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14 April 2005, 09:04 am
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Congressional Cup 2005
Long Beach, California, USA

Two time former champion Chris DICKSON (NZL) remains at the head of the leaderboard at the ISAF Grade 1 Congressional Cup after another storming performance in California, USA.
DICKSON took his first and only loss Wednesday so remains atop the leaderboard after the first round robin of the 41st Congressional Cup, presented by Acura.

Russell COUTTS (NZL), making a move expected of a three-time America's Cup winner, won his first two races before losing to former Team New Zealand understudy and opponent Dean BARKER (NZL) by three seconds or half a boat length.

'The last time I raced against Dean,' COUTTS said, 'he couldn't keep his boat afloat' - a reference to Team New Zealand 's near-sinking when BARKER was defending against COUTTS' Alinghi team in the 5-0 trashing at Auckland in 2003. 'This time it didn't sink.'

BARKER, seated alongside, responded, '[Today's win] was pretty easy. We were trying to keep it close by slowing down.'

Behind the laughter, the standings showed DICKSON at 7-1, following his only loss by 16 seconds to Finland's Staffan LINDBERG. BARKER, England's Chris LAW and France's Mathieu RICHARD are tied at 6-3, with COUTTS at 5-3.

COUTTS and DICKSON are a race shy because their ninth-round match was called off after DICKSON's Catalina 37 had a broken traveler car that required overnight repair. Whether it will be sailed later may depend on if it matters in the final round robin standings as the event winds down to the last days, Friday and Saturday into the championship sailoffs.

Wednesday's racing was delayed an hour because of light winds and fog, then conditions settled into Long Beach's celebrated south westerlies building from eight to 15 knots through the afternoon.

'It was fantastic,' DICKSON said. 'There's enough going on that the boat behind has a chance.'

Races were closer than Tuesday, the closest being ISAF World Match Race Rankings' number four, RICHARD's one-second photo against fellow Frenchman Philippe PRESTI. Even luckless Chris LARSON (USA), at 0-9, came close with losses to COUTTS and LAW by a mere seven and eight seconds.

But LARSON's worst moment came in a race he led against PRESTI. Instead of rounding the leeward mark at the end of the first lap around the quarter-mile windward-leeward course, he kept on going through the finish line, thinking the race was over.

'We wanted to quit while we were ahead,' he said, then explained later that he and his crew were confused but in agreement about a signal flag on the committee boat.

Earlier, he had said, 'Frustration started to get hold of us.'

It was a better day for the Scandinavians. LINDBERG and Denmark's Lars NORDBJERG both scored 3-1 yesterday and sit in the middle of the pack at 5-4 and 4-5. NORDBJERG's biggest win was against BARKER, but it turned on a foul.

NORDBJERG, leading the race, took BARKER wide of the finish pin, then jibed for the line. BARKER, with a slight leeward overlap, tried to draw a foul by luffing up. There was contact, protest flags, and the umpires ruled that BARKER luffed so hard that he gave NORDBJERG no opportunity to keep clear.

Like BARKER, LAW also might have second place to himself except for a single error when he led RICHARD around the leeward mark. Spinnaker lines became entangled as the pole dipped in the water, then the Team Shosholoza crew from South Africa's first America's Cup campaign could not get the jib up as RICHARD sailed by.

'We sailed really well,' LAW said, 'but one mistake is all it takes here.'

There were 37 protest flags in the 19 races but only five penalties imposed. Racing continues until Saturday.

Rich Roberts (As Amended By ISAF). Image, NORDBJERG and BARKER tussle at the finish:© Event Media
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