When Sean Clarkson says it was a tough day, how does everybody else in the Long Beach Yacht Club's 39th Congressional Cup feel?
Clarkson, the pitman on Gavin Brady's boat, was making the point that Team Beau Geste running its unbeaten record to 14 wins Thursday wasn't as easy as it might sound. Brady was behind in all four races, starting with an OCS in the day's opener against Scott Dickson of Long Beach and ending with a 12-second win over Jes Gram-Hansen that left the Dane's day in ruins at 0-4, now 5-9 overall.
Brady also broke the hearts of Britain's Chris Law and Sweden's Magnus Holmberg along the way. "We had some huge comebacks,"
Clarkson said. "When it's shifty you have to be patient."
And it's easier to be patient when the pressure's off. Brady maintained his four-match lead over Australia's James Spithill, who also swept his slate to stand at 10-4, the only other winning record.
The dogfight for the other two places in the semifinals is Friday. Ken Read, of Newport, R.I., won three of four to tie Italy's Paolo Cian at 7-7, followed by Dickson, Law and Holmberg at 6-8. Gram-Hansen and his Scandinavian countryman, Jesper Radich, are ranked 1-2 on the Swedish Match Tour scoreboard but are struggling at 5-9, followed by France's Luc Pillot at 4-10.
The race committee plans to run only three of the last four flights Friday, saving the 18th and last for Saturday preceding the best-of-three semi-finals and finals.
Winds were steady but light Thursday, teasing the sailors with a sunny 6-8 knots that included a built-in 40-degree shift to the right through the afternoon. "It seemed every time you were behind upwind you gained,"
Clarkson and Brady, products of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron youth program, have been sailing together for about 14 years, and this week they are back with other Kiwi mates after spending the last couple of years with Prada's America's Cup campaign. "The boys are just having fun,"
Clarkson said. "When you're having fun there's no pressure."
Brady offered a different insight. "I noticed that Sean, who is one of the fittest guys here, was sweating all day,"
But Brady also appeared to be relaxed, steering from a seat on the rail much of the time while his rivals wrestled the Catalina 37s standing up.
That may not last. Brady has sailed in 10 Swedish Match Tour events and been runner-up five times, with no wins. That's why he said, "The score looks good now, but we'll have to step up again in the semifinals."
His best moments Thursday were the comeback against Dickson and a classic door slam against Law at the committee boat before the start. Law started 15 seconds behind but still managed to lead at the first windward mark. "[Brady] fell behind in some [spectator] boat wakes,"
Law said. "That was tough for him."
It was also tough for Law, the 1994 Congressional Cup winner, now 50 in a career comeback mode of his own, when he got trapped similarly by Radich in the next race. "None of these young guys show any respect,"
Brady finished no better than bow to bow with Holmberg in his last race, but the Swede still owed a penalty turn from a pre-start foul.
Read, with a 3-1 day, will face Law, Brady and Radich today, while Dickson meets Spithill, Gram-Hansen and Law. After a 2-2 day, he is clearly on the bubble. "For Gavin the pressure's off,"
Dickson said. "It's a sweet position to be in."
He looked down and complained, "My foot hurts."
A race injury? Not in the usual sense. "I've been shooting it all day,"