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6 April 2006, 04:28 pm
Britain's WILLIAMS A Reluctant Favourite
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Congressional Cup 2006
Long Beach, California, USA

Ian WILLIAMS of Great Britain might look like top dog among the match racing specialists competing in the 42nd ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup, presented by Acura, in Long Beach, California, USA from 11-15 April. He comes in at number seven in the latest ISAF World Match Race Rankings, the highest amongst the field, but is adamant in saying, 'I don't see ourselves as favourites by any means.'
WILLIAMS has never sailed on the West Coast of the USA nor even seen one of the Catalina 37s used in the event.

'Like with all sailing, match racing is very boat specific,' he said, 'So we'll be focussing on getting up to speed in the Catalinas, and if we can match the more experienced guys for speed then we've got a chance.'

Nine rivals for the largest share of the $41,000 purse will include Gavin BRADY (NZL), a two-time winner (1996-97) from New Zealand who resides in Annapolis, world number eight Mathieu RICHARD France, a semi-finalist last year, and a flock of dark horses from six other countries. In the World Match Racing Tour standings, Finland's Staffan LINDBERG is third and BRADY shares fourth place with 2004 Congressional Cup winner and Alinghi helm Ed BAIRD (USA).

Line Up Changes

Chris DICKSON of New Zealand and Chris LAW of Great Britain withdrew their earlier entries and were replaced by Peter WIBROE of Denmark and Simon MINOPRIO of New Zealand.

Another new face will be Brian ANGEL (USA), 24, a member of the King Harbour Yacht Club in Redondo Beach whose King Harbour Match Racing team qualified by winning the local Ficker Cup trial event last September.

Scott DICKSON, a native New Zealander residing in Long Beach and a regular Congressional Cup competitor in recent years, will represent the host club.

The long range weather forecast is for temperatures in the 60s and possible showers late in the week.

Long Beach Yacht Club, with the support of some 300 volunteers from its membership, continues as the organizing host of the event, which remains at the top ISAF Grade 1 level of match racing competition.

The six man crews will sail ten Catalina 37s owned by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation, rotating boats daily. Racing will be twice around a windward-leeward course set off the Long Beach shoreline adjacent to the Belmont Pier, which will have accommodations with expert race commentary for spectators at no charge.

Competitors will sail a double round robin schedule Tuesday through Friday. The top four teams then advance to the best of three sail off semi-finals and finals on Saturday, and America's premier one on one nautical contest also will see some fleet racing for the first time.

Instead of parking their boats on the final day, the six competitors who fail to reach the semi-finals will run a fleet race for a $1,000 winner take all prize, using a windward-leeward course plus a parade leg along the beach.

Swapping The Suit For The Sails

WILLIAMS, 28, had won three British national sailing championships and achieved a world top ten ranking in 2003 but, with degrees in chemistry and law from the University of Bristol, he also was working as a solicitor for a law firm.

Then last year he put the suit and tie career on hold to sail full time, competing in 20 events and winning two ISAF Grade 1 championships.

'I have certain ambitions in sailing which were not achievable while holding down a full time job,' he said.

His crew will include his brother Mark and, for local knowledge, sailing pro and match racer Bill HARDESTY of San Diego.

Video highlights of the racing recorded by may be viewed each evening on the event website - - which also will carry live radio commentary from a local 810 AM radio loop. Racing will start at 1200 Pacific Daylight Time each day, conditions permitting.

Acura, the luxury division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., has signed on for three more years as the presenting sponsor.

The Congressional Cup is the premiere inshore sailing event in Southern California. Since it was launched in 1965 by a Deed of Gift recorded in the U.S. Congress, world renowned sailors such as Ted TURNER (USA), Dennis CONNER (USA), Rod DAVIS (NZL), Peter GILMOUR (AUS), Peter HOLMBERG (ISV), Dean BARKER (NZL), Ken READ (USA) and BAIRD, along with Chris DICKSON and BRADY, have won the Crimson Blazer emblematic of victory in the prestigious event.

The Long Beach Yacht Club, founded in 1929, has from its beginning sought to encourage future generations of sailors and power boaters. Located on a promontory of Alamitos Bay in the Long Beach Marina, it has a dynamic junior sailing programme whose members compete in various youth regattas. There is also a junior swim team and an enthusiastic big game fishing program.

Congressional Cup Entrants
(Team - ISAF World Match Race Ranking)

  • Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Musto - 7
  • Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), APCC Voile Sportive - 8
  • Staffan LINDBERG (FIN), Alandia Sailing Team - 13
  • Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE), Semcon - 18
  • Peter WIBROE (DEN) - 19
  • Gavin BRADY (NZL), Beau Geste racing - 21
  • Simon MINOPRIO (NZL) - 32
  • Cameron APPLETON (NZL), K-Challenge - 60
  • Brian ANGEL (USA), King Harbor Yacht Club - 64
  • Scott DICKSON (USA), Dickson Racing - 84
Rich ROBERTS (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Actio from last year's event:© Event Media
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