'This is a good opportunity and has the added effect of generating interest in the Congressional Cup,' Scott DICKSON said. 'People are watching match racing in the America's Cup at the moment, and Congressional Cup will benefit.'
DICKSON represents the host club in his 11th Con Cup, which also has France's Mathieu RICHARD - #2 in the latest release of the ISAF World Match Race Rankings - and Eugeniy NEUGODNIKOV (RUS) and Andrew ARBUZOV (RUS), the event's first Russian competitors since Andrei NIKOLAYEV in 1998.
The field is completed by France's Damien IEHL (world #10), Sweden's Johnie BERNTSSON (#14), New Zealand's Simon MINOPRIO (#21), Sweden's Martin ANGSELL (#19), the USA's Brian ANGEL (#35) of nearby Redondo Beach and Poland's Przemek TARNACKI (#42).
DICKSON said, 'It's a fleet that the people here may not be familiar with, and to say there's a red-hot favourite is a bold statement. But by the end of the week people will figure out that all of the teams here are very talented.'
The total purse will be $41,000, including $10,000 to the winner. Spectators will have free seating for the racing on Belmont Pier, site of the start and finish lines. Food and beverages will be available in a new patio setting. Veteran local sailor Steve STEINER (USA), a former Con Cup competitor, will offer expert commentary. Video highlights produced by t2p.tv will be available nightly on the event website www.lbyc.org/concup.
The event will be managed by about 300 LBYC volunteers, including hostess teams for each crew. The competitors, six to a crew, will sail ten Catalina 37s, rotating boats each day. Each team will race every other team twice. The six that fail to reach Saturday's semi-finals will sail a 10-mile fleet race on the final championship day.
DICKSON received his first big break in the 1994 Con Cup. 'I had an opportunity to take a break from accounting and come over [from New Zealand] and sail with a friend of the family, Mike CAMPBELL. I literally stepped off the plane and they said, 'Oh, by the way, we've got you a position as tactician in an upcoming regatta . . . the Congressional Cup.' My eyes went as big as saucers.'
He sailed with Mike ELIAS on the LBYC entry, and a year later returned to California to join his brother's shoestring America's Cup campaign for Tag Heuer before settling in Long Beach.
'It was a three-boat campaign and pretty much a family affair,' DICKSON said. 'I drove the chase boat, our father Roy drove the tender and we gave Chris whatever was left over.'
Chris DICKSON has considerably more sponsorship this time, but the America's Cup or even a full-on match racing programme has not attracted Scotty. Although he has competed in events all over the world, he has preferred individual contracts as a professional in various events.
'This week, for instance,' he said, 'I had a chance to go race in Capri, but I wouldn't give up an opportunity to do one more Congressional Cup.'
And who is he picking in Valencia? 'Personal relationships aside,' Scotty said, 'Being familiar not just with Chris but the entire team, it would be a brave man that would pick against them.'
Acura, the luxury division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., is the presenting sponsor of the Congressional Cup.
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