2009 Congressional Cup Coverage

After finishing second twice, Johnie Berntsson, of Sweden, came through when it counted to win the 45th Congressional Cup. Francesco Bruni took second and Terry Hutchinson was third.

March 25, 2009

Stuart Streuli| |****|

2009 Congressional Cup website, including results, skippers info, and schedule

Results Quick Link


Video from, with commentary from champion match-racer (and Sailing World contributor) Dobbs Davis

Saturday, March 28

Berntsson Burns Brightest on Final Day


Stuart Streuli| |**Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson was all smiles after winning 11 of his final 13 races to take the 45th Congressional Cup. **| The end comes quick at the Congressional Cup. After sailing 90 races to select the final four, it took just 10 further contests for Johnie Berntsson, of Sweden, to win his first Congressional Cup championship, defeating Francesco Bruni 2-0 in the finals.

With the slate wiped clean after the round robin, the 15 races Terry Hutchinson won in that portion were worth nothing more than the opportunity to, as Hutchinson said, “pick your poison” for the semifinals. The 11 straight races that Mathieu Richard won, after a 2-5 start, were worth even less.

Hutchinson and Richard were both dispatched in the semifinals. Hutchinson was beaten 2-0 by Bruni. Richard stuck around a little longer. It actually took four races to relegate the Frenchman, who’s ranked No. 3 in the world, to the consolation finals. In the first attempt at a deciding third race, Berntsson T-boned Richard while performing a gusty “Steel Balls” maneuver, where the left hand boat in a dial-up backs the jib and attempts to turn on to port tack and sail behind the stern of the competition. After winning the race, the race officials determined that the damage warranted a one-point deduction for Berntsson, leaving both sailors with 1 points in the series, which is technically a “first to two points” contest rather than a best-of-three series.


Like every other hurdle he and his team had to overcome this regatta, most notably a poor start that saw then fall to 4-7, they were able to shake it off and focus on the task at hand. In the final race of the semifinals, Berntsson was able to take the first cross, herd Richard to the port-tack layline and control the race from there.

The first race of the finals appeared to be firmly in Bruni’s control. He seized the lead on the first beat after finding some favorable pressure on the left side. But Berntsson kept the battle close, pulling within a boatlength on the final run. However, the decisive move came from Bruni. With just 100 yards to go to the finish, Berntsson jibed for the pin end of the line. Bruni elected to continue toward the committee boat. However, the pin end carried enough favor that Berntsson was able to win a bang-bang finish.

In the second race of the finals, the decisive moment came immediately after the start. Bruni took the leeward position off the line. While he initially looked strong, it took just a few minutes for Berntsson to roll over the top of the Italian skipper and put him in a very compromised position. From there Berntsson simply sailed Bruni past the port-tack layline and built a 4 to 5 boatlength lead that lasted until the finish.


Bruni, a veteran America’s Cup sailor, but a relative newcomer to the match-racing circuit, chastised himself for not taking enough time to set up the boat after switching with Berntsson between races.

The win set off a raucous celebration on the boat and on the Belmont Pier, where the energetic and always upbeat team had developed quite a following. The battle for third was won handily by Hutchinson, who swept Richard 2-0.

Friday, March 27

Johnie on the Spot

Stuart Streuli| |**Johnie Berntsson (above at helm) needed to win all three matches on Day 4 of the Congressional Cup, and hope Adam Minoprio lost all three of his and Ben Ainslie lost two of three. All the cards fell into place, and Berntsson and his team moved into the semifinals, where they promptly took a 1-0 lead over Mathieu Richard. **| After sitting below .500 for the bulk of the Congressional Cup’s double round robin, Johnie Berntsson and his team put on a late charge, winning their final five matches to earn the last spot in the semifinals. The Swedish team, runner up in two previous Congressional Cups, put an exclamation point on that streak with a win in the first round of semifinal action. Berntsson now stands just three wins from his first Congressional Cup championship. Late entry Francesco Bruni is also up 1-0 in his best-of-three semifinal match with Terry Hutchinson. The 45th running of this ground-breaking match racing regatta-it is one of the oldest annual match-racing events and was also instrumental in the creation of the on-the-water umpiring system so essential in modern match racing-will conclude tomorrow with the semifinals and finals, and the dash-for-cash fleet race among the six that didn’t make the semis.

