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18 May 2007, 09:23 am
RICHARD And IEHL Roar Back
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Congressional Cup 2007
Long Beach, California, USA

Everybody knew the Russians were coming to the Long Beach Yacht Club's 43rd ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup, presented by Acura, but not a French revolution. 'La journee de Francais!' said world #2 Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), who now leads the round robin standings.
With four wins and one loss, Thursday was a very good day for RICHARD and even better for Damien IEHL (FRA), whose 5-0 rush punched him from out of the backwash into contention for the fourth slot in Saturday's semi-finals. That will be determined on Friday in the last three round robin matches that loom as an up-tempo scramble.

Russia's Lord of the Sail team led by Eugeniy NEUGODNIKOV went 4-1 to jump into fourth place and sit on the bubble at 9-6, one point ahead of IEHL and Scott DICKSON (USA) of Long Beach at 8-7.

Nothing Decided

Nobody is in the semis for sure - not even RICHARD (12-3), the third overall leader in the first thee days, or New Zealand's Simon MINOPRIO (11.75-2), whose quarter-point penalty from earlier in the week probably will not matter anymore, and certainly not Sweden's Johnie BERNTSSON, who slipped from first to third when his nine-race win streak turned sour into three consecutive losses before he righted himself with a photo-finish win over RICHARD in their last race.

On the other hand, RICHARD and MINOPRIO are home free with only one more win, and BERNTSSON would join then with two, regardless of tiebreakers and other results.

The only certainty, with no past champions in the field, is that the ultimate winner will be wearing the traditional Crimson Blazer for the first time. Sailors currently competing for the America's Cup at Valencia have won ten of the last 11 and 13 of the last 17 Congressional Cups: BMW ORACLE's Chris DICKSON (NZL) in 1990-91 and Gavin BRADY (NZL) in 1996-97, 2006; Emirates Team New Zealand's Dean BARKER (NZL) in 2000, 2005 and Terry HUTCHINSON (USA) in 1992; and Alinghi's Peter HOLMBERG (ISV) in 1998-99, 2001-02 and Ed BAIRD (USA) in 2004.

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Sweden's Johnie BERNTSSON pokes his bow past France's Mathieu RICHARD at the finish line
© Rich Roberts

Next Generation

This younger generation, with similar ambitions, has MINOPRIO, 24; NEUGODNIKOV, 25; Brian ANGEL (USA), 26; Przemek TARNACKI (POL), 29; RICHARD, 30; IEHL, 31; Martin ANGSELL (SWE)), 33; BERNTSSON, 35; DICKSON, 36, and Andrew ARBUZOV (RUS), 41.

Conditions on Thursday mirrored the first two days, starting under a grey and gloomy marine layer with 5 knots of wind and improving to sunny and 12 knots by day's end. Principal Race Officer Randy SMITH's committee ran five rounds for the third day in a row, allowing them the luxury of starting an hour later on Friday so everyone can sleep in. Racing will start at 12:30, conditions permitting.

IEHL said of his stunning effort, 'We were much more happy with our boat speed and manoeuvres. We focussed really hard on that.' Their problem was not getting off the line. '[On Wednesday] we won three starts and lost the races,' IEHL said. 'We were very slow.'

BERNTSSON, who lost to ANGEL, last-place ANGSELL and NEUGODNIKOV, said, 'We knew the other teams were improving.'

IEHL said, 'Friday we'll sail them one by one and see what happens.'

About The Event

The total purse will be $41,000, including $10,000 to the winner.

Spectators have free seating for the racing on Belmont Pier, site of the start and finish lines. Food and beverages are available in a new patio setting. Veteran local sailor Steve STEINER, a former Con Cup competitor, offers expert commentary. Video highlights produced by t2p.tv are available nightly on the event website www.lbyc.org/concup/.

The event is managed by about 300 LBYC volunteers, including hostess teams for each crew. The competitors, six to a crew, rotate 10 Catalina 37s. 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.

Acura, the luxury division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., is the presenting sponsor of the Congressional Cup.

For all the news on the Congressional Cup CLICK HERE.

Rich Roberts (As Amended By ISAF). Image, France's Damien lEHL (third from right) sailed a perfect 5-0 day:© Rich Roberts
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