Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Congressional Cup: Flying Start for Hutchinson (6-0) and Ainslie (5-1)

Ben Ainslie's TEAMORIGIN did well on day one of the 2009 Congressional Cup. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

by Rich Roberts

Two illustrious sailors---Terry Hutchinson and Ben Ainslie---are the first to say the Long Beach Yacht Club's 45th Congressional Cup is a lot closer than it looks on the scoreboard that shows them with 6-0 and 5-1 records after the first day of racing Tuesday.

But the Annapolis veteran, who won here in 1992 and called tactics for winners Ken Read in 2003 and Dean Barker in 2006, said he isn't pondering the choice between $30,000 or the keys to a new Acura awarded to anyone who goes undefeated all week.

"There are a lot of good sailors here," said Hutchinson, who was recently honored as America's Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. "You could easily go for oh and six tomorrow."

Right on the start line at the committee boat at the gun! Image copyright Rich Roberts.

And it wasn't a perfect day for Hutchinson's crew, which like all the others is lodged at LBYC members' homes.

"The day started out," he said, "with those five words no host likes to hear: 'Do you have a plunger?'"

It did get better. Hutchinson dealt Ainslie, the triple Olympic gold medalist and ISAF World Sailor of the Year, his only loss, by five boat lengths.

Ainslie said, "The thing to do is roll with the punches and keep it going."

Some had more punches to roll with than others. France's Sébastien Col, Mathieu Richard and Philippe Presti, currently ranked Nos. 1, 3 and 6 in the world, share sixth place with only two wins each. Richard won the traditional Crimson Blazer here two years ago.

The depth of the field is a factor. Hutchinson's tactician, Cameron Appleton of New Zealand, said their toughest race was against the U.S.'s Brian Angel, who stands 1-5. Ainslie said Sweden's Johnie Berntsson---3-3 but second here the last two years---gave them their worst moments, next to their loss to Hutchinson.

New Zealand's Adam Minoprio, a winner in the World Match Racing Tour opener at Marseille earlier this month, shares third placed with Italy's Francesco Bruni, a late entry, at 4-2.

With 18 rounds to run through Friday, leading into Saturday's championship sail-offs for the final four, principal race officer Mike Van Dyke made the most of steady southwest breezes building from 6 to 14 knots through the afternoon on the half-mile windward-leeward course inside the Long Beach breakwater.

Bruni, who wasn't invited until two weeks ago when a spot opened up, said at the evening's press conference, "We're very happy with the sun, the wind . . . and the pizza [delivered to the teams] after sailing."

Racing came close to shore in the pre-start. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Hutchinson was happy, too, after winning only two of his six starts and breaking even in two others.

"We clearly lost our last start to Angel," he said. "I expect we're going to have some hiccups on the way."

But his best move saved the race against Angel, who led the final race going into the first windward mark.

Tactician Cameron Appleton of New Zealand said, "That was our hardest race of the day. He was first off the line and controlled the race. But at the top mark he hoisted his chute a little too soon and we came in between him and the buoy. Then we luffed him head to wind and he had to drop [the spinnaker], and we bore off, raised our chute and sailed away."

Berntsson pulled off another slick comeback to beat Col by four seconds. First, he cut Col's lead to less than a boat length with a quicker spinnaker hoist and jib drop at the last mark, and when Col tried to luff him upwind near the finish he was able to break the overlap and bear away to the line to win by half a boat length.

Racing continues Wednesday at noon, conditions permitting.

Adam Minoprio (2nd from left) and tactician Rod Davis (at left) study the course while awaiting their start. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

The Congressional Cup has maintained a high level of organization over the years with a 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 45 years.

The 2009 Congressional Cup is supported by Spinnaker sponsors F&M Bank, Catalina Adventure Tours, the Press Telegram and Oceanaut Watches Luxury Swiss Timepieces; Sail sponsors Union Bank, Newmeyer and Dillion LLP, Port of Long Beach, Gladstone's Long Beach and MCA Logistics; Hospitality sponsor Mount Gay Rum, and Honorary sponsor Catalina Yachts.

Staffan Lindberg was in the lead at times, but didn't have the best of times on day one. Image copyright Rich Roberts.


Adam Minoprio, New Zealand, def. Mathieu Richard, France, 25 seconds
Francesco Bruni, Italy, d. Sébastien Col, France, 0:45
Philippe Presti, France, d. Staffan Lindberg, Finland, 0:35
Ben Ainslie, Great Britain, d. Brian Angel, USA, 0:20
Terry Hutchinson, USA, d. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, 0:23

Col d. Lindberg, 0:11
Presti d. Angel, 0:20
Ainslie d. Minoprio, 0:30
Hutchinson d. Richard, 0:34
Bruni d. Berntsson, no time

Minoprio d. Presti, 0:29
Hutchinson d. Ainslie, no time
Richard d. Bruni, 0:15
Berntsson d. Col, 0:04
Angel d. Lindberg, 0:11

Ainslie d. Bruni, 0:11
Berntsson d. Richard, 0:08
Col d. Angel, 0:30
Lindberg d. Minoprio, 0:06
Hutchinson d. Presti, 0:16

Richard d. Col, 0:06
Minoprio d. Angel, 0:21
Hutchinson d. Lindberg, 0:12
Bruni d. Presti, 0:04
Ainslie d. Berntsson, 0:53

Hutchinson d. Angel, 0:24
Bruni d. Lindberg, 1:05
Berntsson d. Presti, 1:20
Ainslie d. Richard, 0:20
Minoprio d. Col, 0:14

The Catalinas heading downwind. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

STANDINGS (after 6 of 18 rounds):
1. Hutchinson, 6-0
2. Ainslie, 5-1
3. tie between Bruni and Minoprio, 4-2
5. Berntsson, 3-3
6. tie among Presti, Richard and Col, 2-4
9. tie between Lindberg and Angel, 1-5

Congressional Cup

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