by Rich Roberts
Congressional Cup 2014 - Long Beach, Calif., April 12, 2014, Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands met Ian Williams of the United Kingdom Saturday in the 18th and last race of the Stage Two 50th Congressional Cup double round-robin, and the world's No. one-ranked match racer beat No. two by 23 seconds, winning the privilege of picking his opponent in Sunday's semifinals.
Umpires flag Taylor Canfield for the first of two penalties in match agsinst Mathieu Richard.
'I hope he picks us,' said Williams, who matched Canfield's 13-5 record but lost the last race to him and with it the tiebreaker.
Ian Williams (l.) attacks Scott Dickson as spinnakers fly out of control.
Nevertheless, Williams said, 'We're definitely ready to bring our A-game.'
But Canfield picked Australia's Keith Swinton, who reached the final four with a harder earned tiebreaker against defending champion Simone Ferrarese of Italy and France's Mathieu Richard, the 2007 winner, each with 10-8 records. Francesco Bruni of Italy, the 2010 winner, clinched the other spot with a solid 12-6 record.
With competitors from four countries, it will be a truly international battle.
Whoever wins out through the best-of-three semis and the best-of-three finals will need their best efforts to top perhaps the strongest fleet in the event's half-century.
How tough was it?
Dealing with the first whitecaps of the week built by a more normal southwest Long Beach breeze up to 14 knots, there were six owners of the traditional Crimson Blazers among the 10 skippers from seven nations, but only two---Williams and Bruni---advanced to the sailoffs, along with Canfield and Swinton, who had almost counted himself out after losing his last race to Sweden's Johnie Berntsson, the 2009 winner.
Williams, the winner in 2011 and 2012, and Bruni (2010) were 3-1 on the day, Canfield and Swinton a humbling 2-2, as was Richard. Dave Perry (1983 and 1984) was eighth at 5-13.
Bruni said, 'We are very happy we are through [to the sailoffs]. We have new positions on the team and it's still training for us.'
The new personnel included tactician Adam Minoprio from New Zealand, formerly a skipper.
'Adam did very well,' Bruni said. 'The Congressional Cup is always a tough competition but it's now very high. A lot of people have the same faces but more skills.'
Canfield, twice burdened by double penalty flags on the day, said, 'We knew it was going to be like this in this event . . . tough right until the end.'
Total prize money is $75,000, with $17,500 to the winner.
Racing is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m., conditions permitting. Spectators may enjoy incomparable viewing of the races from Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Admission is free, with paid parking at the base of the pier. Seating, free public shuttles along the pier, concessions and comfort stations are available.
Simone Ferrarese (bottom) nudges Mathieu Richard from behind in pre-start sequence.
Spectators on Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier a.re right on top of the pre-start action
Final round-robin standings (18 flights)
1. Taylor Canfield, USVI, 13-5 (wins tiebreaker by defeating Williams in last race)
2. Ian Williams, UK, 13-5
3. Francesco Bruni, Italy, 12-6
4. Keith Swinton, Australia, 10-8 (wins tiebreaker with three wins vs. next two)
5. Simone Ferrarese, Italy, 10-8 (two wins vs. other two)
6. Mathieu Richard, France, 10-8 (one win vs. other two)
7. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, 9-9
8. Dave Perry, U.S. 5-13
9. Phil Robertson, Australia, 4-14 (won tiebreaker)
10. Scott Dickson, U.S., 4-14
Taylor Canfield (l.) races downwind burdened by two penalty flags - Congressional Cup 2014