by Rich Roberts
The 49th Congressional Cup is now underway and after the conclusion on day two, it's certainly no surprise that Great Britain's Ian Williams, the top-ranked match racer in the world and winner of the last two Congressional Cups, is clear of the field, but should he be making it look so easy?
49th Congressional Cup Day 2
'It's going well,' he said Wednesday, standing on the dock with 10 consecutive wins after an opening loss in 11 of 18 flights leading to the weekend sailoffs.
'But it hasn't all been easy,' he added. 'We're trying to stay relaxed. There's been quite a bit of talking [on the boat] but hardly any yelling.'
Ed Baird, a 54-year-old 2007 America's Cup winner and 2004 Congressional champion, is at 8-3, a step ahead of the trio of Italy's Simone Ferrarese, France's Matthieu Richard and New Zealand's Adam Minoprio at 7-4 as the fight for the four semifinal slots takes shape.
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 a.m. daily, conditions permitting.
Baird has been sailing so well in his return to the game that his tactician could even find time to take a swim during their race against Australia's Jordan Reece. They were leading comfortably when Terry Hutchinson noticed their rudder had snagged some of the loose kelp floating around the course.
'I had my body out over the back of the boat with [pitman] Tom [Burnham] hanging onto my hand,' Hutchinson said.
Oops! Into the water he went, but Baird was able to maneuver for a quick recovery and hold on to win by eight seconds.
Fortunately, Hutchinson wasn't wearing the Crimson Blazer he collected for winning here in 1992, before he returned to call tactics for Dean Barker and Ken Read in later years.
Also, the wind was relatively light at five knots building to 12 through the afternoon and the water much flatter than Monday's weird shifty scenario in the protected Long Beach outer harbor. The thing about these older guys is that they seem to adjust to change and seldom panic.
'I think a bit of experience always helps,' Williams said.
In their second race Tuesday Williams' team was severely pressed by 24-year-old Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who was never more than a couple of boat lengths behind before losing by six seconds. Along the twice-around 0.4-nautical mile course Canfield pushed so hard that Williams took him into a brief luffing match, with jibs dropped, to get himself some breathing room before the last windward mark rounding.
And although Canfield is in sixth place at 6-5, he is still in strong contention for the semifinals. After all, he is ranked No. 8 in the world, just won the Grade 2 Ficker Cup leading into this Grade 1 event and scored three victories on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour last year, and he had a 4-1 day Tuesday despite sailing a substitute boat.
In the daily boat rotations, Canfield was assigned number one, but a pre-race inspection of some hull damage sustained by Ferrarese Tuesday showed that the fiberglass hadn't cured properly, so Canfield was given the spare boat, number 11.
That happens to be the original prototype of the Catalina 37 fleet that isn't used except in emergencies because, the reliable word is, it's slightly heavier than the other 10 boats.
Canfield, seeming a bit surprised, said, 'It seemed to be going OK today. [Against Williams] we just kept pushing.'
The racing is at Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier through Saturday. Admission is free. Bleachers, comfort stations and a snack bar are available. Parking is at the base of the pier, with complimentary golf cart service available from the beach to the end of the pier.
Ed Baird, USA, def. Mathieu Richard, France, 19 seconds.
Simone Ferrarese, Italy, def. Adam Minoprio, New Zealand, 33 seconds.
Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands, def. Jordan Reece, Australia, 33 seconds.
Ian Williams, Great Britain, def. Eric Monnin, Switzerland, 48 seconds.
Scott Dickson, USA, def. Laurie Jury, New Zealand, 2 minutes 1 second.
Williams d. Canfield, 0:06.
Baird d. Jury, 0:16.
Minoprio d. Dickson, 0:30.
Richard d. Reece, 0:17.
Ferrarese d. Monnin, 0:46.
Minoprio d. Baird, 0:23.
Reece d. Dickson, 0:05.
Richard d. Monnin, 0:11.
Canfield d. Jury, 0:29.
Williams d. Ferrarese, 0:12.
Baird d. Dickson, NT.
Minoprio d. Richard, 0:09.
Ferrarese d. Reece, 0:14.
Canfield d. Monnin, 0:21/.
Williams d. Jury, NT.
Dickson d. Monnin, 0:12.
Minoprio d. Jury, 2:28.
Canfield d. Ferrarese, 0:42.
Williams d. Richard, 0:28.
Baird d. Reece, 0:08.
Ferrarese d. Jury, 0:20.
Richard d. Canfield, 0:15.
Williams d. Dickson, 0:38.
Baird d. Monnin, 0:45.
Minoprio d. Reece, 0:16.
(after 11 of 18 rounds)
1. Williams, 10-1; 2. Baird, 8-2; 3. tie among Ferrarese, Richard and Minoprio, 7-4; 6. Canfield, 6-5; 7. tie between Reece and Dickson, 3-8; 9. tie between Jury and Monnin, 2-9.
Congressional Cup website