Credit: Bronny Daniels/LBYC
Sparks fly on Day One
The 58th Congressional Cup kicked off with fiery action beneath blue skies and splendid winds of 10 to 14 knots, as 10 of the top-ranked match racing teams from seven nations began the battle for the iconic Crimson Blazer.
The Congressional Cup is one of the most prestigious and long-running match racing events on the globe. A founding event of the World Match Racing Tour, it is a World Sailing Grade One competition hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club, starring the world’s top ranked match racing skippers.
Although it’s been a full year since the last running of the Congressional Cup, it didn’t take long for the skippers and crews to get warmed up and fired up: clashing fiercely throughout the day – including several collisions, breakdowns and fouls.
Leading the charge was defending Congressional Cup champion and six-time World Champion Ian Williams (GBR). Competing in the Congressional Cup since 2006, Williams has won an astonishing five Crimson Blazers in 12 attempts. “Congressional Cup is the first event on the 2023 World Match Racing Tour, so it’s very important for us to start the year strong, in our bid for our seventh match racing World Championship,” he pointed out.
But Williams spreads his time competing in a diverse range of classes and series. “This year I’m focused on the WMRT with ChinaOne.Ningbo, plus fleet racing in M32 catamarans. So meaningful preparation has been difficult for us, with a team spread around the world.” Instead, he explained, “We’ve watched videos of previous years and read up on our notes to get ready for this Congressional Cup. It's been a struggle," Williams added, "We're really happy finishing the first day 4-2."
Williams noted his is one of the more senior teams on the lineup: with only one crew member under 40. By contrast several opponents have much younger crews like Jeppe Borch (DEN), 25 and Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL), 24 nipping at his heels.
The wind held and races continued late into the day, despite a succession of delays: the over-zealous sailors pushing the boats to the limits and beyond. Principal Race Officer Randy Beers said, “the breeze cooperated and locked in," but the day’s challenges involved, "plenty of contact and repairs." Chief Umpire Philippe Michel noted 45 decisions during the day, which resulted in 11 penalties.
Chris Poole (USA) wrapped up Day One undefeated: 6-0. It was not as great a day for Johnie Berntsson (SWE) – 2009 Congressional Cup champion – who finished with just 0.5 points, having tangled with a rival, and the signal boat … But each skipper got on the scoreboard: a good portent for a level and lively Congressional Cup regatta.