Berntsson blasts through qualifying at Congressional Cup
"Mr Canfield, I like your jacket!" announced reigning Match Racing World Champion Phil Robertson (NZL), at the 53rd Congressional Cup's opening 'Meet the Skippers' dinner.
Robertson, hot off a win in Match Cup Australia, alluded to some unfinished business from last year, when he finished at the top in Qualifying, but was eliminated in the Quarter Finals – leaving the door open for Canfield to win his third consecutive Crimson Blazer.
The Crimson Blazer is the iconic prize and symbol of the Congressional Cup – along with the behemoth silver trophy on display at Long Beach Yacht Club.
“That’s mine!” chided Harry Price (AUS), pointing to the trophy, and joining the charge. Everyone is eager to unseat Canfield, number one-ranked by World Sailing; but the team best poised to crush Canfield, after two days of racing, appears to be Johnie Berntsson (SWE).
Berntsson and Canfield are matched point-for-point with nine wins each. The 2009 winner of the Congressional Cup, Berntsson has returned to Long Beach with a new, multi-cultural team, saying the mix is “challenging” – “but the really tight racing fires us up!” With one Dane, three Swedes and two Aussies, they are in first place at the end of Qualifying, winning the tie breaker over Canfield with a win in Flight 8.
Today’s variable winds fluctuated from a low of 5 knots to a gusty 20 knot breezes in the afternoon, which put a halt to racing as the skippers changed to smaller jibs.
With tomorrow’s forecast for more breeze, Principal Race Officer Randy Smith pressed to complete all 14 flights of Qualifying, and called for an 1100 start to Friday’s races.
Berntsson, Canfield, Robertson and Sam Gilmour (NZL) move straight to the Quarter Finals on Saturday, with Friday now a welcome day off. The balance will fight for their spots in the Repechage; an eight boat round robin, to determine which four move on … and which four go home.
The Congressional Cup is the second of seven stops on the prestigious World Match Racing Tour (WMRT). Hosted by the Long Beach Yacht Club and raced in the Long Beach Sailing Foundation fleet of 37-foot Catalina keelboats. The competition continues through Sunday April 2, directly off Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.
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