Williams top ranked

British skipper, no.7 in ISAF match race rankings to race at Congressional Cup

Thursday April 6th 2006, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
Ian Williams of Great Britain might look like top dog among the match racing specialists competing in the 42nd Congressional Cup, presented by Acura, April 11-15. He is the world's No. 7 match racer in the current rankings of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) - the highest ranking in the field - but is adamant in saying, "I don’t see ourselves as favorites by any means."

Williams has never sailed on the West Coast of the U.S. nor even seen one of the Catalina 37s used in the event. "Like with all sailing, match racing is very boat specific," he said, "so we’ll be focusing on getting up to speed in the Catalinas, and if we can match the more experienced guys for speed then we’ve got a chance."

Nine rivals for the largest share of the $41,000 purse will include Gavin Brady, a two-time winner (1996-97) from New Zealand who resides in Annapolis. Md.; No. 8 Mathieu Richard of France, a semifinalist last year, and a flock of darkhorses from six other countries (list at right). In separate rankings, Finland's Staffan Lindberg is third on the World Match Racing Tour (formerly Swedish Match) and Brady shares fourth place with 2004 Congressional Cup winner Ed Baird.

Chris Dickson of New Zealand and Chris Law of Great Britain withdrew their earlier entries and were replaced by Peter Wibroe of Denmark and Simon Minoprio of New Zealand.

Another new face will be Brian Angel, 24, a member of the King Harbor Yacht Club in Redondo Beach whose King Harbor Match Racing team qualified by winning the local Ficker Cup trial event last September.

Scott Dickson, a native New Zealander residing in Long Beach and a regular Congressional Cup competitor in recent years, will represent the host club.

The long-range weather forecast is for temperatures in the 60s and possible showers late in the week.

Long Beach Yacht Club, with the support of some 300 volunteers from its membership, continues as the organizing host of the event, which remains at the top Grade 1 level of match racing competition according to the ISAF scale.

The six-man crews will sail 10 Catalina 37s owned by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation, rotating boats daily. Racing will be twice around a windward-leeward course set off the Long Beach shoreline adjacent to the Belmont Pier, which will have accommodations with expert race commentary for spectators at no charge.

Competitors will sail a double round robin schedule Tuesday through Friday. The top four teams then advance to the best-of-three sailoff semifinals and finals on Saturday, and 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 final day, the six competitors who fail to reach the semifinals will run a fleet race for a $1,000 winner-take-all prize, using a windward-leeward course plus a parade leg along the beach.

Williams, 28, had won three UK national sailing championships and achieved a world top 10 ranking in 2003 but, with degrees in chemistry and law from the University of Bristol, he also was working as a solicitor for a law firm. Then last year he put the suit and tie career on hold to sail full time, competing in 20 events and winning two Grade 1 championships.

"I have certain ambitions in sailing which were not achievable while holding down a full time job," he said. His crew will include his brother Mark and, for local knowledge, sailing pro and match racer Bill Hardesty of San Diego.

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

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.

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.

The line-up (and ISAF ranking)

Ian Williams (Gr. Britain) 7
Mathieu Richard (France) 8
Staffan Lindberg (Finland) 13
Johnie Berntsson (Sweden) 18
Peter Wibroe (Denmark) 19
Gavin Brady (New Zealand) 21
Simon Minoprio (N. Zealand) 32
Cameron Appleton (N. Zea.) 60
Brian Angel (Redondo Beach) 64
Scott Dickson (Long Beach) 85

Previous winners

1965 Gerry Driscoll
1966 Gerry Driscoll
1967 Scott Allan
1968 Skip Allan
1969 Henry Sprague III
1970 Argyle Campbell
1971 Tom Pickard
1972 Argyle Campbell
1973 Dennis Conner
1974 Bill Ficker
1975 Dennis Conner
1976 Dick Deaver
1977 Ted Turner
1978 Dick Deaver
1979 Dennis Durgan
1980 Dennis Durgan
1981 Rod Davis
1982 Scott Perry
1983 Dave Perry
1984 Dave Perry
1985 Rod Davis
1986 Harold Cudmore
1987 Eddie Warden-Owen
1988 Peter Gilmour
1989 Rod Davis
1990 Chris Dickson
1991 Chris Dickson
1992 Terry Hutchinson
1993 Rod Davis
1994 Chris Law
1995* Harold Cudmore
1996 Gavin Brady
1997 Gavin Brady
1998 Peter Holmberg
1999 Peter Holmberg
2000 Dean Barker
2001 Peter Holmberg
2002 Peter Holmberg
2003 Ken Read
2004 Ed Baird
2005 Dean Barker

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