by Rich Roberts
No one in Sunday's Heritage Regatta fleet was more excited about it than 60-year-old Dennis Durgan, who won the Long Beach Yacht Club's Congressional Cup classic in 1979 sailing a Cal 40, in 1980 with a Catalina 38, and this event for former Congressional Cup winners on a Catalina 37.
Tommy Pickard leads way to his win in Race one
'It was a thrill and an honor to be invited back to sail,' he said.
Not that he hadn't sailed one of the sturdy sloops that have been a staple since Frank Butler of Catalina Yachts donated them to LBYC in 1990.
'I helped to design the deck layout,' Durgan said.
He may have had another edge, as well: a crew of accomplished current match racers, including tactician Phil Robertson, the No. four-ranked skipper in the world who will take the helm of a Cat 37 in Stage One of the 50th Congressional Cup Monday and Tuesday, intent on grabbing one of four tickets to Stage Two Wednesday through Sunday.
Others on the boat were Jimmy Williamson and Garth Ellinham of New Zealand, Nick Hutton of the United Kingdom and Mustafa Altuner and Pete Hambrick of Long Beach.
They finished fourth among six boats in the first of three races on the Long Beach outer harbor, following Tommy Pickard, 79, of Newport Harbor YC around a two-lap windward-leeward course set before spectators on the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Then Durgan and the gang won the last two races---first a 48-second win in the second race by sailing hard left as everyone else went to the right.
'There was just more pressure on that side,' Robertson said.
But they still had to overtake Skip Allan of Los Angeles YC, who was only two points behind at the time. Allan led the first two legs of the last race before Durgan slipped by on the long off-wind run back to the finish line at LBYC inside Alamitos Bay.
'It a good way to start the week,' said Robertson, who figures to be around through Sunday.
Allan, 69, who won in 1968, wasn't too disappointed, noting, 'It was fun seeing all the guys. We had two good races, and I hadn't sailed the Cat 37s before not much feel on the helm but a big rudder.'
Scott Allan (no relation) of Newport Harbor YC finished fifth overall. He won the third Congressional Cup in 1967 after the late Gerry Driscoll won the first two. He's 67 now.
'When I won I was 20,' he said, 'maybe the youngest ever.'
As the week continues, six invited teams will compete in two days of match racing, starting Monday at 11 a.m. and Tuesday at 11:30. Competitors are Robertson (Number four), Australia's Keith Swinton (Number six) and Americans Christopher Poole (No. 27) from Oyster Bay, N.Y., LBYC members Dustin Durant (No. 37) and Scott Dickson (No. 135)---plus two-time winner, Dave Perry (No. 126), from Pequot YC, Conn.
The Stage One winner will receive the Ficker Cup trophy, which honors 1974 Congressional Cup winner Bill Ficker, who also skippered the 1970 America's Cup winner Intrepid.
Wednesday, the top four teams will advance to Stage Two, joining five previous Congressional Cup winners and the world's new Number one ranked match racing competitor, 25-year-old Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands, shooting for his own Crimson Blazer---the traditional prize. Two-time winner Ian Williams of the UK (Number two) returns along with defending champion Simone Ferrarese (No. 16) of Italy, plus Mathieu Richard of France (Number five); Johnie Berntsson of Sweden (No. 14); and Francesco Bruni (No. 102) of Italy.
These 10 teams, with crews of five, will compete in a double round-robin of match racing Wednesday through Saturday. The top four will go on to duel in championship semifinals and finals Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Contenders will rotate through boats through the week.
Spectators enjoy incomparable viewing of the races from Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Admission is free, with paid parking at the base of the pier. Seating, concessions and comfort stations are available.
Follow Congressional Cup on Facebook or Twitter for daily weather conditions and approximate start times: 11:00-11:30 a.m. Or, view live streaming video on the website, and listen to the play-by-play on VHF Channel 20.
The Congressional Cup has been an innovator in the game of match racing, introducing on-the-water umpiring in the early 1990s, plus a high level of organization with a unique volunteer force of more than 300 LBYC members. Each competing crew is assigned a boat hostess and housing team, who deliver the outstanding local hospitality characteristic of Congressional Cup for half a century, alongside world-class yacht racing.
Long Beach Yacht Club has been one of the nation’s premiere boating institutions since its founding in 1929, located at 6201 E. Appian Way in Long Beach, Calif.
Heritage Regatta results:
Race one ---1. Tommy Pickard, Long Beach YC; 2. Scott Perry, U.S. Naval Academy; 3. Skip Allan, Los Angeles YC; 4. Dennis Durgan, Newport Harbor YC; 5. Scott Allan, Newport Harbor YC; 6. Dave Perry, Yale Corinthian YC.
Race two---Durgan, Scott Perry, Scott Allan, Skip Allan, Dave Perry, Pickard.
Race three---Durgan, Skip Allan, Dave Perry, Scott Allan, Pickard, Scott Perry.
Final scores---Durgan, 6 points; Skip Allan, 9; Scott Perry, 10; Pickard, 12; Scott Allan, 12; Dave Perry, 14.