Simone Ferrarese found speed in light wind like nobody else could Saturday to win the Long Beach Yacht Club's 49th Congressional Cup with a 54-second win over Ed Baird in a one-race championship showdown.
Did he enjoy it?
"It was the best win of my life,"
he said. "Taking the Crimson Blazer here has been my dream."
The 25-year-old Italian was the only one of the semifinalists who hadn't worn the blazer as he moved into the company of the world's elite match racing sailors with his first win in a Grade 1 event.
Earlier in the long afternoon fickle and feeble breeze delayed the start of racing for about two hours and then stopped it again for an hour in mid-afternoon before a 6-knot southerly showed up under a heavy cloud cover to allow the title match to go at 17:15.
Even then, the conditions were so fragile---and this was after winds in the high 20s had prevented any pre-event practice only five days earlier---principal race officer Randy Smith cut the title and petite finals from best-of-threes to single matches.
So, after Ferrarese had spotted Great Britain's Ian Williams---the double defending champ and World #1---their first semifinal match before winning the next two and Baird had dispatched France's Mathieu Richard with wins in their first and third go-rounds, it all came down to a single race.
That's when Smith also ordered the windward-leeward, twice-around course shortened from a 0.35 nautical mile to 0.25---a mere quarter-mile that seemed to suffice.
As it was, Ferrarese found breeze that nobody else could, first winning the favored left side from Baird, who went right at the start, and extending his leads from 29 seconds at the first windward mark to 35 at the leeward, 48 at the second windward and finally 54 at the finish.
Baird said, "He just went the better way. We gave him what he wanted."
It was a mixed outcome for the 54-year-old Floridian, who had been away for the game for so long that he doesn't even have an ISAF world ranking (Ferrarese is 15th and climbing).
Baird, asked earlier when he had driven his last match race, said, "My last monohull match race was July 3, 2007, at Valencia [Spain]."
That was the day Baird drove the Swiss team Alinghi to victory in the America's Cup, leading to his selection as ISAF's world yachtsman of the year.
Tactician Terry Hutchinson, who won this event as a skipper himself in 1992, 12 years before Baird's win here, said he was trying to look on the good side of coming so close, "but we still want to win."
Hutchinson, in fact, was invited to be a skipper in this event but passed the privilege over to Baird, for whom he'll be calling tactics in the TP52 Quantum Racing series in Europe this year.
As for Williams, who dominated the double round robin series with 16 wins in two races, he could only say, "Simone did a nice job today. He got the speed off the line best. But we enjoyed the week."
The Congressional has a $60,000 purse, including $15,000 to the winner, along with the traditional Crimson Blazer.
Scott Dickson, a popular local sailing in his 12th Congressional, won the fleet race and $2,500 for the six non-semifinalists.