by Rick Roberts
This year’s Butler Cup has drawn skippers from across the country to compete in this International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Grade 3 match race Saturday and Sunday, March 1-2. Hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club and raced on the Long Beach Sailing Foundation’s Catalina 37s, this regatta is the third and final stop of the 2013-2014 California Dreamin’ Series.
Dustin Durant (at helm) and his team are looking for a three-peat in the 2014 Butler Cup and their second consecutive California Dreamin’ Series title.
Eight skippers will be competing in a double round robin where each skipper will race against each other twice. Entered in the event is Dustin Durant, LBYC; Dave Perry, Pequot Yacht Club; Scott Dickson, LBYC; Russ Silvestri, St. Francis Yacht Club; Shala Lawrence, San Diego Yacht Club; Bruce Stone, St.FYC; Dave Hood, LBYC and Nicole Breault, St.FYC.
The series began last November at St. Francis Yacht Club, Nov. 9-10, and then moved on to San Diego Yacht Club, Jan. 11-12, before it makes its final stop at LBYC. Skippers receive points based on their finish positions in each regatta with a maximum of 100 points per regatta. The principal prize for winning the series is an invitation to compete in the ISAF Grade 2 Oakcliff International Match Race, Sept. 3-7, held at the Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay, New York.
Currently, Silvestri has a 25 point lead over Durant in the series with Breault hanging in there 35 points back.
'We will be seeing a lot of familiar competitors on the race course,' Breault said. 'The California Dreaming Series has really ramped up our collective game and I am sure the racing will be tough.
'Russ Silvestri is in a strong position coming into the Butler Cup on points and of course local favorite Dusty Durant and his Long Beach team is going to be hard to beat. For sure, my main man Bruce Stone is gunning for me - he's got the big boat driving down and he'll be fast! Then there are all the other teams to tangle with, including the guy [Perry] who wrote the book!'
Durant shared his thoughts on this year’s series.
'We are excited as always to compete in this year’s Butler Cup,' Durant said. 'Having won the last two Butler Cups we have a title to defend.
'This year is going to be a tough event racing against well accomplished sailors like Russ Silvestri and Scotty Dickson. We need to put Russ back a position in order to hold our California Dreamin' title another year. Racing against Dickson is no easy feat, as he will have a strong team in preparation for this year's Congressional Cup.'
Durant, Dickson and Perry have already received and accepted invitations to compete in Stage 1 of the 50th Anniversary of the ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup. These three will probably be using the Butler Cup as a tune up for the big dance, with a shot at competing in the finals of the Congressional Cup as their biggest motivation.
In addition to winning the last two Butler Cups, Durant has been steadily moving up in the ISAF match race standings, currently sitting at 28th in the world. He also won the ISAF Nations Cup in 2013.
Perry has won the Congressional Cup twice (1983 and 1984) and has won the U.S. Match Racing Championship four times (1982, 2006, 2008 and 2011). He has also held hundreds of US Sailing instructional seminars including match race seminars, is currently chairman of US Sailing’s Appeals Committee and is a senior US Sailing Certified Judge.
Dickson has won the ISAF Grade 2 Ficker Cup 11 times and competed in the Congressional Cup in 2006, 2008 and 2013.
Silvestri is a two-time Olympian---1988 and 2000---representing the Finn class for the U.S. and has raced in the 1987 and 2000 America’s Cup.
Expressing his thoughts on the upcoming Butler Cup, Silvestri said, 'I love Long Beach! I’ve been racing on this course for 40 years and am out to prove that the St. Francis Yacht Club has the premier match racers on the West Coast.'
And then he added, 'Where is John Bertrand?'
Silvestri may have been referring to the 1984 U.S. Olympic Finn class trials where he placed first and was then disqualified on a protest by Bertrand. It was then kicked up through the top levels of the United States Yacht Racing Union and switched six more times before Bertrand was declared the U.S. representative, two days before the Olympics.
Durant explains his plan for both the Butler Cup and Congressional Cup.
'Our goal is to use the time in the boats and racing as a serious practice for Congressional Cup,' Durant said. 'We are going to try some new guys, and get everyone up to speed. I think we will have a solid result because we have our core Long Beach Match Racing team in place, those who have done a lot of match racing with me this past year.'
Shala Lawrence (at helm) and her SDYC team return to this year’s Butler Cup and are looking forward to the competition.
Lawrence missed the California Dreamin’ Series’ first stop at St. Francis Yacht Club in November due to scheduling conflicts, but picked it up when it landed in her hometown of San Diego in January.
'We couldn't compete in the first stop of CA Dreamin’ due to many different personal commitments,' Lawrence said, 'but got an invite to the SD stop. Summer [Green] said that she had 16 teams request invites so we were very lucky to get one.
'A week before the event I went for a mellow horseback ride and got thrown off. Now what? Chiropractor, physical therapy, ice and Ibuprofen. By Tuesday I thought I had made enough progress to sail. Practice on Friday was very challenging but workable. My team was fired up and we were going all in.
'Our regatta had ups and downs. Ups; Having awesome matches with the top teams and doing really well against them (Durant, Shane [Young] and Silvestri). Downs; Having tough matches that I should've been more on top of at the starts.
'Biggest bummer; In the dial up of a match, getting rear ended by an umpire boat. Knocked me on my back(Really??) and then drawing a penalty.
'The funniest comment of that weekend was from my trimmer, Jim Dorsey. ‘I usually don't complain about being faster than other boats, but we keep catching them and then have to deal with things out of our control.’'
'My team and I are super excited to sail again in Long Beach. We had a great time at Butler Cup last year and our SDYC women’s team had a great time on the 37s as well. So we are ready for some great competition and fun!'
Hood---LBYC Rear Commodore---competes regularly on the Catalina 37s in both fleet and match races and will be making his fourth appearance in the Butler Cup.
'It is a great field of competitors this year,' Hood said, 'and we are excited and honored to be invited. We are looking forward to being part of this year’s Butler Cup leading up to the 50th anniversary Congressional Cup.'
Races will be held in Long Beach Harbor just off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier and start at approximately 12 noon both Saturday and Sunday, weather conditions permitting. Spectators can watch the racing action from the pier with self-pay parking available in the pier’s parking lot.
The event is named for Frank Butler, founder of Catalina Yachts, who in 1990 designed, built and donated the 11 Catalina 37s used for all the match races held at LBYC. These same boats are also used for fleet race events and are available for team building and individual charters through the Long Beach Sailing Foundation.