by Rich Roberts
Taylor Canfield and Scott Dickson already had their Congressional Cup berths locked up when they raced into the championship match of Long Beach Yacht Club's Ficker Cup Sunday but, win or lose, that was important.
Pre-start duel very near the pier - 2013 Ficker Cup Day 3
Dickson said, 'I just enjoy going head to head with the best guys in the world.'
They'll certainly be in that company in next week's 49th Congressional, Tuesday through Saturday, when they step up from Grade 2 to Grade 1 level on the global match racing circuit. That will be on the same outer harbor waters where Canfield, ranked No. 8 in the world, won his last 12 races to claim the prize 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.
Canfield, of the U.S. Virgin Islands, already had an invitation to the Congressional, as did Australia's Jordan Reece, who placed fifth overall in the eight-boat international fleet. But Dickson, representing the host club with a local crew, had to win his way in.
They started out Friday by winning their first race against the heavy favorite, Canfield, which turned out to be his only loss in a 12-1 charge, including a 2-0 sweep of Dickson in the title match Sunday.
Along the way, before the final showdown with Canfield, Dickson duked it out with an LBYC pal, Dustin Durant, the defending Ficker champion. In light southwesterly breeze atypical for Long Beach, he outscrapped Durant in the semifinals, 2-1, before losing two straight to Canfield for a final overall mark of 10-4.
Japan's Waturu Sakamoto had the only other overall winning record at 10-5, losing to Canfield in the semifinals, 2-0, before dropping Durant (7-8) in the petite finals, 2-1.
'Not bad for a bunch of old guys,' said Dickson's mainsail trimmer, Chad Hough---a reference to their average age of 41, balanced around Dickson's 42 years.
Canfield, 24, was in the general age group of the other competitors, who were toddlers when Dickson and tactician Steve Flam, 53, were sailing in their early Ficker and Congressional Cups when sailboats were made of wood … well, OK not that long ago.
But this will be Dickson's 12th Congressional and Canfield's third.
When they returned to the dock Canfield bounced over to Dickson's boat to offer boisterous and extended congratulations on his elder's performance.
'We were using this again as a tuneup event,' Canfield said later, 'and we were learning every race, trying different setups to see how they worked out, but always trying our best to win. It was a strong field.'
Dickson said, 'We are all friends. Taylor and his team sailed really well and didn't leave any time on the track … and I'm really pleased with how we sailed and were very consistent for the weekend.
'It's nice to have the Ficker Cup as a buildup to the Congressional. Our goal was to sail consistently and we put in a lot of practice. You have to hit the ground running at this level.'
The Congressional racing Tuesday through Saturday also will be at Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, starting at noon each day, conditions permitting. Admission is free. Bleachers, comfort stations and a snack bar are available. Parking is at the base of the pier, and golf carts will be offered for transport from the beach to the end of the pier.
5th-8th sailoffs: Jordan Reece, Australia, d. Peter Holz, Chicago, 2-0; Chris Poole, Portland, Maine, d. Colin Rathbun, British Virgin Islands, 2-0.
Semifinals: Scott Dickson, Long Beach, d. Dustin Durant, Long Beach, 2-1; Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands, d. Waturu Sakamoto, Japan, 2-0.
Petite finals: Sakamoto d. Durant, 2-1.
Championship finals: Canfield d. Dickson, 2-0.
Congressional Cup website