The affable Berntsson, who never seems to be without a quip or joke at the daily press conferences, was 4-7 after 11 flights and was a long shot to make the semifinals. But a 6-1 run put him into a tie with Adam Minoprio, who’s Black Match team struggled to a 0-3 record today. Berntsson’s win over Minoprio in the second round robin broke the tie. Ben Ainslie also had a chance to tie on points for the fourth spot, but he fell to Francesco Bruni in the final flight.

“We were slow started this event and a lot of things didn’t go our way in the beginning,” Berntsson said. “We needed to keep up the good mood and see if we could change everything. Yesterday the first indications came that we found the right spot to handle the boats and to handle the start. Today it felt really good.”

According to Berntsson, the crucial moment in the first semifinal match with Mathieu Richard came in the pre-start. After sailing most of the day in a solid 6- to 10-knot breeze, the wind seemed to vanish just as the two teams were setting up their final approaches to the start. Some quick thinking from Berntsson’s team made all the different.

“The wind pressure was like 50 meters up the course, so we were totally wiped out with the wind. [Initially] we were fighting for the right, but we took the late decision to go for the left to have the acceleration time,” he said. “My tactician called the wind is going lighter and it’s laying 150 meters up the course and we need to keep the boat rolling. He did that at approximately 1:20 before the start.”

By setting up just to leeward of Richard, Berntsson was able to force the No. 3-ranked Frenchman into two downspeed tacks in light air, which allowed Berntsson to get a very strong lead off the line, which he never relinquished.

In the other semifinal, the tricky late-afternoon wind conditions also played a key role. After a pre-start that saw the two boats actually sail behind the Belmont Pier, Bruni was able to take the leeward position and force Hutchinson to tack soon after the starting gun. From there Bruni was able to extend slightly by winning every cross on the first beat. Hutchinson’s hope of attacking on the run vanished when a right shift turned the first run into a fetch. A further right shift did the same thing on the final run and Hutchinson’s desperation jibe to the left sealed the match for Bruni.

Stuart Streuli| |**Tactician Cameron Appleton (facing camera) and Terry Hutchinson (holding wheel) get an early start on the postmortem on their loss to Francesco Bruni. Now trailing 1-0 in the best of three match, Hutchinson and his team must win two straight to make the finals. **| While he said on Thursday that he would pick his opponent for the semifinals, a right granted him for finishing at the top of the heap in the round robin, by random draw, Hutchinson said there was some logic behind his selection of Bruni.

“[We picked Bruni] because I think we have very similar sailing styles,” he said. “I think that all of the choices are very, very risky. For us [tomorrow] we have to go out and continue to do the things we do well. It was unfortunate that our race was a little skewed from the top mark-we reached to both the bottom mark and the finish line. But Francesco did nice work on the first beat and from there it was a little bit of following him around.”

Like Richard, Hutchinson will have his back to the wall tomorrow when the semifinals resume at noon. After deciding the semifinals, the six skippers that didn’t qualify will sail a fleet race for a $1,000 cash prize and an Oceanaut watch. Then the finals and petit finals will be sailed.


Semifinals (best of 3)

Berntsson d. Richard by 22 seconds, Berntsson leads 1-0
Bruni d. Hutchinson by 55 second, Bruni leads 1-0

Final round robin standings

  1. Terry Hutchinson 15 wins, 3 losses
  2. Mathieu Richard 13 wins, 5 losses
  3. Francesco Bruni 13 wins, 5 losses
  4. Johnie Berntsson 10 wins, 8 losses (wins tiebreaker because he beat Minoprio in second round robin)
  5. Adam Minoprio, 10 wins, 8 losses
  6. Ben Ainslie 9 wins, 9 losses
  7. Sebastien Col 8 wins, 10 losses (loses .5 points for collision)
  8. Staffan Lindberg 7 wins, 11 losses
  9. Philippe Presti, 4 wins, 14 losses
  10. Brian Angel 1 win, 17 losses

