Brady tops out round robins

But Bruni and Berntsson are hot on his heels at the Congressional Cup

Friday March 26th 2010, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States

Tag team sailing, billed as the 46th Congressional Cup, reaches a climax on Saturday with four-time winner Gavin Brady leading a fearsome foursome into the semifinals.

Brady, with 15 wins and 3 losses in the double round robin, picked first-time Con Cup skipper Bill Hardesty (11-7) as his opening opponent in the best-of-three sailoffs, but the other match between Italy's Francesco Bruni - on a 10-race win streak at 14-4 - and defending champion Johnie Berntsson of Sweden, also 14-4, stands to be just as lively, if not more so.

The winner receives $10,000.

Peter Shrubb, chief of the on-water umpire team, noted at the Friday night press conference that over the last two desperate days "we flew every colorful [penalty] flag we had in the boats out there … and some of the language was colorful, as well."

Congressional Cup

The blitz of disqualifying black flags continued whenever the sailing got too rough, although none of the semifinalists suffered that fate, and the sturdy Catalina 37s appear to be surviving their 20th year without serious damage.

The racing is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m., conditions permitting. The six non-qualifiers will run a fleet race around the outer harbor.

Brady's pick of an opponent was no surprise. Hardesty has been primarily a small boat sailor more accustomed steering with tillers instead of wheels, although he quickly picked up a knack while winning 8 of his last 11 races.

On the other hand, Berntsson also has a Crimson Blazer, the traditional Con Cup prize, Bruni was runnerup here last year, and he and Brady were close to meeting for the title in the heavyweight Louis Vuitton Trophy event in Brady's hometown of Auckland, N.Z., earlier this month.

Bruni, leading team Azzurra, reached the semi-finals while Brady, with Mascalzone Latino, reached the finals against winner Emirates Team New Zealand. Both are working toward the next America's Cup.

Brady also considered that "we got beat by all these guys once this week" - and Bruni beat both Brady and Berntsson Friday in typical Long Beach breeze of 7 to 10 knots from the southwest, despite having to switch pitman Pietro Mantovani with tactician Tom Burnham because of Mantovani's sore back.

Bruni said earlier, before Brady chose Hardesty, "It was a very good day. Who knows who we'll meet? We are ready."

Both Bruni and Brady jumped the start line after a furious pre-start session, but the Italian recovered better to win by a relaxed 32 seconds. Then he beat Berntsson by 10 seconds

Berntsson won his first eight races and was in first place until Friday when he lost to Russia's Evgeniy Neugodnikov (ouch!) and Bruni in a tough last race of the day.

"We feel quite well," Berntsson said. "We know where the problems are. Let's put it this way: We have some cards we haven't played yet."

Hardesty was probably feeling the least pressure. "Actually," he said, "I haven't looked at the stats, but we beat [Brady] the last time we sailed against him … but if I were him, I'd pick me."

Finally, it's to be considered that while France's Damien Iehl (7-11) arrived in town ranked by ISAF as the No. 3 match racer in the world but didn't come close to reaching the sailoffs, Brady has a ranking somewhere in the hundreds because he hadn't sailed a standard match racing event since he won the Con Cup two years ago.

Surprisingly, he said back at the dock Friday, "We're the lowest ranked team here. We haven't made the progress we would have liked. We're going to have a steak dinner tonight and talk about it.

"This is going to be a very good finals. All of these guys are sailing fast and very skillfully."

Results

Flight 16
Francesco Bruni, Italy, def. Damien Iehl, France, 0:35.
Gavin Brady, New Zealand, def, Dave Perry, USA, 0:31.
Simone Ferrarese, Italy, def. Sally Barkow, USA, DSQ.
Bill Hardesty, USA, d. Eric Monnin, Switzerland, 0:26.
Evgeniy Neugodnikov, Russia, d. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, 0:21.

Flight 17
Perry d. Ferrarese, 0:04.
Hardesty d. Barkow, 0:06.
Berntsson d. Monnin, 0:29.
Bruni d. Brady, 0:32.
Iehl d. Neugodnikov, 0:16.

Flight 18
Perry d. Barkow, 0:50.
Monnin d. Ferrarese, 0:02.
Neugodnikov d. Hardesty, 0:05.
Bruni d. Berntsson, 0:10.
Brady d. Iehl, DNF.

Final round robin standings

1. Gavin Brady (NZL), 15-2
2. Francesco Bruni (ITA), 14-3
3. Johnie Berntsson (SWE), 14-3
4. Bill Hardesty (USA), 11-7
5. Dave Perry (USA), 10-8
6. Evgeniy Neugodnikov (RUS), 9-9
7. Eric Monnin (SUI), 7-11
8. Damien Iehl (FRA), 7-11
9. Sally Barkow (USA), 2-16
10. Simone Ferrarese (ITA), 1-17.

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