Not much was going Finland's way at first in the Long Beach Yacht Club's 47th Congressional Cup. The Finns' finishes were lousy, they were first in only one of the first six races on Tuesday, and then tactician Nils Bjerkas slipped overboard on Wednesday, but that marked a turning point.
Rolling past the rough early stages this week, Staffan Lindberg's team have found some form to win eight of its last 12 matches, including one by ten seconds against 2009 champion Johnie Berntsson (SWE) in a Scandinavian showdown Friday.
A final runaway win against struggling Taylor Canfield levelled their double round robin record at 9-9 and ushered them into the fourth and last slot in Saturday's best-of-three semifinals, where they'll meet defending champion Francesco Bruni (17-1), while 2007 winner Mathieu Richard of France (13-5) goes against Great Britain's Ian Williams (13-5).
The tall and taciturn Lindberg skipper said, "I think we were too bad in the beginning, but we got better and better. We had nothing to lose. This was our first sailing [since last September]. I'm pretty sure we'll make a run [Saturday]."
The problem for everyone has been stopping Bruni's charge. The Italian has won his last 10 races since losing to Williams on Wednesday by one second and seems to be making all the right moves.
"We've never had such a good feeling on the boat," he said. "I hope our luck is not over. You need some good luck to go 17 and one."
As was his option, Bruni picked Lindberg, as his semifinals opponent, although with some reservations.
"He's sailing better and better every day, and we know that,"
A day earlier Bruni noted, perhaps ominously, "Over the last five years in Grade 1 [match racing] events, the opponents picked have won 70 per cent of the sailoffs."
The weather Friday was ideal. A heavy storm that was heading south toward Long Beach the previous two days suddenly veered east into Nevada, leaving a steady 13-knot southwesterly that was expected to continue into Saturday.
The downside was two more crew members hitting the drink: pitman Matt Clark off Canfield's boat and tactician Andrew Campbell off Dave Perry's boat. Both were quickly retrieved, although their races were lost.
1. Francesco Bruni
2. Mathieu Richard
(FRA) and Ian Williams
4. Staffan Lindberg
5. Dave Perry
6. Johnie Berntsson
(SWE) and Simone Ferrarese
8. Eugeniy Neugodnikov
9. Taylor Canfield
(U.S. Virgin Islands) and Philip Robertson