15 races, one loss
Forget first place; Friday will be all about fourth and who makes the semifinals of the 47th Congressional Cup.
Two former winners - Italy's Francesco Bruni, winner of 14 of 15 round robin races, and France's Mathieu Richard (12-3) - and Great Britain's Ian Williams (11-4) are locked into Saturday's sailoffs with the only winning records after 15 of 18 matches.
For the moment, Finland's Staffan Lindberg, ranked 19th in the world, is alone in fourth place, but 2009 winner Johnie Berntsson, Sweden; Simone Ferrarese, Italy, and the 1983-1984 winner Dave Perry, USA, are pushing his transom at 6-9 each. Berntsson, especially, has been struggling with inconsistency, still fighting the rust of no racing since November.
If Bruni, the defending champion, stays alone on top, he'll have the privilege of choosing which of the other three he meets in the semifinals.
"It isn't really a big thing," Bruni said. "If you look at the last five years the guy who picked his opponent lost 70 per cent of the time. I don't want to think about it now."
Lindberg's remaining opponents are Berntsson, Russia's Evgeny Neugodnikov (5-10) and Taylor Canfield of the US Virgin Islands (4-11).
By the way, Canfield, who improved from 0-7 to 4-1 over the first two days, apparently was on a short roll. He went 0-4 Thursday, including a tough photo finish loss to Bruni.
Bruni led down to the wire while carrying a penalty from the start, with Canfield about five boat lengths behind. Then Bruni presented a brief clinic on how to shed a foul at the finish. As his spinnaker dropped, he did a complete circle next to the race committee boat and came around a length in front of the fast-closing Canfield, whose spinnaker was dragging him at a faster pace.
The RC judged Bruni the winner by one metre, although Canfield suggested later at the daily press conference that his spinnaker beat Bruni's naked bow to the line.
"There was sure debate on my team whether he had us or not, if our spinnaker crossed before his bow," Canfield said.
But he didn't officially challenge the call.
"We're still developing as a team," he said. "We just don't have the experience some of these other guys do."
As it was, Bruni blamed himself for drawing the penalty that put him in that fix.
"The penalty was well deserved," he said. "We were over the line and not keeping clear of the windward boat."
Otherwise … "We are sailing very well and very fast," Bruni said, "and we aren't making many mistakes on the course."
Thursday's breeze was light to moderate from the south but only slightly shifty, unlike Wednesday. As for Friday, fears of a heavy storm with wind and rain eased with later reports that had the system in central California veering east over Nevada instead of south into Southern California.
Racing is scheduled to start around noon off Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach, well inside the breakwater of the outer Long Beach Harbor. There is public parking at the base of the pier and free shuttles out to the end, where there is expert commentary, limited seating, a snack bar, restaurant and comfort stations.
The total purse is $40,000, with $10,000 for the winner.
Standings after 15 of 18 flights
1. Francesco Bruni, Italy, 14-1.
2. Mathieu Richard, France, 12-3.
3. Ian Williams, Great Britain, 11-4.
4. Staffan Lindberg, Finland, 7-8.
5. Tie among Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, Simone Ferrarese, Italy, and Dave Perry, USA, 6-9.
8. Evgeny Neugodnikov, Russia, 5-10.
9. Tie between Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Phil Robertson, New Zealand, 4-11.
Bruni d. Perry, 36 seconds
Ferrarese d. Richard, 2 minutes 1 second.
Neugodnikov d. Canfield, 0:10.
Berntsson d. Williams, 0:05.
Lindberg d. Robertson, 0:15.
Richard d. Canfield, 0:57.
Berntsson d. Neugodnikov, 0:14.
Williams d. Liindberg, 0:30.
Perry d. Robertson, 0:32.
Bruni d. Ferrarese, 0:54.
Neugodnikov d. Williams, 0:30.
Lindberg d. Perry, 0:20.
Ferrarese d. Robertson, 0:11.
Bruni d. Canfield, 0:01.
Richard d. Berntsson, 0:17.
Lindberg d. Ferrarese, 0:14.
Robertson d. Canfield. 0:04.
Bruni d. Berntsson, 0:06.
Richard d. Neugodnikov, 0:06.
Williams d. Perry, 0:33.
Ullman Sails is the sail sponsor. Friedman's Appliances is the pier sponsor. Time Warner Cable is the media sponsor. Hotel Maya is the official host hotel. Other sponsors are Yamaha, Farmers & Merchants Bank, City National Bank, Union Bank, Newmeyer & Dillon, Press Telegram, Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Port of Long Beach, Gladstones, MCA, Creative Productions and Catalina Yachts. Visit all sponsors