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26 March 2012, 08:50 am
Sailing Pros Zero In On Congressional Cup
Johnie Berntsson and bowman Bjorn Lundgren hope to repeat this 2009 champagne celebration
Johnie Berntsson and bowman Bjorn Lundgren hope to repeat this 2009 champagne celebration

Congressional Cup
California, USA

If you're an ambitious sailor who wants to make it big in match racing, you couldn't find a better place to start than Long Beach.
It's worked for several of the competitors in the Long Beach Yacht Club's 48th Congressional Cup running Tuesday through Saturday, including past winners Ian Williams of the UK (now ranked No. 1 in the world), Johnie Berntsson of Sweden and four-time winner Gavin Brady of New Zealand and Annapolis, Md. All built successful professional careers on the foundation of the game's granddaddy event.

Simone Ferrarese (ITA) plans to follow that path. The young Italian was a 23-year-old unknown until he wangled an invitation to last year's Ficker Cup qualifying event and won his way into the Congressional Cup, where he finished an impressive sixth in the 10-team field.

From there he jumped onto the World Match Racing Tour, where he has raised his world ranking to 17 with a steady stream of successes in Grade 1 and 2 events---good enough to secure a Tour Card for automatic entry on this season's Alpari World Match Racing Tour. Ferrarese, Williams, Berntsson (No. 7) and Laurie Jury of New Zealand (No. 11) are among only nine WMRT card holders with automatic entry to the series' 2012 events.

Others competing here are Staffan Lindberg, Finland (14); Eric Monnin, Switzerland, (15); Will Tiller, New Zealand (19), and Taylor Canfield, U.S. Virgin Islands (27).

Ferrarese can almost make a decent living at it now---and is well aware that this $60,000 purse, with $15,000 to the winner, would help.

And it can't hurt that two of his crew's given names are Michelangelo and Leonardo and another's surname is Mantovani, making them the most artistic-sounding team in the sport.

In an interview with the VSail.info website late last year, Ferrarese said, "We pay for all the match races we do all around the world [and are] working a lot in fleet races in order to raise the necessary funding.

"This year we won the Ficker Cup ... finished fourth at the Open de España, were fourth at the Grade 1 in St. Petersburg and [then] won the Master De España."


In three of those events he outsailed Tiller, another rising star. "My team is very proud of these results, and because we are Europeans we felt it important to let you know our position," Ferrarese told VSail.info.

Another of his rivals can relate to that. Dustin Durant, 24, won last week's Ficker Cup to claim the 10th berth in the Congressional Cup. Now he steps up to a higher level, where he isn't a total stranger.

"The thing with the really good guys is they're way more predictable in their maneuvers,"
Durant said, "so there will probably be a lot less surprising action."

There will be two round robins, with the top four advancing into best-of-three semifinals and finals.

All racing will be in the outer harbour off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in east Long Beach. Admission is free; snacks, refreshments and comfort stations will be available. Parking in the lot at the base of the pier will be complimentary.

The event also has political support in this election year. The Long Beach City Council has proclaimed March as "Congressional Cup Month" in the city of 462,257.

Congressional Cup teams will sail the Catalina 37s with standard crews of six, including the skipper, rotating boats daily. The boats, designed and built by Catalina Yachts primarily for match racing, are owned and maintained by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation.

The Congressional Cup has maintained a high level of organization with a unique volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families. Each crew is assigned boat hostesses and a housing team to deliver the outstanding local hospitality the Congressional Cup has offered now for 48 years.

Rich Roberts
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