The Congressional Cup 2014 - Williams hangs on with a classy crowd

Taylor Canfield (l.) forces first-place Ian Williams behind the committee boat at the start as Francesco Bruni did a day earlier giving himself an easy win.
Rich Roberts
Adam Minoprio has skippered in the Congressional Cup and other major match racing competitions, but has a new role in the game these days: tactician for 2010 Crimson Blazer winner Francesco Bruni, in Italy's renewed Luna Rossa campaign for the America's Cup, starting with Stage Two of this event.

The New Zealand native speaks little Italian, but that isn't a problem.

'Everybody on the boat speaks English,' Minoprio said, 'but the big thing this week is to make sure my English is clear and not too Kiwi.'

It's a joke, but it must be working. Bruni's boat was among half the fleet of 10 that completed the last four flights of the first of two round-robins Thursday by winning three of four matches. Ian Williams of the UK is still alone on top at seven - two, with Italy's Bruni, France's Mathieu Richard and Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands hard on his tail---literally---at six - three, followed by Sweden's Johnie Berntsson making a comeback at four - five. All were three - one on the day.

Francesco Bruni leads Simone Ferrsrese around the leeward mark but moments later was unable to drop his spinnaker and fell behind allowing Ferrarese an easy win - The Congressional Cup 2014
Rich Roberts

Competition continues with the second round-robin Friday and Saturday, followed by the semifinals Sunday.

Williams' lead would be a bit larger if Canfield, ranked No. one in the world, hadn't done to him precisely what Bruni did 24 hours earlier: stalking his stern and, using his right-of-way position, to force him behind the committee boat right up to the starting horn, requiring Williams (No. two) to do a downwind turnaround as Canfield sailed away into the end of the lazy, hazy day.

'Today we were starting a little better,' said Canfield, who was three - two the previous day. 'Communication on the team is better. We knew he was (approaching in the line) early, so we wanted to get him as far up in the box as possible.'

But the most interesting start was in the first flight of the day when Bruni and Swinton stalled dead in the water at the pin end of the line and Berntsson, scheduled for the next start, entered the box and poked his boat between them, drawing a foul.

Excuse me! When Francesco Bruni and Keith Swinton stalled at the starting line Johnie Berntsson entered the box for the next start and drew a penalty - The Congressional Cup 2014
Rich Roberts

Meanwhile, Bruni was cruising at three - zero on the day and led fellow Italian Simone Ferrarese off the starting line and around the first of two laps until, he said, 'We had an issue with a spinnaker takedown. The (spinnaker) pole wasn't coming off, and the sheet caught somewhere on the hatch.'

Before they could straighten it out, Ferrarese was gone out of reach.

Richard launched his comeback by dealing Canfield his only defeat of the day, then lost to Australia's Keith Swinton (five - four) before beating Ferrarese (three - six) and New Zealand's Phil Robertson (three - six).

'We had some very poor starts today,' Richard said, 'but we got three points, anyway. I'm very proud of the crew.'

And Bruni seems happy with his new tactician.

Minoprio said, 'It's good that while the Kiwis have such a big role in the sailing world that I have an opportunity.'

Phil Robertdon (l) and Taylor Canfield took their pre-start duel almost under the Belmont Veterans Mermorizl Pier - The Congressional Cup 2014
Rich Roberts

He searched out a role elsewhere when it became clear that the continuing Emirates Team New Zealand campaign---unlike the U.S. dearth of Americans on the American boat Oracle in last year's successful America's Cup defense---was overcrowded with homegrown sailors. Luna Rossa's AC team responded favorably.

Minoprio, 28, grew up in Auckland, 'but I haven't really lived there in six years,' he said, while sailing with various international campaigns around the world, including ETNZ's 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race aboard Camper.

Nine more flights remain on the Long Beach outer harbor over the next two days to determine the four semifinalists who will mix it up Sunday. Total prize money is $75,000, with $17,500 to the winner through $2,000 for last place.

Racing is scheduled to start daily at 11:30 a.m., conditions permitting. Spectators enjoy incomparable viewing of the races from Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Admission is free, as is parking at the base of the pier. Seating, free public shuttles along the pier, concessions and comfort stations are available.

Taylor Canfield follows Mathieu Richard downwind - The Congressional Cup 2014
Rich Roberts

Standings after nine of eighteen flights:

1. Ian Williams, UK, 7-2; 2. tie among Mathieu Richard, France; Taylor Canfield, USVI, and Francesco Bruni, Italy, 6-3; 5. Keith Swinton, Australia, 5-4; 6. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, 4-5; 7. tie among Simone Ferrarese, Italy, Phil Robertson, New Zealand, and Dave Perry, U.S., 3-6; 10: Scott Dickson, U.S., 2-7.

For complete results please click here.