Congressional Cup: Four competitors progress to semi-finals

It wasn’t just the sudden 4.3 earthquake that shook things up at the Congressional Cup this weekend at Long Beach, California; the spirited racing found five skippers battling for the final spot in the semi-final round at this prestigious Long Beach Yacht Club, World Match Racing Tour event.

At the start of day four, only two races remained in the double round robin series: a scant 1.5 points separating the five hopefuls. Jeffrey Petersen (USA) and Emil Kjaer (DEN) each went 1-1; while David Wood’s (USA) losses to Petersen and Johnie Berntsson (SWE) eliminated him from the hunt. But when Chris Poole (USA) aced both of his matches – including a stunning win over Berntsson – he leapfrogged the pack to land the final spot in the semis.

“I thought it would be a tall order to get through,” Poole admitted, after an opening day record of 2-5. “This is a really tough event, and the field of competition is really deep. And the younger guys we saw come up from Ficker Cup are not slow … so to have that competition: it was really a tall order.”

“There were a lot of factors that had to happen for us to win our two races. That’s all we had control over,” Poole continued. “But the guys on my boat did a phenomenal job and the chips fell in our favour.” Poole called his pairing with Berntsson in the semi-finals a “fist fight” – which included Poole earning a black flag. They ended the day 2-2.

Australian sailor Ryan Wilmot is crewing on board Poole’s boat.

Chris Poole and Johnie Berntsson following each other, crew are pulling down the spinnakers. Umpire is following them.
Chris Poole and Johnie Berntsson won two matches each. Pic – Ian Roman/WMRT

Taylor Canfield (USA), as the frontrunner in Stage One, had selected Eric Monnin (SUI) as his opponent in the semis. A four-time Congressional Cup champion, Canfield ended the day 2-1 against Monnin, who has yet to win a Crimson Blazer. Their second race of the semis was abandoned due to a wind shift.

The 2021 Congressional Cup marks Monnin’s eighth attempt at the title. “For us it’s really cool to be in the semis, it’s our first time,” noted Monnin, who also was black flagged today. “We always struggle a bit on these boats and adapting to the conditions, but this is a big opportunity. We want to perform well so we don’t let that chance go.”

Two boats side-by-side, working upwind.
Taylor Canfield has won the event four times. Pic – Ian Roman/WMRT

Friday afternoon, after four flights of round robin racing, the teams had returned to the club for the most important match of the day: the Junior Congressional Cup. LBYC Junior Sailors – ranging in age from 11 to 15 – were paired up with Congressional Cup skippers for some serious fun on Alamitos Bay.

Competition was lively as the skippers and their pro crews orbited the course, fans and family cheering from the balcony at LBYC. At the head of the pack, lead changes were frequent, especially as the fleet approached the upwind finish. In the final moments Walter McFarland and crew Johnie Berntsson, overtook Alex Lech and crew Taylor Canfield – even as Canfield, clowning, reached out to grab McFarland’s FJ and hold him back! But McFarland broke free and bested Lech by one boat length, with Jack Snow and Sam Gilmour taking third.

“We start them young,” laughed LBYC’s Lisa Meier, who will chair the 2022 Congressional Cup. “The Congressional Cup skippers have always been excellent inspirations for our juniors: providing friendship and role models, with their high level of professionalism and achievement.”

The final day of racing in the 56th Congressional Cup will begins today Sunday Sept. 19 at 11:30AM at the “Congressional Cup Stadium” – a designated racecourse off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, at the south end of 39th Place in Long Beach.

For the full results, see: https://www.matchracingresults.com/2021/congressional-cup/

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