by Rich Roberts
The Long Beach Yacht Club’s Ficker Cup is set to get underway this weekend and an international fleet of ambitious young sailors are lined up, hoping to pluck the lucky ticket on the match racing merry-go-round into next week's 49th Congressional Cup.
Ficker Cup 2012 day 2
Two of the eight---Taylor Canfield, 24, of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Jordan Reece, 22, of Australia---are already invited to the Congressional. Canfield, director of the Chicago Match Race Center, boosted his world ranking from 27th to eighth last year by winning the Alpari World Tour's Argo Gold Cup in Bermuda and Monsoon Cup in Malaysia after placing a strong third in the Congressional.
Reece, ranked 16th, earned his invitation largely by placing second in the Chicago Match Cup last summer behind Great Britain's Ian Williams, the Congressional's double defending champion.
The Ficker, running Friday through Sunday, is rated a Grade 2 event by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) based on the records of the participants. The Congressional, scheduled April 9-13, has long been a Grade 1 event.
The Ficker skippers (in order of current world ranking):
Taylor Canfield, St. Thomas YC, US Virgin Islands, No. 8
Jordan Reece, Royal Sydney YC, Australia, No. 16
Dustin Durant, Long Beach YC, Long Beach, Calif. No. 31
Chris Poole, Portland YC, Falmouth, Maine, No. 67
Colin Rathbun, Royal British Virgin Islands YC, BVI, No. 53
Wataru Sakamoto, Japan Sailing Federation, No. 100
Peter Holz, Chicago YC, Chicago, Ill., No. 205
Scott Dickson, Long Beach YC, Long Beach, Calif., No. 465
Like Canfield and Reece, Sakamoto and his team also are already in the Congressional---as crew for New Zealand's Laurie Jury, currently ranked number seven in the world. In turn, Jury will be tactician for Sakamoto in the Ficker.
That leaves the battle for the 10th Congressional berth to the other five, led by LBYC's own Dustin Durant, 25, and Scott Dickson, 42.
Durant, ranked only 84th at the time, won the Ficker last year, then struggled in the main event with four wins in 18 matches but over the past busy year went on to win the Grade 2 Nations Cup in Bridgetown, Barbados, and sweep the Grade 3 California Dreamin' Series of three events.
Dickson, since relocating from New Zealand, has won the Ficker 11 times but never the Congressional. Once ranked as high as 22nd in the world, he has competed in only three events during the last two-year ranking cycle but probably has raced on the Catalina 37s more than all the other competitors combined.
All of the racing will be at Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, starting at 11:30 a.m. or later each day, as conditions permit. Admission is free. Bleachers, comfort stations and a snack bar will be available. Parking is at the base of the pier.
Rather than take a week off before the Congressional, Canfield and Reece are eager to get up to speed for the new season in the Ficker.
Canfield said, 'We are really looking to use the Ficker as a tune-up for both Con Cup and the AWMRT. We have had a nice break since the last match race. Spending more time in big heavy boats I believe will be good preparation for Match Race Germany [in May].'
Canfield and his crew's competition was limited as an Alpari World Tour 'wild card' entry last year, but winning all three events they sailed earned them one of eight Tour Cards for automatic entry into all seven events around the world this year.
The Catalina 37s are a special test.
'They are the only boat requiring six crew,' Canfield said. 'They are quite physical boats . . . you need some muscle to handle them with the genoa and big kites. They are also very heavy compared to most of the boats on the tour.'
His regular crew is Rod Dawson, tactician; Hayden Goodrick, bow; Mike Rehe, trimmer, and Dan Morris, trimmer. Brian Janney will come aboard as sixth man in Long Beach.
The Ficker Cup is named for Bill Ficker, who was skipper of the 12-Meter Intrepid that successfully defended the America's Cup against Australia's Gretel II in 1970. The noted Newport Beach architect also won the Congressional Cup in 1974 and the Star class world championship in 1958. He will present the trophy to the winners.
Congressional Cup website