Johnie Berntsson clings to lead in 55th Congressional Cup
Friday, April 5, 2019 9:25 AM
Johnie Berntsson (SWE) and his orange-clad Berntsson Sailing Team continued to dominate Congressional Cup racing at Long Beach Yacht Club yesterday, winning all but one race - which went to Ian Williams (GBR).
At the end of Day Two, with the first Round Robins complete and solid headway into round two, Berntsson was 11-1, with Taylor Canfield (USA) putting on the squeeze at 9-2. Ian Williams (GBR) and Scott Dickson (USA) each trailed by one point.
The Congressional Cup is recognized as the grandfather of modern world-class match racing.Founded by Long Beach Yacht Club in 1965, it set the standard for top-level match racing worldwide, pioneering the concept of on-the-water umpiring, in a spectator-friendly venue. Racing for the 55thCongressional Cup trophy, and the esteemed Crimson Blazer, continues through Sunday.
Berntsson, 46, isn’t a professional fulltime sailor, like many of his rivals. Competing on the match racing circuit since 2006, just a half-dozen weeks a year, he said, “We know if we do our best, we can beat them – but it’s hard to be at that level all the time.” In that time he’s done “about 14 Congressional Cups” – admitting he’s lost count over the years. He qualified for last year’s Congressional Cup through the Ficker Cup, going on to semi-finals, where he finished fourth. In 2017, he was runner up to Williams in the Congressional Cup. But he hasn’t donned the Crimson Blazer since 2009.
Sitting at the top of the leaderboard for the second day in a row, Berntsson said, “The crew is doing a really extraordinary job, the atmosphere on board is terrific, and everything is moving in the right direction.” But he rejected notions the team has peaked. “We’re not doing everything completely right, but we are doing the important stuff right. So I think there is still room for improvement.”
Berntsson’s one loss yesterday was to Williams, who has a history – as does Canfield – of ramping up throughout the event. Both ended Day One mid-fleet, but turned on the heat yesterday, wrapping up at 9-3 for Canfield; with Williams and Scott Dickson (USA) tied at 8-4.
Dickson, a long-time member of LBYC, has competed in 20 Congressional Cups, and is the winningest skipper in Ficker Cup history. He said his team is made up of “purely locals, from the local sailing scene.”
“I’m very proud of them all, operating at a new level that they’re very comfortable at, against a full field of world-class sailors. We’ve matured as a team, and we’re firing on all cylinders. It’s really rewarding.”
Stage One Round Robins will conclude tomorrow: “moving day” as the racers call it.
Which four teams will advance to the semi-finals? Who, of the six teams eliminated, will look for victory in the fleet race? Or victory in the Junior Congressional Cup races? Follow the action through Sunday, April 7, on-site at Long Beach Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, where spectators can enjoy the the races and commentary, free, from 11:30AM to 5PM daily.Or watch the live-streaming coverage and features plus nightly press conferences on Facebook@CongressionalCupand the event website: www.thecongressionalcup.com