Umpire Statistics:

Final three flights of the round robin: 20 calls, 1 penalty on blue, 4 on yellow, 15 green flags

Semifinals, race 1: two calls, both results in green flags

Quote of the day

“I felt like I was holding my guys back a little bit today. We did a lot of good things but unfortunately I couldn’t seem to get us off the line first. I couldn’t get out of my own way in the prestart. In two of the races we still managed to come back and almost pass the guy in front of us with some good tactics and some good boathandling but unfortunately I couldn’t pull it off for my guys.”

-Local sailor Brian Angel, reflecting on the final of four tough days at the Congressional Cup

Quote of the day, part II

Stuart Streuli| |**In one of the many exciting pre-starts at the 2009 Congressional Cup, Francesco Bruni (right) and Terry Hutchinson sailed behind the Belmont Pier. **| “[TeamOrigin] has some very good plans either way it goes. I think most people here hope Alinghi are successful in the court case, so we can have a regatta next year otherwise we’ll be hanging around for quite a long time.”

-Ben Ainslie and the current America’s Cup deadlock. Not sure if he momentarily thought he was in the United Kingdom and not the United States.

Quote of the day, part III

“We’re going to see the Ducks [Anaheim’s professional ice hockey team]. I don’t know who they’re playing, but we’re going and we’ll have a good time.”

-Johnie Berntsson on his plans for the evening

Quote of the day, part IV

“Today we had something extra compared to the other days. We had a new fan club that I want to thank them. They were great. Everyone was on the water and cheering. So thank you very much to our fan club.”

-Francesco Bruni on what made the difference on Day 4

Quote of the day, part V

“We need a fan club. There is one American in the semis and we’re sailing by the dock and we see the Swedish flag and everyone cheering for France. We’re starting to get a little bit of a complex here.”

-Terry Hutchinson

Thursday, March 26

Richard Rises as Ainslie Falls, Hutchinson Through to Semis

Stuart Streuli| |**Staffan Lindberg (Bow No. 1) and Sebastien Col tangle around the leeward mark during their match in Flight 11. Lindberg won the battle, but Col won the war, passing on the next beat for a 25-second win. **| The talk at yesterday’s Congressional Cup press conference was about the stunning speed of Boat 11, which was undefeated through 10 races over two days. After a mixed day-3 wins, 2 losses-under the hand of Johnie Berntsson, that talk was squashed to some extent. After Day 3, if there was any buzz about the individual boats is related to the lack of speed of Boat 10. After taking Staffan Lindberg and Johnie Berntsson down on Days 1 and 2, Boat 10 set its sights on bigger prey, reigning ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year Ben Ainslie. Through 15 of 18 flights in the double round robin, boat No. 10 is 2-13.

Whether it was the boat, a few lapses of concentration on Ainslie’s part, bad luck or a combination of all three, the triple Olympic gold medalist found himself on the short end again and again on Thursday, losing all five races. He was handily beaten in the pre-start by Terry Hutchinson, passed on the final run by Adam Minoprio, passed on the second upwind leg by Francesco Bruni, and on the first downwind leg by Johnie Berntsson and Mathieu Richard. As a result he dropped out of the top four, and now stands fifth, two points behind a trio of sailors tied on 10 points. To his credit, Ainslie didn’t even mention the boat at the post-race press conference, though getting passed in four of five matches would seem to indicate a lack of boatspeed.

“Sometimes its difficult,” said the reigning maestro of the Finn class. “We had one race against Terry where we had a bad start and that was probably the race there. But the other races, we didn’t do too much wrong, but it just didn’t work out. But that’s just racing.

“When you look at the amount of races and the event that we do its inevitable that we’re going to have a shocking day like today.”

On the flip side of Ainslie’s oh-fer was the unblemished record put up by Mathie Richard, of France, the 2007 Congressional Cup champion. Since opening the regatta with three loses in his first four matches, Richard has gone 9-2 to move into a tie for second and put himself in a very strong position to make the semifinals.

