Krrunch! The sound was heard by the spectators all the way up on the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier and over the lower part of the race course for the 50th Congressional Cup on the Long Beach outer harbor Sunday.
The collision between the two finalists was startling for all, and heartbreaking for others - like those rooting for Ian Williams (GBR) to wear his third winner's Crimson Blazer in four years.
Instead, the fortunes of fate swung to Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the last minute of the pre-start choreography. First, Williams noticed the six-inch chunk missing from the transom behind his feet, then he reached for the protest flag and moments later saw the on-water umpires respond to his protest with a blue flag, indicating that it was Williams who had broken a rule and was penalised.
Although there remained a decisive race twice around the half-mile windward-leeward course in 10 knots of chilly breeze, with Williams behind and owing a penalty turn, it seemed over before the start. Canfield, 25, said he knew it wasn't.
'We knew it was going to be tough all the way through the race,' he said---and Williams made it so with tacking duels upwind and jibing his spinnaker to steal Canfield's air downwind.
But Canfield and his crew sailed an unforgiving and mistake-free defense to win the championship sailoff with two wins to Williams' one and collect the booty: the traditional Crimson Blazer and $17,500 of the $75,000 total purse.
That's match racing, and the pair performed as their current No. one and No. two world rankings promised in a contest featuring contestants from seven nations.
Canfield's crew consisted of Rod Dawson, spinnaker trim and tactics; Goodrick Hayden, bow; Mike Rehe and Dan Morris, sail trim, and Brian Janney, main sail and pit.
Williams said, 'It's not a good way to lose, but Taylor sailed great. When I look back at it, the first race hurt us more. We had contact in that pre-start, too, but the umpires didn't make the call.'
Funny thing about those flags. There were about a dozen protests upheld by the umpires Sunday and all were against the boats flying identifying blue flags, not the yellow flags of their rivals.
Williams said, smiling slightly, 'With all those blue flags, the umpires must have lost the yellow flags.'
Williams did win the second race . . . after Canfield, then the blue-flag boat, committed a pre-start foul he was never able to resolve with a penalty turn.
Earlier, Canfield dispatched Keith Swinton of Australia in the semifinals, two-zero, while Williams defeated Francesco Bruni of Australia, two-one. Bruni then defeated Swinton, two-one, in the petite sailoff.
Phil Robertson's New Zealand team won the fleet race around the harbor for the six competitors who didn't reach the sailoffs. Final standings
1. Taylor Canfield, USVI
2. Ian Williams, UK
3. Francesco Bruni, Italy
4. Keith Swinton, Australia
5. Simone Ferrarese, Italy
6. Mathieu Richard, France
7. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden
8. Dave Perry, U.S.
9. Phil Robertson, Australia
10. Scott Dickson, U.S.
11. Dustin Durant, U.S.
12. Chris Poole, U.S.
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