When's the last time you saw spinnakers raised to start a match race? Or a leader spin off a penalty at the finish line with his opponent tickling his transom?
Great Britain's Ian Williams, 33, and his talented crew offered another match racing clinic on day 3 of the 49th Congressional Cup Thursday when they pulled off both moves to stretch their win streak to 14 and secure a place in Saturday's semifinals, with Friday's three final round robin flights remaining.
In light southerly breeze of 5 to 8 knots, Italy's Simone Ferrarese also (11-4) won all four of his matches, beating the other three contenders - France's Mathieu Richard (10-5), Florida's Ed Baird (9-6) and New Zealand's Adam Minoprio (9-6). Those four will scrap it out for the three semifinal spots alongside Williams.
Minoprio has some special help. His parents are here from New Zealand, rooting for him from the crowd on the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.
"It's always the last day," Ferrarese said with a grin. "Fortunately, we were very fast, and I became a bit more aggressive in the situations where I'm sure I can be."
Taylor Canfield, an incoming favorite from the US Virgin Islands who placed third in the Congressional last year and went on to win three events on the Alpari World Mach Racing Tour, continued to struggle with three losses in four races and had only a slim mathematical chance of reaching the sailoffs after slipping to 7-8 overall.
Williams' run continued against Baird by 49 seconds, Minoprio by three seconds, Australia's Jordan Reece (4-11) by two seconds and Switzerland's Eric Monnin (3-12) by two seconds - the last three close but with the double defending champion and top-ranked match racer in the world in command.
Against Baird, both were well above the start line when the Brits hoisted their spinnaker to run back to the line. Baird quickly followed suit but had to circle behind the committee boat to start, sending Williams off with an unbeatable lead.
In another race Williams carried a foul and trailed Australia's struggling Reece, passed him on the final leg of the two-lap race, but led by just a few feet, bow to stern, near the finish - "right on our transom," Williams said, not enough to execute a normal penalty turn. Instead, Williams dropped his chute, raised his jib and turned to force Reece upwind until he found barely enough room to whip around in his penalty turn alongside the Aussie and cross the line two seconds in front.
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Williams is first to point out that he hasn't become a four-time world champion and double defending champion in this event by himself. His crew is tactician Bill Hardesty, US Sailing's Yachtsman of the Year, trimmers Gerry Mitchell, Mal Parker and Mark Callahan and bowman Matt Cassidy.
"They did a nice job of getting it all done," he said. All he has to do, he said, was "just try to tell them what I want to do a couple of seconds before it happens, so they know what to do."
If the loss was a heartbreaker for Reece, 22, Williams said, "He's young. He'll figure it out for the future."
Local hope Scott Dickson was having a rough week but drew a pre-start foul from Canfield in the day's opening match, led at every mark and never gave his opponent a chance or an opportunity to do his penalty turn.
The two round-robin rotations will be followed by sailoffs through Saturday. Competition is at Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier on the Long Beach outer harbor starting at 11:30 daily, conditions permitting.
The Congressional has a $60,000 purse, including $15,000 to the winner, along with the traditional Crimson Blazer. Financial support is from local, national and international sponsors.
Scott Dickson, USA, def. Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands, no time.
Ian Williams, Great Britain, def. Ed Baird, USA, 0:49.
Adam Minoprio, New Zealand, def. Eric Monnin, Switzerland, 4 seconds.
Jordan Reece, Australia, def. Laurie Jury, New Zealand, 4 seconds.
Simone Ferrarese, Italy, def. Mathieu Richard, France, 48 seconds.
Williams d. Minoprio, 0:03.
Monnin d. Reece, 1:15.
Richard d. Jury, 0:42.
Ferrarese d. Dickson, 0:17.
Baird d. Canfield, NT.
Jury d. Monnin, 0:30.
Richard d. Dickson, 0:26.
Ferrarese d. Baird, 0:29.
Minoprio d. Canfield, 0:23.
Williams d. Reece, 0:01.
Richard d. Baird, 0:14.
Ferrarese d. Minoprio, 0:19.
Canfield d. Reece, 0:21.
Williams d. Monnin, 0:02.
Jury d. Dickson, 0:03.
(after 15 of 18 rounds)
1. Williams, 14-1
2. Ferrarese, 11-4
3. Richard, 10-5
4. tie between Minoprio and Baird, 9-6
6. Canfield, 7-8
7. tie among Reece, Dickson and Jury 4-11
10. Monnin, 3-12.