“An excellent day for us today with five wins and no losses,” said Richard, ranked No. 3 in the world. “I’m very happy with the way I sailed today. We had a very good feeling on board. We have improved on the little things during the last three days and I hope we continue to improve through the end of the competition.”

Stuart Streuli| |**Part of Ben Ainslie’s very forgettable Day 3 included losing the pre-start in his Flight 12 match with Terry Hutchinson, a mistake from which he was unable to recover. **| Richard, Adam Minoprio, and Franceso Bruni are tied for second with 10 wins apiece. Terry Hutchinson, at 13-2, can do no worse than fourth tomorrow. On the outside looking in are Ainslie and Johnie Berntsson, both of whom have 7 wins and will need to run the table tomorrow to even have a shot of making the final four. Sebastien Col would have also had a slim chance of making the semifinals were it not for a collision with Berntsson in the prestart of their race today. That cost him $300 and a half a point. With 6.5 points, and three races remaining, he has no chance of catching any of the three skippers currently tied for second.

Col almost won that race despite the penalt. Berntsson was over early and staked Col to a huge lead. The No. 1-ranked Col said he considered doing his penalty turn right away, but thought that they would extend throughout the race and do it later. That was not to be as Berntsson worked very hard to keep it close. Without enough of a lead to do the turn, Col tried to execute a difficult mark trap, using the committee boat, that would enable him to tack from starboard to port and back to starboard to clear the penalty-which can only be done on a downwind leg with a tack and an immediate turn to 90 degrees from the true win. It nearly worked, but Col didn’t bring complete the first tack, from starboard to port, before tacking back and bearing down for the line. To see a gallery of this trap, click here.

With one win tomorrow, Hutchinson will lock up the top position in the round robin. That will get him the ability to choose whom he faces in the semifinals. However, he’s not exactly looking forward to that.

“Last time I did this regatta as a helmsman, [Peter Gilmour] picked us,” said Hutchinson, of the 1992 Congressional Cup, which he won. “We beat him 2-nil. Sometimes it’s nice not to chose, to it be somebody else’s burden. [To choose] I think you put the initials in a hat and have someone from the crowd pick it. It is absolutely choosing your own poison. Regardless of who you sail, you have to sail well to beat any of these sailors.”

Standings (remaining matches in parentheses)

Terry Hutchinson 13 wins, 2 losses (Col, Bruni, Minoprio)
Mathieu Richard 10 wins, 5 losses (Lindberg, Angel, Presti)
Franceso Bruni 10 wins, 5 losses (Minoprio, Hutchinson, Angel)
Adam Minoprio 10 wins, 5 losses (Bruni, Berntsson, Hutchinson)
Ben Ainslie 8 wins, 7 losses (Presti, Lindberg, Col)
Johnie Berntsson 7 wins, 8 losses (Angel, Minoprio, Lindberg)
Sebastien Col 7 wins, 8 losses *loses .5 points for collision (Hutchinson, Presti, Ainslie)
Staffan Lindberg 6 wins, 9 losses (Richard, Ainslie, Berntsson)
Philippe Presti 3 wins, 12 losses (Ainslie, Col, Richard)
Brian Angel 1 win, 14 losses (Berntsson, Richard, Bruni)

Referee Statistics: 35 calls, 1 yellow, 2 blue, 32 green

Quote of the Day


Ben Ainslie, when asked by press conference moderator whether he had a tough day in going 0-5 and dropping from second to fifth in the standings.

Quote of the Day, part II

“I think we have the solution. We’re going to go to Second Street and party and tomorrow we’re going to be unbeatable.”

-Philipppe Presti on how he can turn around a 3-12 performance on the final day.

Quote of the Day, part III

“Presti sems to have a very good plan so we will see what they do, and if they are successful, maybe join.”

-Johnie Berntsson, who at 7-8 has an outside chance of qualifying for the semifinals

Quote of the Day, part IV

“This one was pretty clear I think.”

