Final day fleet race

Rich Roberts looks ahead to California's Congressional Cup

Thursday February 16th 2006, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United Kingdom
Ten of the top match-racing sailors in the world are lined up for the 42nd Congressional Cup, presented by Acura, April 11-15, but America's premier one-on-one nautical contest also will see some fleet racing for the first time.

Instead of parking their boats on the fifth and final day, the six competitors who fail to reach the semifinals after two round robins will run a fleet race for a US$1,000 winner-take-all prize, before the four semifinalists sail off for the championship and the largest chunks of the US$41,000 total purse.

Event chairman Randy Smith said the new wrinkle was inspired by the America's Cup's introduction last year of the "Acts" series of fleet races in Europe and the U.S. among teams entered in the 2007 competition at Valencia, Spain.

"I took it from the AC Acts," Smith said. "I like change and taking people out of the comfort zone. It makes them better. If two boats are fun, six boats are a show. I have always thought it was a waste of great talent to have 6 of the 10 sitting around with nothing to do on the last day. Now they will have fun, fight for money and provide a greater spectacle."

Long Beach Yacht Club continues as the organizing host of the event. The racing venue will be adjacent to the Belmont Pier, which will have accommodations and race commentary for spectators at no charge.

Acura, the luxury division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., has signed on for three more years as the presenting sponsor.

The 10 entries include former winners Chris Dickson (1990-91), Gavin Brady (1996-97) and Chris Law (1994). The complete lineup, in order of current international rankings by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF):

Ian Williams, Team Musto, Great Britain, No. 5.
Mathieu Richard, APCC Voile Sportive, France, No. 6.
Staffan Lindberg, Alandia Sailing Team, Finland, No. 11.
Johnie Berntsson, Semcon, Sweden, No. 17.
Chris Dickson, BMW Oracle Racing, New Zealand, No. 30.
Cameron Appleton, K-Challenge, New Zealand, No. 37.
Gavin Brady, Beau Geste racing, New Zealand, No. 40.
Brian Angel, King Harbor Yacht Club, Redondo Beach, Calif., No. 60.
Scott Dickson, Dickson Racing, Long Beach Yacht Club, No. 63.
Chris Law, Outlaws, Great Britain, No. 113.

Chris Dickson is CEO and skipper of the BMW Oracle America's Cup challenger representing San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club and the older brother of Scott Dickson, also a native of New Zealand but a Long Beach resident in recent years.

Appleton, also a New Zealander, is a member of France's K-Challenge America's Cup team.

Angel, 24, qualified by winning the Ficker Cup at Long Beach last September. That event offers a breakthrough opportunity into world class competition for less experienced sailors.

The six-man crews will sail Catalina 37s owned by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation, rotating boats daily.

The Congressional Cup is the premiere inshore sailing event in Southern California. Since it was launched in 1965 by a Deed of Gift recorded in the U.S. Congress, world-renowned sailors such as Ted Turner, Dennis Conner, Rod Davis, Peter Gilmour, Peter Holmberg, Dean Barker, Ken Read and Ed Baird, along with Chris Dickson and Brady, have won the Crimson Blazer emblematic of victory in the prestigious event.

A high level of organization has been maintained over the years by a volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families.

The 10 teams will compete in a double round-robin of match racing, followed by the fleet race and championship sailoffs Saturday, April 15.

The Long Beach Yacht Club, founded in 1929, has from its beginning sought to encourage future generations of sailors and power boaters. Located on a promontory of Alamitos Bay in the Long Beach Marina, it has a dynamic junior sailing program whose members compete in various youth regattas. There is also a junior swim team and an enthusiastic big game fishing program.

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