Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Congressional Cup Starts Tuesday 24th March

Crews check out their Catalina 37s before practice on Monday. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

by Rich Roberts

What do the Masters golf tournament and the Congressional Cup match racing regatta have in common?

Tradition, certainly. A Masters golf winner gets a Green Jacket while a Congressional Cup winner receives a Crimson Blazer, both proud distinctions that set the two events apart in their particular niches of the sporting world at a high a level of esteem.

"This event is special," says Rod Davis, who has won four Crimson Blazers and returns this week as tactician for New Zealand's Adam Minoprio in Long Beach Yacht Club's 45th renewal of a sailing original.

Four-time winner Rod Davis, tactician for Adam Minoprio this time, weighs in for Camille Daniels. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

A double round-robin featuring 10 sailors from seven countries, including top-ranked Sébastien Col of France, Olympic triple gold medalist Ben Ainslie of Great Britain and U.S. Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Terry Hutchinson, runs Tuesday through Friday off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, followed by semifinals and finals for the top four Saturday---and who says sailing isn't a spectator sport?

The pier east of downtown Long Beach will have bleacher seating within rooting distance of the action, free parking at the beach end and shuttle service starting Wednesday, all free of charge. Racing is scheduled to start at noon each day, wind conditions permitting.

It's been 16 years since Davis won the last of his four Crimson Blazers---two for American teams and two for New Zealand, his country of residence since 1987.

"I've coached three of these guys," Davis said, referring to his work with Team New Zealand's America's Cup program the last few years that involved Ainslie, Hutchinson and Minoprio at various times.

But he isn't sure the younger competitors are aware of the role the Congressional Cup played in building world-class match racing by introducing on-water umpiring to the game in 1988 and sustaining a Grade 1 level of competition through the years.

Ben Ainslie weighs in with Long Beach YC's Camille Daniels. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Ainslie is 32, while Minoprio at 23 became the youngest winner ever on the World Match Racing Tour when he won the year's opening event at Marseille earlier this month.

The Congressional Cup is not a member of the WMRT, but "it was the first match racing event of any notoriety for a very long time," Davis said. "And what sets it apart even now is its yacht club base. Most of the other events are commercially based, but it's not the same feel."

Also, instead of staying in yet another hotel---some say they don't really have homes---Congressional Cup teams are lodged in the homes of LBYC members.

"They like that," Davis said. "It also saves them a lot of money."

Speaking of . . . the total purse here is potentially worth $83,500, including prize money through 10 places, Saturday's fleet race for non-sailoff qualifiers, six $2,000 Oceanaut watches to the winning crew, plus an Acura TSX or $30,000 to any skipper that can sweep every race before winning overall.

Davis, who won an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. and a silver for New Zealand, won his four Congressional Cup titles four years apart from 1981 through 1993, embellishing a list of historic sailing celebrities such as Ted Turner, Bill Ficker, Dennis Conner, Peter Gilmour and Chris Dickson, since extended by the only other quadruple Crimson winners in recent years, Peter Holmberg and Gavin Brady.

"The list has some pretty big names on it," Davis said. "The only thing that might compare is winners of the Star class Worlds."

But even they don't have Crimson Blazers.


Chief umpire for the on-water officials this week is Alfredo Ricci of Salerno, Italy. He also led the team at Marseille. . . . Stephané Christidis, mainsail trimmer for France's Philippe Presti, suffered a minor head wound during practice Monday when the metal main sheet block broke loose during a jibe. He didn't lose consciousness but was brought to shore on a lifeguard boat and transported to a hospital for treatment. Captain John Davis, a Long Beach Fire Dept. paramedic on the boat, said the wound on top of Christidis' head would probably require two stitches. He complained of a headache and was expected to sail Tuesday. . . . Maximum crew weight is 1,157 pounds, and Presti's team hit it on the nose. Sébastien Col's crew was only three pounds lighter. The lightweight of the fleet is Staffan Lindberg's crew at 1,081 pounds. . . . Incidentally, while Lindberg is from Finland, his crew is all Swedish. Lindberg's home is in the Aland Islands between Finland and Sweden. "Finnish is the third language spoken there," Lindberg said, "after Swedish and English."

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 will be 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.

Philippe Presti (l.) and Staffan Lindberg practice in front of Long Beach Monday. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Congressional Cup Teams
(in order of ranking)

1. Sébastien Col, France
Gilles Favennec, Christophe Andre, Christian Scherrer, Michele Ivalde, Pascal Ivalde

3. Mathieu Richard, France
Greg Evrard, Philippe Mourniac, Olivier Herledant, Thierry Briend, Yannick Simon,

6. Philippe Presti, France
Stephane Christidis, Erwan Israel, Julien Falxa, Gilles André, Mikael Mergui

8. Adam Minoprio, New Zealand
Rod Davis, Steve Flam, Tom Powrie, David Swete, Nick Blackman,

9. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden
Daniel Wallberg, Johan Bäckman, Björn Lundgren, Bjorn Lundgren, Niklas Calzon

19. Staffan Lindberg, Finland
Nils Bjerkås, Robert Skarp, Carl-Johan Uckelstam, Fredrik Aurell, Daniel Mattson

53. Ben Ainslie, Great Britain
George Skuddas, Matt Cornwell, Kelvin Harrap, Mike Mottel, Christian Kemp

62. Brian Angel, USA
Payson Infelise, David Hochart, Mike Brown, Bud McKay, Tyler Prentice

76. Francesco Bruni, Italy
Tom Burnham, Tudor Owen, Ben Durham, Matteo Aguadro, Pierluigi DeFelice

921. Terry Hutchinson, USA
Andrew Scott, Greg Gendell, Skip Baxter, Morgan Trubovich, Cameron Appleton

Congressional Cup

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