Sebastien Col, when asked about the referee decision on his collison with Berntsson in Flight 12. Col hasn’t spared the jury, the race committee, or the boats in his press conference comments.

Last Set

In Hutchinson’s race with Mathieu Richard in Flight 11, I watched Hutchinson and his team make up a 3 boatlength disadvantage basically around the leeward mark. He rolled into a tack around the mark, with Richard following suit. By the time they were 10 boatlengths from the mark, they were practically bow even. Though Hutchinson and his team would lose the race on the final run, it was a remarkable rounding and I asked Hutchinson to describe how it worked out so well. His reply is instructive and shows you just how much of a science match racing has become.

“We set him up. We came in, we had about seven lengths on starboard, he had about three. So he had to turn down, douse, and then do his maneuver. We came in with a lot of pace on starboard jibe, just sheeted on around the mark, and rolled right into a tack. We came out of our tack on port and we were already faster than he was and so we knew we were going to get to him.

“The things that we’re learning as we’re racing here is that momentum on the racecourse and momentum versus the other boat is worth its weight in gold. So we’re focusing very had on making sure that every time the boats come together we’re faster than the boat we’re racing. That’s big.”

Wednesday, March 25

Lindberg Wins Day 2, But Hutchinson and Ainslie Still Lead

A light and mostly incident-free day at the 2009 Congressional Cup ended with the flurry of activity in the final of four flights. Twenty-one of the 30 requests for calls on Day 2 were made in Flight 10, when the light and shifty seabreeze finally gained strength, topping out around 15 knots.

Terry Hutchinson remains at the top of the standings, with Ben Ainslie and Franceso Bruni holding second and third, respectively, just as they did yesterday. The battle for fourth is full-on, however, with four teams tied at 5-5 and one a race back at 4-6. The final two teams, those led by local qualifier Brian Angel and Philippe Presti of France, are hanging by a thread when it comes to their chances of making the top four. Eight more flights are scheduled to be sailed Thursday and Friday before the semis and finals on Saturday.

Though Hutchinson remains at the head of the leaderboard, he was not the top sailor for the day. Staffan Lindberg, who struggled to a 1-5 record on Day 1, whipped off four wins on Day 2 to jump into the four-way tied for fourth.

“Today we sort of started a bit better, we got off the starting line pretty well,” said Lindberg. “The crew did a tremendous job today of keeping us ahead and close to competitors, we actually made a pass and that was very nice.”

That pass came in Flight 8, against Ben Ainslie, who led the match by as much as 22 seconds before Lindberg was able to separate from Ainslie and find the favored side of the course on the final run to the finish.
“We were a little bit disappointed,” said Ainslie of allowing Lindberg to get to the left side on the run, “because before we even got to the [windward] mark we thought the breeze was better on the other side and we kept telling ourselves we wanted to beat him to the jibe.”

In those light conditions, however, that’s easier said than done. Ainslie and his crew gamely threw a few fake jibes at Lindberg, but the tall Finn calmed waited for a real one, matched the jibe and rolled over the top for the win.

That race, however, was the only major misstep for the triple Olympic gold medalist. And he had plenty of chances, many of which came in in the most competitive match of the day, if not the tournament, in Flight 9 against Sebastien Col.

The race started with the two sailors working well to windward of the starting line in the prestart and then setting spinnakers to return to the line, a move that had pier commentator Steve Steiner nearly apoplectic with glee. Steiner, a former Congressional Cup competitor, said that he’d been talking about such a move for years, but wasn’t sure it would work in the bulky Catalina 37s. Both Col and Ainslie, however, said that there was no other option when it came to getting back to the line quickly in the light winds.

Ainslie won the start by a second, but the two boats tangled at the windward mark, with Col gaining the advantage and a 12-second lead. Another tangle on the layline to the leeward mark saw Ainslie come out ahead. The TeamOrigin skipper led by 12 seconds at that mark. But once again Col got the best of the beat and was able to use the starboard advantage to take a 6 second lead around the final mark. On the run, Ainslie waited patiently for the jibe, matched, and rolled to windward. Col tried to engage in a luffing match, but it was not to be, with Ainslie holding on for the 7-second win and Col left shaking his head in exasperation. To see a gallery of photos from this race, click here.

