Long Beach, California: With six wins from seven matches, Jeffrey Petersen (USA) dominated on the first day of round robin match racing for the Ficker Cup trophy at Long Beach Yacht Club.
The reigning US Youth Match Racing Champion at just 19-years-old, Petersen topped the leaderboard, defeating each of his adversaries in the formidable fleet. This is with the exception of his rival and friend, David Wood (USA), finishing 6:1. Wood finished 5:2.
Ficker Cup Chair Lisa Meier welcomed the eight teams from the US and abroad to the event which had been cancelled once, and postponed ‘til September, due to the pandemic.
“Interest in the Ficker Cup exploded the moment the dates were released,” Meier announced. “We had dozens of inquiries from all over the world: people were so excited to get back on the race course, and eager for an invitation.”
The Ficker Cup is a Grade Two event and official event of the World Match Racing Tour, the world’s leading world championship match racing series sanctioned by World Sailing. As a bonus, the Ficker Cup serves as a qualifier for the Congressional Cup, with the top three finishers advancing to that event Sept. 14 to 19.
“The level of competition here is so high: the stakes are high,” Meier continued pointing out the skippers have pulled together some lofty teams.
Emil Kjaer (DEN) has Congressional Cup veteran Joachim Aschenbrenner on board; the world’s number four-ranked match racing skipper Maxime Mesnil is sailing with Pauline Courtois (FRA); and David Hood (USA) has crew from the ranks of four-time Congressional Cup champion Taylor Canfield.
The Ficker Cup was established in 1980 to recognise Bill Ficker – a distinguished lifelong sailor and competitor. Prior to that time, US clubs would run sail-offs and send their best skipper to compete in the Congressional Cup. Before his passing in 2017, Ficker was a frequent visitor to the regatta and presented his namesake trophy to the winners.
Conditions were spectacular for the first of three days of racing, with sunshine and steady breezes. The early tentativeness of the racers gave way to confidence and ferocity as the day went on.
By Match Four, the box was penalty alley, with flags flying as the sailors became more savvy racing the Catalina 37s – a custom one-design keelboat specially manufactured for the Congressional Cup – and began feeling their oats.
Petersen had been scrapping all summer with Kjaer and Wood, who, along with Peter Holz (USA), were tied for second at the end of the day. In June Petersen won the US Youth Match Racing Championship for the Rose Cup and followed up with a victory in the Governor’s Cup in July – where he edged out Kjaer in the finals.
However, it was Wood who triumphed in the International Youth Match Racing World Championship in mid-August, with Petersen in second, and Kjaer in fourth.
“We’ve had a fortunate opportunity to race each other a lot since June,” Petersen said. “It’s a lot of fun, developing those relationship; there’s some playful banter and a little bit of trash talk during the race, but it’s all in the name of fun.”
On the flip side was Pauline Courtois’s team from Le Havre, France, who finished 1:6 at the end of a challenging day. This was something she had fully anticipated.
The three-time Women’s Match Racing French champion said “We are very happy to be here. It’s a prestigious event and a really good regatta, but a very different boat than what we sail in France and in the women’s events. It’s bigger and heavier so it’s more challenging.”
Courtois added, “That’s a good way to improve our sailing, and to progress, so we’re very happy and excited to compete and will try to do our best.”
Racing continues on the weekend at the Congressional Cup stadium, a designated race course adjacent the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Spectators are invited to watch the action, for free, beginning at 11:30am daily.
Live results: https://wmrt.com/events/the-ficker-cup-2021/