by Rich Roberts
Ficker Cup* hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club from Thursday through Saturday, will see eight ambitious young sailors from four countries competing for the sole remaining berth in next week's 47th Congressional Cup.
Dave Perry (left boat) and Sally Barkow (r) battle it out in the last race of the 2009 Ficker Cup
The list, in order of their latest ISAF world rankings noted in parentheses, is headed by three competitors from afar: Simone Ferrarese (21) of Italy's Yacht Club Cortina d'Ampezzo, William Tiller (35) of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and David Chapman (37) of Australia's Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
Their five American hosts lying in wait are Chris Nesbitt (121) of Balboa Yacht Club, Bob Hughes (326) of Michigan's Macatawa Bay Yacht, Dustin Durant (373) of host LBYC, John Horsch (392) of San Francisco's Treasure Island Sailing Center and Mike Komar (834) of the Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay, N.Y.
The current ISAF rankings are typically widespread not necessarily reflecting skill but match racing opportunities, especially in the U.S. until recently. The Ficker Cup is rated Grade 2 by ISAF, awarding the second highest points to competitors. The Congressional Cup is Grade 1, but events rated 3 through 5 are less rewarding in ranking points.
Durant squeezed into the Ficker Cup by accumulating the most points in this month's California Dreamin' Series events in San Francisco, Long Beach and San Diego. He didn't win any of them but persistence paid off with successive fourth, third and second places, while the three winners---Shawn Bennett, Russ Silvestri and Nevin Snow---skipped one or two events.
But Durant will see one familiar face this week. Tiller won the Dreamin' event in Long Beach---the Butler Cup---after previously securing an invitation to the Ficker Cup.
Durant said, 'Going into the series everybody had a chance and I'm pretty happy with how we've done. We could have done better and had some bad luck, but the crew work has been really improving. This last weekend [at San Diego] the crew work was right on!'
One problem for most of the skippers is to recruit more crew for the Ficker. They sailed with three or four in the San Francisco and San Diego events but will need six or seven on the Catalina 37s at Long Beach.
Durant, 23, said, 'For Ficker Cup I'm having to get a crew together. I've got our core group of Tyler Wolk, Shane Young and myself but need three other guys. There are a couple of guys, one from Redondo Beach and the other from Dana Point, that are going to help us out and I've got a call out for the sixth person.'
He credits Scott Dickson, an LBYC member and veteran of several Congressional Cups, with his improvement.
'Scotty has helped me a lot with control over the years. When I first started I got really excited and was jumping up and down. His mantra is 'smooth controlled aggression.' He'd go out with me and kept repeating that. He drilled that into me and it calmed me down a lot.
'Going into Ficker Cup, I know I can accomplish any kind of start that I want. I can handle either the pin end or the race committee end. When I start I know I can push a boat down and get the advantage. I can do that.
'We learned over the last few weeks that whenever we got an even start with the other boat we would end up leading at some point during that race. We just need to work on holding that lead during the race.'
Durant doesn't lack for local support. He is the son of Bill Durant, an LBYC member and veteran racer.
'Dusty first started match racing with me in the Pacific Life Yacht Club Challenge back in 2005,' Bill Durant said.' Newport Harbor Yacht Club chartered the [Catalina] 37s and Dusty did bow for us for a couple of years. Then, between Scotty and me, he's done a lot more match racing. He trimmed main for Scotty in a couple of Con Cups.
'I think he's grown up a lot over the last couple of months. He's had some losses, and had successes. Overall his skills have really improved.'
The eight racers will sail a Congressional Cup format of two round-robins, with the top four advancing to sailoffs on Saturday.
The spectator-friendly competition will be run directly off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach. Daily starting times---probably around noon---will be determined by weather conditions.
The 47th Congressional Cup March will follow next Tuesday through Saturday. Several of the world's top-ranked sailors from eight countries and one U.S. territory will compete for the iconic prize in the United States' only Grade 1 match racing event.
The list is headed by 2007 winner Mathieu Richard of France, ranked No. 3 in the world, and also includes Ian Williams of Great Britain, No. 5; 2010 winner Francesco Bruni of Italy, No. 8; Evgeny Neugodnikov of Russia, No. 9; Phil Robertson of New Zealand, No. 10; 2009 winner Johnie Berntsson of Sweden, No. 17; Staffan Lindberg of Finland, No. 19; Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands, No. 29, and Dave Perry of the U.S., No. 36.
* The Ficker Cup was established by LBYC in 1980 to honor Bill Ficker, world class Star champion in the 50’s, winner of the 1970 American’s Cup as skipper of the 12-meter class yacht Intrepid and winner of the 1974 Congressional Cup.
The Ficker Cup was upgraded from an ISAF Grade 3 event to a Grade 2 in 2011.
Ficker Cup entries
(In current ISAF ranking order)
21-Simone Ferrarese ITA (Yacht Club Cortina d'Ampezzo)
35-William Tiller NZL (Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron)
37-David Chapman AUS (Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron)
121-Chris Nesbitt USA (Balboa Yacht Club)
326-Bob Hughes USA (Macatawa Bay Yacht Club)
373- Dustin Durant USA (Long Beach Yacht Club)
392-John Horsch USA (Treasure Island Sailing Center)
834-Mike Komar USA (Oakcliff Sailing Center)