Both Ainslie and Hutchinson have been sailing extremely well, with very good boatspeed through the range of conditions. Both teams would need to fall badly in the final eight flights to miss out on making the final four. The other two spots will most likely be filled by two of the six teams standing between 6-4 and 4-6, with darkhorse Francesco Bruni, a late entry, currently holding the pole position.

Standings after 10 of 18 flights

1 Terry Hutchinson 9.00
2 Ben Ainslie 8.00
3 Francesco Bruni 6.00
4 Adam Minoprio 5.00
5 Staffan Lindberg 5.00
6 Mathieu Richard 5.00
7 Sebastien Col 5.00
8 Johnie Berntsson 4.00
9 Philippe Presti 2.00
10 Brian Angel 1.00

Referee statistics: 30 calls: 23 green flags, 3 penalties on yellow, 4 on blue

Quote of the Day:

“I just wanted to say that this morning we received a call from Acura and we get a big check.”

-Sebastien Col, who handed Terry Hutchinson his first, and so far only, loss of the tournament, eliminating any chance of anyone winning the Acura- or $30,000 cash option-for going through the tournament undefeated.

Quote of the Day, part II

“I’m pretty sure that I would’ve bet the $30 grand that we weren’t going to win the car. Everybody here is pretty good, to expect to go undefeated through a field like this is virtually impossible.
“However, I won’t miss the comments from the race committee. Now that the monkey is off our back I won’t have to hear, ‘Hey you’re still winning the car.’ And I didn’t need a plunger this morning, so that’s’ pretty good.”


Quote of the Day, part III

“Pretty tough, everything went wrong. Basically I’m expecting the In ‘n’ Out Burger [provided on site for dinner] to be the peak of the day.”

No. 6-ranked Philippe Presti, who went 0 for 4 on Day 2 and now finds himself, at 2-8, very much a longshot to make the semifinals.

Quote of the Day, part IV

“I think we’re going to ask Staffan Lindberg to leave his spirit in No. 11 and we’re going to do our best to grab that and win some races tomorrow.”

-Johnie Berntsson, who stands at 4-6 after Day 2, but will be sailing boat No. 11 tomorrow, which has yet to lose a race.

Ready, Set, Win!

Stuart Streuli| Normally, the Catalina 37s are sailed with 8 or even 9 sailors. The Congressional Cup teams sail with six. Nonetheless, you’ll never see better boathandling. Yesterday we spent quite a bit of time at the windward mark watching the teams go around and it was pretty remarkable to watch their sets. One example, from Staffan Lindberg’s Finnish/Swedish crew, is at right. Lindberg’s team has the bowman feeding out the spinnaker (the hatches on the 37 are quite small and offset to starboard for the starboard roundings) and the mastman jumping the halyard. Other teams have the bowman jump the halyard. Looking at these photos, there are quite a few things the average sailor can pick up.

  1. Look at the prefeed on the clew of the spinnaker, it’s almost to the end of the pole well before the team gets to the mark. The head is to the first draft stripe before the bow hits the mark. Now the ability to do both these things is wind dependent. In more breeze, the prefeed needs to be less aggressive. This is also a reason to have the bowman tending the spinnaker rather than hoisting, he can keep the spinnaker from flying away prematurely.

  2. The skipper eases out the mainsheet, allowing for the main trimmer to help with the set. While I can’t tell from these photos, I would guess the main trimmer moves over to the guy for the set.

  3. The boat is not yet past the mark-see the tip of the trapezoid just before Lindberg at the wheel-and the spinnaker is at or close to full hoist. The spinnaker guy trimmer will be pulling back on the pole to get the sail out from under the wind shadow of the jib.

