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21 May 2007, 09:58 am
A Con Cup Breakthrough For France's RICHARD
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Congressional Cup 2007
Long Beach, California, USA

Parlez-vous Francais? The Long Beach Yacht Club's 43rd production of the ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup, presented by Acura, was bound to go bilingual on Saturday when Mathieu RICHARD (FRA) met Johnie BERNTSSON of Sweden in the best-of-three championship match. The tri-color republic prevailed as RICHARD, the world #2, finessed his way past his Scandinavian rival, 2-1.

'I think we're the first non-Anglo-Saxon winner,' RICHARD said at the dock as he and his crew celebrated with an international feast of champagne, pizza and hamburgers. 'It is really a great event to win. When you look at the list of past winners, it's a very prestigious victory.'

Conditions were ideal on the Long Beach outer harbour, blessed by sunny skies, flat water, winds to 15 knots and spectators on Belmont Pier wildly cheering their favourites - on this day, RICHARD and BERNTSSON on their sail-bys between races.

The Semis

Each reached the final by dispatching semi-final opponents in straight sets. RICHARD displayed no mercy against countryman Damien IEHL (FRA), especially in their decisive second race when IEHL drew two pre-start penalties before crossing the line early. By the time he re-started and did one mandatory penalty turn, RICHARD was on his way to a 2-minute victory.

BERNTSSON had a more difficult time with New Zealand's Simon MINOPRIO, but he won the decider by 17 seconds after doing a penalty turn at the finish line to burn off his error of entering the starting box a moment too soon.

In the consolation match, IEHL then came back from losing the first race with back-to-back wins against MINOPRIO for third place overall in the regatta.

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Johnie BERNTSSON erases a pre-start
penalty by forcing one on Mathieu
RICHARD
© Rich Roberts
Meanwhile, the six teams that failed to reach the sailoffs sailed a long fleet race to the far corners of the harbour. Russia's Eugeniy NEUGODNIKOV collected $1,000 for finishing first in front of the pier, just ahead of Poland's Przemek TARNACKI and Long Beach's Scott DICKSON (USA).

RICHARD pocketed $10,000 of the $41,000 purse, BERNTSSON $5,700, and they both earned that and more with a lively show of pre-start jousting and race course tactics.

RICHARD Seizes Initiative

Before their first start six protest flags were waved but drew no penalties from the on-water umpires, so RICHARD proceeded to claim the favoured right side of the course and maintain a tight lead and starboard tack control for an 18-second win.

In the second pre-start, BERNTSSON, despite holding starboard tack right of way, drew a foul as the two turned upwind side by side, but the Swede cancelled it out moments later when RICHARD failed to allow him room to slide upwind below him - a critical call that allowed BERNTSSON to sail freely to a 14-second win.

In the deciding race, BERNTSSON held tenuous control of the right side of the course as the two met repeatedly on opposite tacks. But at the end of the upwind leg RICHARD finessed a leeward bow tack that put him in position to force BERNTSSON into his backwind and ultimately into his wake before they rounded the mark. BERNTSSON stayed close enough to capitalize if RICHARD made any mistakes, but that did not happen as the Frenchman won by 6 seconds.

BERNTSSON said, 'They did a really good job. We had really tight matches, but this was RICHARD's day.'

BERNTSSON's slight consolation was that he beat RICHARD 3-2 during the week, sweeping him in the double round robin.

'An Amazing Job'

RICHARD, 30, said, 'My team did an amazing job during the week.'

His crew: Olivier HERLEDANT (FRA), grinder-spinnaker trim; Frederic RIVET (FRA), pit-tactics; Thierry BRIEND (FRA), jib trim; Greg EURARD (FRA), main trim-tactics; Yannick SIMON (FRA), bow.

'It was really a team victory,' RICHARD said.

Video highlights produced by t2p.tv are available on the event website www.lbyc.org/concup. The event was managed by about 300 LBYC volunteers, including hostess teams for each crew. The competitors, six to a crew, rotated ten Catalina 37s.

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, Mathieu RICHARD with the Cup and the Crimson Blazer:© Rich Roberts
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