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Canfield confirms, Mesnil makes eight: Line-up set for 55th LBYC Congressional Cup

by Betsy Crowfoot 9 Feb 2019 08:09 PST 3-7 April 2019
Taylor Cranfield, Day 2, Congressional Cup, Long Beach Yacht Club © Bronny Daniels

Reigning Congressional Cup Champion Taylor Canfield, USA, has announced he will return to the course April 3 to 7, to defend his title in this sensational Grade One Match Race regatta hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club. France's Maxime Mesnil, No. 5 in World Sailing Match Race rankings, will round out the roster.

The Congressional Cup is one of the leading match race events in the sport, bringing top talent from around the globe to compete in this exciting one-on-one competition. Teams race in double round robins, squaring off against each rival twice to advance (or not) into semi-finals and finals. This thrilling competition takes place directly off the Long Beach Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, where spectators can enjoy the action and commentary, free, from 11:30AM to 5PM daily.

The winner of this five-day extravaganza is awarded the prestigious Congressional Cup trophy and Crimson Blazer an honor bestowed on sailing greats such as Dennis Conner, Dean Barker, Ken Read, Ted Turner and defending champion Taylor Canfield.

"It is always exciting to have the reigning winner return to Congressional Cup to defend their title," noted Chairman Arleen Tolle. A four-time victor, Canfield is tied with Gavin Brady and Peter Holmberg for the most titles in the 55-year tradition of the event. Triumph in 2019 would make Canfield the winningest skipper in history.

However, Tolle conceded, "I don't think winning his fifth Congressional Cup is as important as 'just winning!' Taylor is very competitive and always brings his best game to the Cup."

And his recently announced America's Cup challenge Stars & Stripes Team USA, under the Long Beach Yacht Club burgee, has members all the more excited.

"Putting together an America's Cup challenge is a huge undertaking, and as Congressional Cup Chairman, I am very appreciative that the Stars and Stripes team took time out of their busy schedule to accept our invitation," Tolle added.

Also joining the Congressional Cup lineup is Maxime Mesnil, who has earned his No. 5 ranking by triumphing in a host of Grade 2, 3 and 4 match racing events. He makes his Congressional Cup debut after competing in Ficker Cup last year.

"Ficker Cup is a Grade 2 event, but the competition is A-1 quality," said Tolle. "Due to our limit of eight invitations to Congressional Cup, many highly qualified and highly ranked teams recognize Ficker Cup as an alternative path to a direct invitation to Congressional Cup."

"There is no question a first-timer in Ficker Cup, Congressional Cup or Long Beach has a learning curve with regard to the boats, venue and conditions," Tolle added. "I anticipate Maxime's second appearance will be much more familiar and competitive. We look forward to seeing what he can do!"

The final two skippers in the Congressional Cup roster will be the winner and runner-up of the Ficker Cup, March 29 to 31. It is both a qualifier to Congressional Cup, and an aggressively sought-after and fought-after title in its own right.

The Ficker Cup Match Race was established by LBYC in 1980 to honor Bill Ficker, world-class Star champion and the victorious 1970 America's Cup skipper, aboard the 12-meter Intrepid.

Ficker was also the winner of the Congressional Cup in 1974, and was often on-hand at his namesake regatta to enjoy the racing and present trophies, until his passing in 2017

This year's Ficker Cup lineup includes returning skippers Joachim Aschenbrenner, DEN; Harry Price, AUS; Chris Poole, USA; Charles Lalumiere USA; and LBYC's own David Hood, USA. Chris Nesbitt, USA, winner of the California Dreamin' Series will be competing in his inaugural Ficker Cup, along with Tom Spithill, AUS, and Pearson Potts Jr., USA: winner of the Grand Slam and 2018 U.S. Match Racing Championship.

Ficker Cup and Congressional Cup spectators can enjoy live race action between the hours of 11:30AM and 5:00PM March 29 to 31 and April 3 to 7, from a vantage point on Long Beach' Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. During the Congressional Cup, stadium seating is provided along with expert commentary, camaraderie, plus food and beverages for sale. Live-streaming coverage and features will bring the Congressional Cup to viewers around the globe, Friday April 5 through Sunday April 7, at and on Facebook.

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