  4. As soon as the spinnaker hits full hoist, the jib is coming down, fast. This is crucial for a good set, especially in lighter winds and with a masthead genoa. Having the jib on hanks helps safeguard the sail from going overboard. On a boat with the jib or genoa loaded into the headfoil, the pit man will need to mind the halyard as the headsail comes down so it doesn’t go overboard.

  5. The sail is full and drawing. Total elapsed time from Photo 1 to Photo 5 is 12 seconds. Now that’s an efficient turn. One thing you never see with these teams is the spinnaker luffing once it catches the breeze. Occasionally there might be a small break, but in general the spinnaker pops and starts pulling the boat downwind. One way to do this is to have the spinnaker sheets marked for the approximate trim. On a smaller boat, like a J/24 or a J/22, you can even preload the sheet into the cleat and trim the guy. When this is done right, the spinnaker will pop and you’ll gain a boatlength if not more over those with a poor or even average set. In flight 3, Johnie Berntsson trailed Sebastien Col by 7 seconds around the windward mark. Berntsson team’s ripped the set, the spinnaker popping full before the boat was past the mark. It enabled them to get close enough to Col to cover him on the jib, roll him on starboard, and cruise to the 4-second win.

Tuesday, March 24

Hutchinson in Control on Day 1,

The world rankings were worth the paper they were printed on, and not a heck of a lot more, on Day 1 of the 2009 Congressional Cup at California’s Long Beach YC. Terry Hutchinson, who entered the regatta ranked 931st in the world, albeit with an asterix due to limited match racing over the ranking period, is the only skipper to avoid taking a loss through six flights. Meanwhile, the French triumvirate of Sebastien Col (No. 1 in the world), Mathieu Richard (No. 3 in the world), and Philippe Presti (No. 6 in the world) are tied for sixth; each finishing the day with two wins against four losses.

Race organizers couldn’t have asked for a better day for the first day of the regatta. A light seabreeze started at 8 knots and built to around 12. The steady wind allowed the committee to complete a third of the 18-race double round robin, which runs through Friday, with the semis and finals slated for Saturday.

Hutchinson’s day was one of efficiency and control. He didn’t appear make a significant misstep tactically and appeared to have the Catalina 37 moving well. Hutchinson felt he won two of his starts, lost two, and called two even. But he didn’t trail around a single mark.

Brian Angel, the local entry from King Harbor YC in Redondo Beach, was one of the teams to nip Hutchinson at the start, and carried that advantage all the way to the windward mark before the reigning Rolex Yachtsman of the Year took control.

“We had a pretty interesting situation, where we were leading,” said Angel. “The short of it is we tacked a little bit early trying to protect our inside position at the weather mark and gave Terry just a couple of inches to squeeze in there. To his credit he took it, he didn’t hesitate one bit-I wouldn’t have either-and he pulled away from there.”

Hutchinson also had a close match with former ETNZ teammate Ben Ainslie, who trailed by just 11 seconds around the final mark. For Ainslie, this is the first time sailing the Catalina 37s. He had this to say about the boats: “They’re very delicate boats and the crew eight is crucial. There are a lot of little nuances to sailing the boat. We had a good day today, but there’s certainly lot we can work on.”

For the trio of top-ranked French teams, the day was a disappointment. Mathieu Richard won this event in 2007. To add a second Crimson Jacket, he’ll need to improve upon his Day1 performance. “It was a very tough day, only two points, so that’s not a good start,” he said. “It was a tough day for us today, difficult to read the wind, find the different shifts and difficult to have good speed on the boat. We have to improve some little things.”

Day 1 Standings

Terry Hutchinson 6 wins, 0 losses
Ben Ainslie 5 wins, 1 loss
Francesco Bruni 4 wins, 2 losses
Adam Minoprio 4 wins, 2 losses
Johnie Berntsson 3 wins, 3 losses
Sebastien Col 2 wins, 4 losses
Philippe Presti 2 wins, 4 losses
Mathieu Richard 2 wins, 4 losses
Brian Angel 1 win, 5 losses
Staffan Lindberg 1 win, 5 losses

Umpire notes: According to chief umpire Alfredo Ricci there were 59 calls made today, in 30 races: 50 were green flagged (no penalty), 5 were penalties on yellow, 4 were penalties on blue.

