Congressional Cup - Long Beach, a.k.a. The International City, will need more flag poles than ever next month to properly present Long Beach Yacht Club's forty seventh Congressional Cup March 22-26.
Several of the world's top-ranked sailors from eight countries and one U.S. territory will compete for the iconic prize in the United States' only Grade 1 match racing event.
The list is headed by 2007 winner Mathieu Richard of France, ranked No. 3 in the world, and also includes Ian Williams of Great Britain, No. 5; 2010 winner Francesco Bruni of Italy, No. 8; Evgeny Neugodnikov of Russia, No. 9; Phil Robertson of New Zealand, No. 10; 2009 winner Johnie Berntsson of Sweden, No. 17; Staffan Lindberg of Finland, No. 19; Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands, No. 29, and Dave Perry of the U.S., No. 36.
Canfield qualified automatically by winning last summer's Grade 2 Trifecta Events series at Chicago, Detroit and Manhasset Bay, N.Y., one of the first qualifying events leading to the Congressional Cup.
The tenth competitor will be determined by the Grade 2 Ficker Cup March 17-19. Then the winner will have two days to recharge for his (or her) jump to the big leagues. Sally Barkow won the Ficker last year, but that competition has since been upgraded from Grade 3 to 2.
This year, with the rapid growth of match racing in the world for both men and women, there's a new door to the Ficker Cup: the California Dreamin' Series of events at San Francisco this weekend, at Long Beach (the Butler Cup) March 5-6 and at San Diego March 12-13.
Theoretically, an ambitious skipper and crew could be racing five consecutive weeks for a chance to win the Congressional Cup's coveted Crimson Blazer.
The venerable Catalina 37s built and donated by Frank Butler of Catalina Yachts and donated to the Long Beach Sailing Foundation in 1991, will be used in all of the Long Beach events to be run before spectators on Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach. .
Scott Truesdale of Long Beach raved about the show last year and described it as 'the BEST yacht racing spectating I've experienced.
'The starting line is 100 meters or less off the public pier and the odd shape of the pier allows the starters to use the pier tactically as an obstruction. There are many pre-starts where you could actually reach out and touch the spreaders of the [boats]. You can hear what the tactician is saying to the helmsman. You could talk to the helmsman yourself if you were to be so bold.
'You can see the entire course from the pier, and having three matches occurring simultaneously means there is always something interesting to see. It's addictive, action-packed, and the beer and food is right there.'
Aside from the qualifying events, the Congressional Cup is invitational, but five of this year's entries---Richard, Williams, Bruni, Berntsson and Robertson---don't have to sweat their credentials otherwise. They are now cardholders on the World Match Racing Tour, meaning they have automatic berths for all nine events. The first of nine WMRT events this year starts May 10 in France.
Richard, 35, finished second behind Ben Ainslie of Great Britain in the final WMRT standings last year, but the triple Olympic Finn class gold medalist and three-time ISAF world sailor of the year has left the tour this year to pursue a fourth gold in his homeland in 2012.
Richard did not sail in the Congressional Cup last year to stay home when he was wife gave birth but led his rivals with three victories on the WMRT.
The Congressional Cup has maintained a high level of organization over the years with a volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families. Each crew is assigned boat hostesses and a housing team to deliver the outstanding local hospitality the Congressional Cup has offered now for 45 years.
Spinnaker sponsors were F&M Bank, the Press-Telegram and Oceanaut Watches. Sails sponsors are MCA Logistics, Gladstone's Restaurant, Newmeyer & Dillion and Union Bank. Hospitality sponsors are The Port of Long Beach, St. Mary Medical Center, City National Bank, The Breakers of Long Beach and Mount Gay Rum. An Honorary sponsor was Catalina Yachts. 2010 results Round Robin Standings
1. Gavin Brady, New Zealand, 15-2.
2. Francesco Bruni, Italy, 14-3.
3. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, 14-3.
4. Bill Hardesty, USA, 11-7.
5. Dave Perry, USA, 10-8, $3,500.
6. Evgeniy Neugodnikov, Russia, 9-9, $3,100.
7. Eric Monnin, Switzerland, 7-11, $2,700.
8. Damien Iehl, France, 7-11, $2,300.
9. Sally Barkow, USA, 2-16, $1,900.
10. Simone Ferrarese, Italy, 1-17, $1,500. Long Beach Yacht Club