Ian Williams Returns to Form at Congressional Cup

Team GAC Pindar capture their fourth win

Matt Cassidy and Ian Williams
Team GAC Pindar bowman Matt Cassidy guides skipper Ian Williams into the start of a finals race at the 2019 Congressional Cup.Bronny Daniels

Ian Williams admitted to a slow start at the Congressional Cup. "We were not really on our game on Day One," he noted of his sixth-place finish. "I haven't sailed in a monohull since this regatta last year. But it's always about just being good enough to get through. As long as you get through each round, and build momentum; that's how match race regattas work. It's not how you start, it's how you finish."

After warming up in the California sunshine, Team GAC Pindar began stealthily climbing up the leaderboard, securing a spot in the semi-finals by Day Three. “I’ve got a fantastic team, but we are new together, and hadn’t sailed as a group, so it took a few days to get the team gelling.” Their final 11-match winning streak included swiftly eliminating defending champ Taylor Canfield in the semis, and striking Scott Dickson out in the finals.

His victory over rival Canfield was particularly sweet. "Taylor and I have dominated the Congressional Cup since 2011; He'd won four, we'd only won three. So we wanted to catch up."

His fourth Crimson blazer puts him in an elite league with Canfield, Rod Davis, Gavin Brady and Peter Holmberg. No-one has won more than four … yet.

Williams credited his crew, saying, “Our success has been the focus on the team, getting the guys working together; getting the most out of all the different individuals on the boat, working toward their strengths.” He added, “We have nine and one half children between us, with one on the way. It was all about ‘Dad power’ we think.”

Even as Williams was climbing up the leaderboard, so was LBYC’s own Scott Dickson, a longtime member, director and competitor.

“I’m so pleased for Scotty that he made it to the final,” said Williams. “It’s one of those situations where, if you lose, as long as you’ve given it your best shot, we’d be disappointed, but pleased for Scotty. Not as bad as perhaps some other losses might have been.”

“He’s (Dickson) such a great guy and such a great competitor. And we love the club and really feel the passion for him and his team. We saw it as a win-win, so we didn’t feel the pressure, we just wanted to go out and give it our best”

Were the cheers of Dickson’s fans daunting? “We’ve had many years of rivalry in Sweden and a lot of crowd cheering against us. We expect the locals to cheer for their hometown favorite. It’s just our job to silence the crowd.”

Only twice has a member of LBYC won the Congressional Cup: Tommy Pickard, in 1971 and in 1981, Rod Davis. Prevalently a west coast championship at the start, once the first Canadian team was invited in 1969, it broadened into a major international event. Since the late 1980s, the trophy has been etched with the names of sailors from around the globe.

Racing so well against top tier teams, Dickson said, made him feel pride for his teammates. “These are all local guys you’ll see sailing and coaching out here on Tuesday and Wednesday nights,” he stressed, “the exact same crew we had last year. I think we’ve finally matured as a team and are getting comfortable operating at this level, against a full field of world-class sailors. They sailed so well, and were very quick around the course. I’m super proud of them.”

He had remained cool headed during the series, at times comical. “We agreed I made all my mistakes in one race, so we got that out of the way!” he joked on Thursday.

Later, after the loss, he remarked, “We came out today with all guns blazing. But I might have left one in the holster, because I shot myself in the foot.” Even as he lapped the Belmont Pier at the end of today’s racing, he was beaming; finishing above some of the top ranked match race sailors in the world, like Canfield (11) Berntsson (13) , Harry Price (AUS) (3) Maxime Mesnil (FRA) (5) Dackhammer (7) and Will Boulden (AUS) (9).

This morning, after three weeks of favorable sailing conditions for LBYC’s Butler Cup, Ficker Cup and early Congressional Cup racing, it appeared someone had pulled the plug on the Long Beach wind machine. After a short postponement, the breeze filled in, and capped at 12 knots.

Finally, it was ‘hammer time.’ Nicklas Dackhammer, the last-place finisher in the Congressional Cup Round Robins, won the Fleet Race, which is held for the skippers eliminated in Stage One. He’ll go home $2,000US richer – and with a copy of Arthur Knapp Jr.’s book Sail Your Boat Right.

Berntsson had dominated Stage One racing but that rarely guarantees victory in the Congressional Cup finals. Last year, Dean Barker routed the competition in Round Robins, but fell to Canfield in the finals. In 2017 Berntsson again topped the qualifying round, but the blazer went to Williams; while in 2016, Canfield won the Cup, although it was Phil Robertson (NZL) who triumphed in Stage One.

Although 16-2 in the Round Robins, Berntsson was unable to follow through, losing to Dickson in the semis and Canfield in the petit finals.