Quote of the day:

“The day started with five words no host wants to hear: ‘Do you have a plunger?’ She stuck her head around the corner and said, ‘Are you serious?’ This is the second day she’s known me, But we managed to get rid of the block and off we went. I look at the day and obviously the team on boat did a very good job. Cameron [Appleton, tactician] did very good job of extending at the right times; the guys boathandling-wise, everything was good enough.
“We’re very mindful and respectful of the fact that everybody here [in this event] is very good. Everybody here is racing for the final four spots on Saturday.
For us to do better in the event we need to sail better as a team. Today was a good start to that.”

-Terry Hutchinson on Day 1 of the 2009 Congressional Cup, from his perspective

Quote of the day, part II

“Very hapy with the day, we are very happy with the pizza after sailing, and very happy with team and sun, the day was just great for us. We had such a good day for us. We are very happy.”

-Francesco Bruni, on his 4-win day. Did he mention he was happy?

Monday, March 23

Regatta Preview: 45th Race for the Crimson Jacket

By Rich Roberts, Congressional Cup media

LONG BEACH, Calif.—What do the Masters golf tournament and the Congressional Cup match racing regatta have in common?

Tradition, certainly. A Masters golf winner gets a Green Jacket while a Congressional Cup winner receives a Crimson Blazer, both proud distinctions that set the two events apart in their particular niches of the sporting world at a high a level of esteem.

“This event is special,” says Rod Davis, who has won four Crimson Blazers and returns this week as tactician for New Zealand’s Adam Minoprio in Long Beach Yacht Club’s 45th renewal of a sailing original.

A double round-robin featuring 10 sailors from seven countries, including top-ranked Sebastien Col of France, Olympic triple gold medalist Ben Ainslie of Great Britain and U.S. Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Terry Hutchinson, runs Tuesday through Friday off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, followed by semifinals and finals for the top four Saturday—and who says sailing isn’t a spectator sport?

The pier east of downtown Long Beach will have bleacher seating within rooting distance of the action, free parking at the beach end and shuttle service starting Wednesday, all free of charge. Racing is scheduled to start at noon each day, wind conditions permitting.

It’s been 16 years since Davis won the last of his four Crimson Blazers—two for American teams and two for New Zealand, his country of residence since 1987.

“I’ve coached three of these guys,” Davis said, referring to his work with Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup program the last few years that involved Ainslie, Hutchinson and Minoprio at various times.

But he isn’t sure the younger competitors are aware of the role the Congressional Cup played in building world-class match racing by introducing on-water umpiring to the game in 1988 and sustaining a Grade 1 level of competition through the years.

Ainslie is 32, while Minoprio at 23 became the youngest winner ever on the World Match Racing Tour when he won the year’s opening event at Marseille earlier this month.

The Congressional Cup is not a member of the WMRT, but “it was the first match racing event of any notoriety for a very long time,” Davis said. “And what sets it apart even now is its yacht club base. Most of the other events are commercially based, but it’s not the same feel.”

Also, instead of staying in yet another hotel—some say they don’t really have homes—Congressional Cup teams are lodged in the homes of LBYC members.

“They like that,” Davis said. “It also saves them a lot of money.”

Speaking of . . . the total purse here is potentially worth $83,500, including prize money through 10 places, Saturday’s fleet race for non-sailoff qualifiers, six $2,000 Oceanaut watches to the winning crew, plus an Acura TSX or $30,000 to any skipper that can sweep every race before winning overall.

Davis, who won an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. and a silver for New Zealand, won his four Congressional Cup titles four years apart from 1981 through 1993, embellishing a list of historic sailing celebrities such as Ted Turner, Bill Ficker, Dennis Conner, Peter Gilmour and Chris Dickson, since extended by the only other quadruple Crimson winners in recent years, Peter Holmberg and Gavin Brady.

“The list has some pretty big names on it,” Davis said. “The only thing that might compare is winners of the Star class Worlds.”

But even they don’t have Crimson Blazers.


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