Photo: Rich Roberts

Can Ian Williams enter the history books?

GAC Pindar skipper set to return for April's Congression Cup

Friday February 15th 2013, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States

The first thing followers and fellow competitors want to know about the Long Beach Yacht Club's 49th Congressional Cup: Is the Brit coming back?

Indeed, Britain's Ian Williams, still ranked No1 in the world, will return on 9-13 April with his GAC Pindar team in quest of an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the prestigious Grade 1 match racing event. The first two launched seasons leading to his third and fourth championships on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour (the Congressional Cup is not a part of the tour).

If Williams wins again, LBYC already knows the size for his Crimson Blazer, the winner's traditional prize that goes with the check for the largest share of the $60,000 purse.

"GAC Pindar is really looking forward to returning to the Long Beach Yacht Club to defend our Congressional Cup title," Williams said. "This year we are going for three in a row both in the Congressional Cup and the Alpari World Championships, neither of which has been achieved before. It will be extremely difficult to achieve with the standard of teams looking to topple us improving every year, but come April we will be well prepared and up for the fight!"

His rivals will include two former winners - the USA's Ed Baird (2004), currently unranked by ISAF, and France's Mathieu Richard (2007), ranked 18th in the world, and five other skippers in ISAF's top 20: Laurie Jury, New Zealand, No. 7; Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands, No. 8; Eric Monnin, Switzerland, No. 13; Simone Ferrarese, Italy, No. 15, and Jordan Reece, Australia, No. 16, plus Adam Minoprio, New Zealand, No. 217.

Baird, 54, is unranked because his recent match racing has been limited to America's Cups, and the rankings are calculated by accumulated scores of the best four results in each of the most recent two years. Although he steers Alinghi to victory at Valencia in 2007, the AC doesn't count in the world rankings, but Baird was recognised by ISAF as World Sailor of the Year.

Minoprio won the Alpari World Tour title in 2009 but has raced in only three events the last two years while sailing with the Emirates Team New Zealand Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup campaigns.

The 10th Congressional Cup entry will be the winner of the Grade 2 Ficker Cup, preceding the Congressional Cup over 5-7 April. A favourite is Dustin Durant, ranked No. 31 after winning this month's Grade 2 Caribbean Nations Cup in Bridgetown, Barbados. But to reach the Congressional, Durant, 25, will have to beat out a field including his 2012 tactician, Scott Dickson, a multiple Ficker winner and frequent Congressional Cup competitor, who will be back on his own boat this year.

The Ficker Cup follows the Butler Cup finale on 24-25 March of the statewide California Dreamin' Series for match racing aspirants.

All three events will feature the Long Beach Sailing Foundation's sturdy Catalina 37s built for the match racing game, and all racing will be in front of the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, with accommodations for spectators. Admission is free.

LBYC set the bar for world-class match racing in 1965 when it started the event and Rear Commodore Bill Dalessi persuaded Congressman Craig Hosmer and US Senator Tom Kuchel to sponsor official legislation endorsing it as the Congressional Cup.

Some 20 years later, weary of late night protest hearings back at the club, then-LBYC Commodore Pete Ives, with input from influential sailing leaders Tom Ehman and Gary Jobson, introduced on-water umpiring that revolutionised the game worldwide for competitors and spectators as far up as the America's Cup.

The Congressional Cup has maintained a high level of organisation with a unique volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families. Each crew is assigned boat hostesses and a housing team to deliver the outstanding local hospitality the Congressional Cup has offered now for 49 years.

Past ConCup 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
2006            Gavin Brady
2007            Mathieu Richard
2008            Gavin Brady
2009            Johnnie Berntsson
2010            Francesco Bruni
2011            Ian Williams
2012            Ian Williams

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