by David Murray
Ficker Cup 2012 - In an ambitious young sailor's dream world, he (or she) somehow finds the way into the Long Beach Yacht Club's match race event, wins it to qualify for the prestigious Congressional Cup, and then wins the Congressional Cup. Sailors are looking to follow the course of Gavin Brady.
Gavin Brady’s crew fights the spinnaker in 15-knot winds Congressional Cup 2008 Day 2
That's what Gavin Brady did in 1996 and what eight competitors from the next generation will be reaching for in the Grade 3 Ficker Cup Thursday through Saturday. Meanwhile, Brady will be contemplating an unprecedented fifth win in the Grade 1 Congressional Cup next week.
Sixteen years ago he was an unfamiliar young Kiwi riding the crest of New Zealand's landmark victory in the 1995 America's Cup. Brady, 22, came from behind in the last race to beat France's Thierry Peponnet and win the first of his four Crimson Blazers on a tiebreaker, each with 15 wins and three losses in the days before semifinal sailoffs.
'We got in by winning the Ficker Cup,' Brady recalled recently. 'I had [local crew] Steve Flam and Rich Matzinger who knew the area and the boats. We were very fast and went the right way.'
The right way to a successful sailing career.
'The Congressional Cup gave us the credibility to get invites to other events around the world,' Brady said.
This year's Ficker Cup competitors can draw high hope from Brady's past.
In order of ISAF's world ranking, they are Canada's Peter Wickwire, Royal Canadian YC, Toronto, 35, and Americans Nevin Snow, San Diego YC, 42; Dustin Durant, Long Beach YC, 84; Nicholas Dugdal, San Francisco YC, 100; Mike Quaglio, Oakcliff Sailing Center, N.J., 105; Brad Funk, Lauderdale YC, Fla., 127; Mike Komar, Oakcliff Sailing Center, N.J., 218, and Nicole Breault, St. Francis YC, 249.
Breault qualified with high points in two of the three California Dreamin' events at San Francisco and San Diego in J/22s, not the Catalina 37s to be sailed in the Ficker Cup. A couple of her rivals in last weekend's Butler Cup, the third leg of the CD series, would have had a shot if the third and last event hadn't been blown out by extreme weather conditions.
Breault said, 'I think my expectations for how well I will do came up a bit this weekend. What [practice] time we had on the boats was valuable. Also, I will have Bill Durant [of LBYC] calling tactics, which will be a tremendous advantage for us.'
Bill Durant, by the way, is Dustin Durant's father. Hi, dad.
If his and some of the other Ficker sailors' rankings seem modest, consider that Brady's right now is, uh, 451.
Brady said he's not familiar with most of the Congressional Cup entries, let alone the Ficker sailors, because 'I have not been match racing in two years.'
The ratings are based on a progressive scale of a skipper's best four races in each of the proceeding two years. Grade 1 events carry more weight.
'I am not with any [America's Cup] team at this time,' said Brady, who has been concentrating on ocean and fleet racing with the boats Beau Geste and Vesper, a TP52.
But his recent appearances in the Congressional Cup have brought his third and fourth wins in 2006 and 2008 and a close second to Italy's Francesco Bruni in 2009 when he actually logged a better overall won-lost record (18-4) than Bruni (18-5).
The spectator-friendly competitions will be run directly off Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach, the same venue to be used for the Congressional Cup Tuesday through Saturday.
Unlike last weekend's blustery conditions, the long-range forecast calls for light to moderate breeze from the southwest.
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 Star class world championship in 1958. He will present the trophy to the winners.
Congressional Cup website
Long Beach Yacht Club website