For those who followed the recent America's Cup, Ken Read had a word of reassurance for the disappointed fans of the Stars & Stripes team after winning the Congressional Cup in a slam-bang match with New Zealand's Gavin Brady Saturday.
Read, wringing wet from a traditional dunking but wearing a waterproof smile wider than the Hauraki Gulf, said, "We actually do know how to sail."
The 2-1 victory was Read's first in an International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Grade 1 event and first on the Swedish Match Tour. It came at the end of a week that started with him jumping the gun in the first race and losing four of five on opening day. Even on Saturday, he lost his last round robin match to Sweden's Magnus Holmberg before dispatching Australia's James Spithill, 2-0, in the semifinals and winning the first and third races against Brady---dramatically, after being black-flagged from the Race 2 for fouling Brady three times during a leeward mark rounding right out of a Demolition Derby.
Read, 41, of Newport, R.I., said, "It's nice to win a match race regatta, especially after our experience in the America's Cup [challenger] trials."
That campaign started downhill when the second Stars & Stripes boat sank a couple of
miles from the Congressional Cup race course and ended on a bitter note when team owner Dennis Conner explained the failure to reach those semifinals by saying, "It wasn't the boat."
Five of those Stars & Stripes sailors---tactician Terry Hutchinson, bowman Jerry Kirby, mainsail trimmer Moose McClintock, trimmer Morgan Trubovich and pitman Andrew Scott---were with Read this week, sailing as Team Saucony.
"The guys did an awesome job," Read said before accepting the $6,000 first prize from the $25,000 purse. "We felt more and more confident every day, and when I woke up this morning I felt great. It was a special day of sailing."
One thing that made it special was that all 10 teams sailed technically equal Catalina 37s, which have been staples of the Congressional Cup since 1991. Whatever made the difference in Team Saucony's triumph, it definitely wasn't the boat.
On a day that started brilliantly clear and sunny and ended in cloudy shades of gray, the winds blew from 9 knots up to 14 and the faded to 10 as the sailoffs get under way.
While Brady, who won the Congressional Cup in 1997 and '97, was having little trouble with Italy's Paulo Cian, winning by 21 and 33 seconds, Read took two straight from the 23-year-old Spithill by 24 and 57 second. The second win came after Read and his crew threw a fake jibe at the Aussie on the second downwind leg. Read feinted a switch to port jibe, and when Spithill followed him the trap was sprung. Spithill's spinnaker touched Read's boat for a foul that settled the outcome right there.
"That was actually a move we thought we could sucker somebody into sometime," Read said, "and fortunately for us, James bit."
On the first upwind leg against Brady, Read got cagey again with a fake tack as he crossed the Kiwi on starboard. Brady kept coming on port and he, too, was trapped into a foul. At the next mark, Brady tried a desperate cross in front of Read that didn't work out, drawing a second penalty that did him in for Race 1.
Read also was leading Race 2 when he tried to luff Brady at the leeward mark.
Instead, he fouled him, then tried to round without giving Brady room and fouled again as he took a T-bone collision on his bow. Still another foul while trying to recover brought out the black flag from the on-water umpires. Meanwhile, Brady remained entangled with the anchor line on the inflatable mark for several minutes as the score went even at 1-1.
Race 3 was milder. When Brady had to do a downspeed tack to clear the committee boat
at the start, Hutchinson noticed and told Read to tack immediately, allowing them to cross clear ahead on port tack a minute later and take control of the race. When Read drew another foul from Brady at the leeward mark, it sealed the issue.
Brady, 29, was gracious but frustrated after winning his first 14 races in the event. "Six seconds in our last eight Swedish Match Tour events," he said. "I've got to shake that. It's always nice to be in the finals, and it's not like we're getting annihilated. We just can't seem to win one."
Worse, Brady said, "This is the first match racing event when [Read] has ever beaten
Read will take it, and so will Trubovich, his trimmer from New Zealand. A week earlier members of both teams participated in Trubovich's marriage to Tracy Walker of Big Bear Lake, whom Trubovich met while training with Team Dennis Conner last year.
"This takes it from the biggest week in my life to the biggest two weeks," Trubovich said. "Today it was the whole wedding party against each other."
Read d. Spithill, 0:24; Read d. Spithill, 0:57 (Read wins, 2-0).Brady d. Cian, 0:21; Brady d. Cian, 0:33 (Brady wins, 2-0).
Read d. Brady, 0:50; Brady d. Read, DSQ; Read d. Brady, no time (Read wins, 2-1)
PETIT FINALS (third place)
Spithill d. Cian, 0:50; Spithill d. Cian, 0:50 (Spithill wins, 2-0, $3,000, Cian)