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30 April 2008, 09:52 am
DICKSON and BRADY Lead At Con Cup
A perfect 5-0 day for Scott DICKSON, the local Long Beach favourite

Congressional Cup 2008
Long Beach, California, USA

Scott DICKSON and three-time winner Gavin BRADY made the running at the opening day of the ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup in Long Beach.
Scott DICKSON says he was sizing up the opening day's scorecard in his Long Beach Yacht Club's 44th Congressional Cup presented by Acura when he thought, "There's no way Gavin [BRADY] and I can catch these guys. We've got a score of about 300 already."


"Oh, wait, that's our ISAF [international match racing] Rankings."

Actually, DICKSON and Gavin BRADY, a pair of immigrant Kiwis living in the USA, are ranked #137 and #89 but stand 5-0 and 4-1, respectively, after the first day of racing against several World Match Racing Tour regulars, which they are not. BRADY, with his America's Cup duty with BMW Oracle, hadn't sailed a tour event in more than a year, and this is one of only two events that DICKSON does most years, along with the Ficker Cup qualifier that has been his ticket to enter.

Second place has been his best finish in 11 previous Congressionals, but DICKSON, a Long Beach resident who has an older brother named Chris, said on Tuesday, "I hope after 12 years I'd be getting the hang of it."

In succession, he revelled in the fresh but shifty south to southwest breezes that built from 6 to 14 knots through a sunny afternoon in the mid-60s (F.) and blew the scoreboard off the Belmont Pier, where spectators are often literally on top of the pre-start action.

BRADY said, "The pier can be very much a part of the start. When you have that big an obstruction it dictates your tactics, and the people are part of the start. They're looking right down on us."

Team Dickson outsailed an international line up of New Zealand's Simon MINOPRIO, France's Philippe PRESTI and Damien IEHL, Russia's Andrew ARBUZOV and Sweden's Johnie BERNTSSON.

His crew of Mark IVEY, Matt MCKINLAY, Tony STUART, Mark STRUBE and Chuck STEVENS is all Southern California-grown talent. IVEY is the tactician. They had about a half-dozen practice sessions over the last few weeks.

"Today we enjoyed the fruits of all the practice we put in," DICKSON said.

BRADY, with another AC veteran, Eric DOYLE, in his afterguard, lost his first match to PRESTI and then ran off wins against IEHL, ARBUZOV, BERNTSSON and young Chris VANTOL (USA) from Detroit. He owed IEHL a penalty turn for the whole two laps but had enough of a lead to erase it by circling the pin end of the finish line.

"It was good match racing," said BRADY, an Annapolis resident who won in 1996, 1997 and 2006. "These [Catalina 37] boats start clicking at about 8 knots [of wind]."

One member of BRADY's crew was a true rookie: Jim SWARTZ, who is building one of the new STP 65 ocean racers that Brady will drive.

SWARTZ, a founding partner of ACCEL, a technical venture company in California's celebrated Silicone Valley, said, "I had a fantastic day."

BRADY said SWARTZ's duties included "hiking and roll-tacking, keeping time for the starts, jibing the main downwind . . . " - not just along for the ride.

The event marks the 20th anniversary of the game's standard on-water umpire officiating system that started in the 1988 Congressional Cup.

Chief umpire Jan STAGE said there were 45 protest flags waved - "a few more than usual" - in the 25 matches, but only ten penalties imposed.

Total prize money is $41,000 with $10,000 to the winner.

Racing is near the end of Belmont Pier. There is free seating for spectators, with snacks available. Competition, starting at 12:00 daily, conditions permitting, continues into best-of-three semi-finals and finals Saturday scheduled around a fleet race for non-qualifiers.

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.
Rich Roberts
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