Photos: Rich Roberts

Still got it

Gavin Brady ahead on the opening day of the Congressional Cup

Wednesday March 28th 2012, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States

Jet-lagged, ranked 451st (!) in the world after being away from the match racing game for two long years … no big deal. Gavin Brady quickly found his Long Beach touch to sweep his five races on day one of the Long Beach Yacht Club's 48th Congressional Cup.

That launches him to a two-win lead in his bid to collect an unprecedented fifth Crimson Blazer, the iconic winner's prize in the event. Only a day earlier, when nine upcoming rivals were already out practicing in the Catalina 37s, Brady arrived at noon after 18 hours in the air from Down Under, where he sailed to second place in the New Zealand IRC Nationals, which is what world-class professional sailors do.

A few of his crew also arrived late from another event in the Caribbean, but none appeared to miss a beat as they defeated Italy's Simone Ferrarese, Finland's Staffan Lindberg, New Zealand's Laurie Jury, Switzerland's Eric Monnin … and, oh year, the UK's Ian Williams, the defending champion and No. 1 ranked match racer in the world.

"It was a surprise coming out with five wins today," Brady said. "We were all a bit jet-lagged, but we know the boats … and we know where to go at night [to unwind]."

His ranking is so low because the last match race he did was the 2010 Congressional Cup, when he finished second.

Winds for the racing before spectators on the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier were a moderately chilly and brisk 10 to 14 knots from the normal southwest, leaving boat handling paramount and the rest of the fleet tightly bunched at 3-2 or 2-3, except for local hope Dustin Durant, who pulled off the upset of the day by beating Williams in the second flight---his only win of the day after going 12-2 in last week's Ficker Cup to qualify for the event.

"We went 1 and 4 but we sailed well in every race," said Durant. "The competition is tougher now."

Monnin gave Brady one of his fiercest fights in the final flight before losing by 32 seconds. At the first leeward mark protest flags flew like autumn leaves as each tried to claim the inside rounding position, and the on-water umpires called six fouls---two on Brady and four on Monnin.

Monnin said later, "I hope the umpires had time to dry their flags. It was a good match, fighting as hard as we did and just losing."

Williams, meanwhile, noted that with 13 flights remaining in the double round robin, "We're not out of it yet."

Of course, no one knows that better than Brady, a native of New Zealand who has been competing in the Congressional Cup for nearly 20 years since moving to Annapolis, Md. He recently moved with his family back to Auckland, where sailing is always taken seriously.

After the two round robins, the top four teams advance into best-of-three semifinals and finals.

All racing is in the outer harbor off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach. Admission is free; snacks, refreshments and comfort stations are available. Parking in the lot at the base of the pier is complimentary, as is transit out to the end of the pier.

Points of interest

On-water umpires/judges this week are Flavio Naveira, Argentina, chief; Jean-Pierre Cordonier, France; David Blackman, USA; Kirk Brown, USA; Bruce Cook, USA; Russell Green, New Zealand; Tom Rinda, USA; Charlie Arms, USA; Ted Everingham, USA; Kathy Lindgren, USA; Greg Kiely, USA, and Peter Nielsen, USA. . . . The teams were introduced to a full house at Monday night's Skippers Dinner. Local hope Dustin Durant, who won his way in through last week's Ficker Cup, noted, "We have the hottest girls at our table (pause) … one is my mother." . . . One boat is sailing with a secret weapon: Morse code. Johan Barne, tactician for Johnie Berntsson, is proficient with the ancient dot-dash craft of communication, long before email, texting or tweeting. "I learned it in the [Swedish] military," Barne said. Rival Ian Williams mused, "So if we hear any funny sounds from you we'll know you're receiving secret information?" . . . Eric Monnin, 36, is the only boat racing with a crew of seven instead of the usual six, which is OK if you make it under the maximum weight limit of 1,156 pounds. Monnin's crew weighed in with an average of 165 per man. That includes his brothers Jean-Claude, 34, mainsheet, and Marc, 30, bow. . . . The Jr. Congressional Cup is scheduled after Thursday's racing at 5:30 p.m. A sailor from each boat will compete against the kids in Sabots in the channel fronting the club. … The Long Beach City Council has proclaimed March as "Congressional Cup Month" in the city of 462,257.

Congressional Cup teams sail Catalina 37s built by Catalina Yachts primarily for match racing, rotating boats daily. They are owned and maintained by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation. The unique volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families. Results and standings

Round 1
Staffan Lindberg, Finland, def. Dustin Durant, USA, 12 seconds.
Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, d. Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands, 0:13.
Eric Monnin, Switzerland, d. Laurie Jury, New Zealand, 0:06.
Ian Williams, UK, d. William Tiller, New Zealand, 0:08.
Gavin Brady, New Zealand-Annapolis, Md., d. Simone Ferrarese, Italy, 0:27.

Second Round
Monnin d. Berntsson, 0:05; Jury d. Tiller, 0:35; Durant d. Williams, 0:10; Brady d. Lindberg, 0:16; Ferrarese d. Canfield, 0:50.

Third Round
Jury d. Durant, 0:15; Brady d. Williams, 0:06; Canfield d. Lindberg, 0:24; Berntsson d. Ferrarese, 0:14; Tiller d. Monnin, 0:24.

Fourth Round
Canfield d. Williams, 0:01; Ferrarese d. Lindberg, 0:15; Berntsson d. Tiller, 0:07; Monnin d. Durant, 0:10; Brady d. Jury. 0:21.

Fifth Round
Lindberg d. Berntsson, 0:26; Tiller d. Durant, 0:26; Brady d. Monnin, 0:32; Jury d. Canfield, 0:11; Williams d. Ferrarese, 0:22.

Standings (after 5 of 18 rounds)
Brady, 5-0; Berntsson, Monnin and Jury, 3-2; Lindberg, Tiller, Canfield, Ferrarese and Williams, 2-3; Durant, 1-4.


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