Taylor Canfield returns to the Congressional Cup in California in quest of a third successive victory at this prestigious event, the second of the ‘short season’ of the World Match Racing Tour. It’s a victory that Canfield and his US One team need after only managing 7th place at the first event of the season a month ago in Australia, at the World Match Racing Tour Fremantle.
The regatta in Fremantle was a first step into new Tour territory, with the ultra lightweight M32 catamarans becoming the new weapon of choice, more in line with the kind of high-speed apparent-wind sailing that defines the modern America’s Cup. For the ‘short season’ of the Tour which concludes just three months from now in Marstrand, Sweden, the Congressional Cup is the only event that won’t be contested in M32s. For Canfield and the other 11 top-class international skippers competing out of Long Beach Yacht Club in the coming days, this event is a return to more traditional territory, with the racing taking place in Catalina 37 keelboats.
Canfield went to Fremantle with high expectations of winning in the M32s, having had more practice than his rivals in the 500kg catamarans. But his most bitter rival, Great Britain’s Ian Williams, proved a fast learner as the reigning and six-time World Champion went on to dominate the latter stages of the event and won Fremantle at a canter. Perhaps the Congressional Cup might offer a more level playing field, and perhaps it might be neither Canfield nor Williams (both two-time winners at Long Beach) who earn the right to don the winner’s Crimson Blazer at the end of the week. Of the 12 skippers gathered in Long Beach, the only other previous winner is Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson who arrives on a hot streak of form having just qualified for the event after winning last week’s Ficker Cup Presented by Porsche. The Swede, who won the Congressional Cup in 2009, beat Scott Dickson (USA) in the finals of the Ficker Cup, with Dickson also qualifying for what will be his 16th participation in the Congressional Cup.
There is another strong Swedish entry skippered by World No.3 Bjorn Hansen, who has some useful local knowledge on board his crew in the form of Long Beach resident Philip Kai Guhle. It’s quite possible that the dangerous Danish Viking, Nicolai Sehested, could pillage and destroy the opposition in Long Beach. Sehested has proved that he fears no one – not even the multiple World Champion Williams – when he beat the Briton in the final of the Energa Sopot Match Racing in Poland during last year’s World Match Racing Tour. Sam Gilmour, one of two Australian entries here, is another young gun capable of beating the World Champion, Gilmour being the only skipper to take a match off Williams in the M32s last month in Fremantle. Arguably one of the most experienced sailors of all 12 skippers is also the only female on the entry list, Sally Barkow: former Olympic sailor, twice US Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and veteran of the recent Volvo Ocean Race with Team SCA. Most important of all, however, is her vast match racing experience, all of which she will need against some very tough opponents this week. Racing commences today, 6th April, concludes on 10th April.
SKIPPER COUNTRY TOUR SEEDING
|Scott Dickson||USA 388||12|