great Britain, 15 seconds.
Ed Baird, USA, def. Laurie Jury, New Zealand, 24 seconds.
Scott Dickson, USA, def. Adam Minoprio, New Zealand, 20 seconds.
Jordan Reece, Australia, def. Mathieu Richard, France, 57 seconds.
Simone Ferrarese, Italy, def. Eric Monnin, Switzerland, 5 seconds.
Baird def. Minoprio, 0:06.
Reece d. Dickson, no time.
Richard d. Monnin, 0:08.
Jury d. Canfield, 0:03.
Williams d. Ferrarese, 0:05.
Baird d. Dickson, 0:03.
Richard d. Minoprio, 0:02.
Ferrarese d. Reece, 0:06.
Canfield d. Monnin, 0:16.
Williams d. Jury, 0:18.
1. Williams, 16-2
2. Ferrarese, 13-5
3. Baird, 12-6
4. Richard, 11-7
5. Minoprio, 10-8
6. Canfield, 9-9
7. Reece, 6-12
8. Dickson and Jury, 5-13
10 . Monnin, 3-15.