Next month's 37th Congressional Cup brings the road to the next America's Cup through Long Beach, where Rod Davis will feel right at home.
Davis has won twice as many Congressional Cups as anyone else: four. The
winner's traditional prize is a Crimson Blazer, and he has enough to outfit
his own barbershop quartet. As an honorary member, he will represent the
host Long Beach Yacht Club, for which he won his first title in 1981.
Following that initial success, he won every four years through 1993. He
missed '97 but returns on schedule in 2001. The California native now lives
in New Zealand and sails for Italy's Prada Challenge.
But April 25-29, with a touch of Auckland in the air, he will face what may
be the event's strongest fleet. Seven of the 10 skippers will be gearing up
for the next America's Cup in 2002-2003, and other participants represent
as many as six other Con Cup titles.
-- Rod Davis, New Zealand, four-time winner, Olympic gold and silver
medalist, veteran of eight America's Cups, coach and prospective helmsman
for Prada Challenge;
-- Bertrand Pacé, France, No. 6 in ISAF world match race rankings,
defending Swedish Match Tour champion, Olympic gold and bronze medalist,
skipper Le Defí Challenge in 1999-2000, Team New Zealand afterguard for
-- Peter Holmberg, U.S. Virgin Islands, two-time winner ('98, '99), Olympic
silver medalist, ranked No. 25, Team Dennis Conner afterguard '99-2000,
Oracle Challenge afterguard 2002-2003;
-- Ken Read, Newport, R.I., returning as Team Dennis Conner helmsman;
-- Jesper Radich Johansen, Denmark, ranked no. 5;
-- Andy Green, U.K., ranked No. 8, member GBR Challenge;
-- Luc Pillot, France, ranked no. 9;
-- James Spithill, Australia, ranked No. 10, skipper Young Australia in
'99-2000 America's Cup, OneWorld Challenge afterguard in 2002-2003;
-- Morgan Larson, Santa Cruz, Calif., member AmericaOne Challenge in
'99-2000, OneWorld in 2002-2003;
-- Sebastian Destremau, Australia, ranked No. 18.
Two-time ('96-97) Congressional Cup winner Gavin Brady, a New Zealander
living in Annapolis, Md., has moved from AmericaOne to Prada and will be
Davis' tactician. Terry Hutchinson of Annapolis, who won in '92, has
joined Team DC and will work with Read.
Also, Australia's Peter Gilmour, the '88 winner, is the designated skipper
for OneWorld and could sail with Spithill. Larson's tactician will be
another OneWorld member, Olympic gold and silver medalist Jonathan McKee.
Finally, one other two-time winner will make at least a brief appearance.
Dennis Conner ('73, '75) is scheduled to speak at the 'Meet the Skippers'
dinner Tuesday night, April 24.
Against that lineup, the absence of the defending champion won't be felt so
much. Dean Barker has taken over Team New Zealand's sailing operation from
Russell Coutts, who defected to the Swiss Challenge with much of the team.
'I would love to have come back,' Barker said, 'but unfortunately there is
a lot going on with Team New Zealand around the same time, so we could only
send one team.'
Pacé, now with TNZ, will sail with a Kiwi crew.
Davis, 45, was ineligible to sail on the Prada boat last year but coached
the crew and drove the trial boat for the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger
trials winners. Now he is bidding to take over the helm of the race boat.
One of his rivals besides skipper Francesco de Angelis is Brady, who was
only 22 when he won his first Con Cup in '96.
'Now is the time for me to get in and work with someone like Rod,' Brady
said. 'I think he's at the peak of his career.'
The competitors will sail Catalina 37s in a double round-robin format,
followed by best-of-three semifinals and finals. A windward-leeward course
will be set near shore off Belmont Pier, which will offer facilities for
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