53rd Annual Congressional Cup hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club

Monday, 03 April 2017


From Black Flag to Crimson Blazer: Williams wins Congressional Cup 2017

Long Beach, Calif 2 April 2017 – In a series of matches that were as mercurial as the weather, Ian Williams (GBR) and his team GAC Pindar triumphed in the 53rd Congressional Cup, beating Johnie Berntsson (SWE) in a fifth and final winner-take-all match.

Not since 2012 has Ian Williams [GRB] donned the coveted Crimson Blazer, the honor bestowed to the top names in sailing since 1965. What The Masters Green Jacket is to pro golfing, the Crimson Blazer is to yacht racing.

But Williams had been denied, after two consecutive Congressional Cup wins in 2011 and 2012; even as he reigned as six-time Match Racing World Champion. And in 2016, his team finished last in the Congressional Cup.

That shakeup was motivating, said Williams, who vowed to come back and redeem himself. He returned to Congressional Cup this week, building momentum throughout the five-day event. In the Quarter Finals he conquered Chris Steele (NZL), moving on to beat defending champion Taylor Canfield in the Semi Finals in three strokes; leading Williams into the Finals against Berntsson.

Races were aggressive, including two matches held as a thick bank of fog rolled through. “It’s rare to race like that; difficult when you can’t see the top mark,” Williams said. But they were able to keep close to Berntsson, and get a win in the second match. “Johnie has been on fire this week, and we thought once we got a win on him, maybe we could break his spell.”

In the fourth flight, that fire turned explosive. In a blistering pre-start, as the boats skimmed the pier, Williams was penalized for nosing in without room. Flagged, he continued his combat with Berntsson, sprinting toward the start line, but didn’t keep clear of Berntsson, picking up a second penalty, then as he tacked back to clear the committee boat he was forced to fend off, warranting a third and terminal (black) flag. The race was over nearly as soon as it had begun.

“We were expecting it,” Williams admitted, but they shook it off. “We just had to forget about it, and move on to the next race.”

With wheels spinning, racing resumed, in a final winner-takes-all match. Splitting tacks, at the leeward gate Williams went left while Berntsson banked on the right side of the course … and lost. With the late afternoon wind waning, Williams got the better breeze, and defeated Berntsson by over a minute.

Sundays final day of Congressional Cup racing had commenced in 11knots of southerly breeze, in Long Beach: one of North America’s busiest, and premier seaports. As the waters sparkled in the bright sunshine, the 1.5nm Fleet Race and a $2K purse was won by Steele; but not without a fight from Sam Gilmour (AUS).

Going into the day, both Berntsson and Williams were within one point of the Finals. Each smartly dispatched their rivals: Taylor Canfield (ISV) and Phil Robertson (NZL) (respectively) – who went on to compete in the Petite Finals. In that contest, Canfield defeated Robertson 2-0 for third place in the Congressional Cup regatta.

 Berntsson had cruised through Qualifying, finishing at the top of the leaderboard over 11 of the world’s top yacht racing talents. His only losses during the week had been to Harry Price (AUS) and Gilmour (AUS) – two young talented Aussie, who were subsequently eliminated.

Berntsson had been on a roll and eager to win his second Crimson Blazer: having won the title in 2009. Bowing to Williams in the Finals, he said, “We’re already looking forward to coming back next year.”

Congressional Cup is held directly off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, which was abuzz with hundreds of spectators who turned out for today’s exciting conclusion.

Congressional Cup is part of the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) and a 53-year tradition in the sport of sailing. A model and innovator in the game of match racing since 1965, Congressional Cup pioneered the concept of on-the-water umpiring in 1988. The event combines expert race organization with outstanding hospitality, to make it a favorite among match racing skippers worldwide.

It is hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club one of the premier boating institutions in the United States since 1929. The Club and associated Long Beach Sailing Foundation maintain a fleet of identical 37-foot Catalina sloops designed specifically for the event; which guarantees an even platform and exciting competition.

Congressional Cup 2018 is scheduled for April 3 to 8. For more information, and full results, please visit www.thecongressionalcup.com

 

OVERALL RESULTS

Ian Williams – GAC Pindar

GBR

Johnie Berntsson – Flux Team

SWE

Taylor Canfield – US One

ISV

Phil Robertson – China One Ningbo

NZL

Sam Gilmour – Neptune Racing

AUS

Scott Dickson – Dickson Racing

USA

Joachim Aschenbrenner – Aschenbrenner Racing

DEN

Chris Steele – 36 Below Racing

NZL

Eric Monnin – Albert Riele Swiss Team

SUI

Harry Price – Down Under Racing

AUS

Nicolai Sehested – EWII Racing

DEN

David Storrs – Pequot Racing

USA

 

SPONSORS

Spinnaker Sponsors

Club100

Farmers & Merchants Bank

Friedmans Appliances

  Kitchen Bath & Beds

Gladstone’s Long Beach

LBYC Jr Sailing Program

Long Beach Sailing

  Foundation

Pau Maui Vodka

Seven Angels Cellars

Stella Artois Beer

Union Bank

Race Committee Sponsor

Gelson’s Markets

Boom Sponsors

Port of Long Beach

Citywide Escrow

General Sponsorsz

Belmont Athletic Club

Belmont Wellness Spa

Catalina Yachts

Long Beach Convention

  and Visitors Bureau

Mount Gay Rum

Ocean Navigator Magazine

Sea Bags

Sun Diver International

World’s Finest Chocolate

Mark Sponsor

Friedmans Appliance

   Kitchen Bath & Beds

* JENN-AIR * KitchenAid

* Thermador * Bosch

* Whirlpool *Fisher & Paykel * DCS by Fisher & Paykel

 

One Final Race on Day 3 BVI Spring Regatta Determines Winners