Long Beach, California, USA (7th April 2016): Dismal conditions on the race course forced lengthy postponements, and ultimately curtailed racing, on the second day of Qualifying at the 52nd Congressional Cup regatta, the second stage of the 2016 World Match Racing Tour.
Despite rain and a light, shifty breeze, PRO Randy Smith was able to sneak in two flights, before winds deteriorated to nothing.
And they were eventful races. Phil Robertson (NZL) tacked on two more wins to his tally, climbing to the top of the leaderboard. Meanwhile a tenacious Chris Steele (NZL) evened the score between his 36 Below Racing team, and Nicolai Sehested (DEN) in a match that saw boat speeds, at best, top three knots; and damp spinnakers hang limp.
Following the first postponement – with the course reversed from the norm in an attempt to make the best of an uncharacteristic offshore breeze – Sam Gilmour (AUS) beat Johnie Berntsson (SWE); while Ian Williams (GBR) won his first match of the event, over Eric Monnin (SUI).
Sehested, had entered the day undefeated; but “not invincible,” he implored.
The 26-year-old Dane, currently fifth on the Tour leaderboard, had triumphed over past winners of the Congressional Cup, World Champion Williams, and Taylor Canfield (ISV).
His 5-0 day was no small feat for someone unfamiliar with the custom Catalina 37s, and Long Beach conditions, but he credited his success to, “a strong team, who knows how to set up the boat well.”
“But sailing at the top level like this, things can go up and down rapidly,” he added. “We don’t feel confident at all.”
On the first leg of his match against Steele, he rounded the first mark eight boat lengths ahead, but in the fallow breeze, that eight boat lengths equated to 42 seconds. And by the time Sehested was on his second lap, that advantage had grown to nearly eight minutes. But as Steele rounded the mark astern, he found a lane with a tickle of breeze. That puff carried him to the finish, as Sehested foundered further offshore.
Steele, Sehested, and Taylor Canfield (ISV) each finished the day 5-1; after Canfield defeated Bjorn Hansen (SWE), saying, “we drifted a little faster than them.”
As the zephyrs waned, and drizzle fell, PRO Smith called time on the races, and sailors retreated to the warmth and comfort of the hosts, Long Beach Yacht Club.
Racing will continue through Sunday April 10, in the waters off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, in Long Beach; beginning at roughly 1130 each day.
With unsettled weather ahead, PRO Smith announced that at the conclusion of Qualifying, a modified six-team repechage will be raced. If they are unable to complete more than three flights before the end of the day, the repechage may be eliminated.
Results after Qualifying Day 2
1. Phil Robertson (NZL) WAKA Racing 6-1
2. Chris Steele (NZL) 36 Below Racing 5-1
3. Nicolai Sehested (DEN) Trefor Match Racing 5-1
4. Taylor Canfield (ISV) US One 5-2
5. Eric Monnin (SUI) Albert Riele Swiss Team 4-3
6. Bjorn Hansen (SWE) Nautiska Racing 4-3
7. Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Berntsson Sailing Team 4-3
8. Sam Gilmour (AUS) Neptune Racing 3-4
9. Scott Dickson (USA) Dickson Racing 2-4
10. Keith Swinton (AUS) Black Swan Racing 1-5
11. Sally Barkow (USA) Team Magenta 32 1-6
12. Ian Williams (GBR) GAC Pindar 1-6