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2 May 2008, 10:05 am
Sweden's BERNTSSON Joins Kiwis In Fight For Con Cup
Johnie BERNTSSON's bowman Bjorn LUNDGREN, sets the spinnaker pole
Johnie BERNTSSON's bowman Bjorn LUNDGREN, sets the spinnaker pole

Congressional Cup 2008
Long Beach, California, USA

Gavin BRADY, Scott DICKSON and Johnie BERNTSSON each won four of five races on Thursday to all but punch their tickets into the semi-finals of the 44th Congressional Cup presented by Acura.
Four races of the double round robin at the Long Beach Yacht Club remain on Friday. The top four will advance to Saturday's championship sail offs. Gavin BRADY (NZL) leads the way with a 12 wins-2 losses record, ahead of Scott DICKSON (NZL) on 10-4 with Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE) third on 9-5.

The fleet's third Kiwi, Simon MINOPRIO (8-6), has a sole but insecure grip on the fourth spot, stalked by France's Damien IEHL and Philippe PRESTI, each 7-7.

So what has happened to Dave PERRY (USA), the two-time winner from a previous generation (1983 and 1984) who clinged to an outside chance by winning Thursday's last race after losing the first four? How was his day?

"We had four seconds and a first," PERRY deadpanned, his sense of humour intact as he continued to battle a grim-faced line up of young warriors.

The one to watch may be BERNTSSON, who is sailing in his third Congressional Cup after sixth- and second-place finishes the previous two years. His only loss Thursday was to BRADY.

"I misjudged where the [start] line was and was going down when it was time to go up," BERNTSSON said.

But he capped the 70-degree summer-like day with a win over DICKSON - unbeaten earlier through the day - after the Race Committee, handicapped by dying and shifting breeze near Belmont Pier, moved the start line a half-mile farther out in the outer harbour to get in the 14th flight. The breeze had dropped from a peak of 15 knots to 6 as BERNTSSON won the start at the pin (left) end of the line, setting himself up on the favoured side of the course.

Mark IVEY (USA), DICKSON's tactician, said, "That's the end we wanted, but we couldn't get it."

DICKSON closed to within two boat lengths at the windward mark, and as BERNTSSON crossed him on starboard he immediately luffed to carry DICKSON a hundred yards past the mark.

"If we would have tacked [DICKSON] would have come away with more speed," BERNTSSON said.

Both boats set spinnakers as they turned back to round the mark, and the Swedes hung on to win by 14 seconds.

But BERNTSSON's more remarkable win may have been one against Detroit's luckless Chris VANTOL (USA), on 1-13. His spinnaker pole was broken in a pre-start collision and he sailed both downwind legs with a crew member holding the chute's control line out by hand.

VANTOL drew his second damage penalty in two days - this one costing him three-quarters of a point he didn't have. He had already had his lone win reduced to a half-point, so now he's in the hole by a quarter-point.

VANTOL said at the nightly press conference, "Dave PERRY wasn't kidding when he said the toughest part about racing in the Congressional Cup was paying your damage deposit."

IEHL's high moment of the week came against BRADY, who had won nine consecutive matches. IEHL led BRADY early but fouled him while bailing out of a luffing match near the first leeward mark. Still leading, he erased his penalty on the second upwind lag by jibing a 270-degree circle instead of tacking at the starboard layline, then crossed BRADY on opposite tacks at the mark and held on to win by 10 seconds.

BRADY's actual score is 11.5 points; he also suffered a deduction for causing excess damage Wednesday. Following that incident, BRADY was quoted in Wednesday's report saying, "I think I just lost my job sailing Moneypenny."

The comment was stated as a joke, which the report failed to note and was taken seriously by some. The new STP 65 named Moneypenny is owned by Jim SWARTZ (USA) of San Francisco, who is one of BRADY's crew members this week. BRADY still has his job.

Racing is near the end of Belmont Pier. There is free seating for spectators, with snacks available.

Competition, starting at 12:00 or slightly earlier, conditions permitting, continues into best-of-three semi-finals and finals on Saturday scheduled around a fleet race for non-qualifiers. Total prize money is $41,000 with $10,000 to the winner.

Event sponsors are the Port of Long Beach, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Catalina Adventure Tours, the Long Beach Press-Telegram, West Marine, Long Beach Memorial Hospital, Union Bank of California, Newmeyer & Dillion attorneys at Law, Mount Gay Rum and Gladstone's Restaurant of Long Beach.

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Rich Roberts
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