Credit: Bronny Daniels
Defending champion Kjaer undefeated on Day 1 of Ficker Cup 2022
It didn't take but an instant for Ficker Cup competitors to get their game on, on the first day of racing for the Ficker Cup trophy and a berth in next week's Congressional Cup. The eight teams from the US, Sweden and Denmark came out swinging, as cool breezes buffeted the waters of Long Beach, Calif. Racing continues April 15 and 16 starting at 11:30AM daily.
In the first half of today's thrilling races, four skippers looked to sweep the pack: Jeppe Borch (DEN), Emil Kjaer (DEN), Jeffery Petersen (USA) and Peter Holz (USA).
But soon the leaderboard shuffle began.
Dave Perry (USA) upset Holz; then Holz beat Borch, after the Danish team drew a foul and red flag: stipulating the penalty turn had to be done immediately. Christopher Weis (USA) got on the scoreboard with wins over Petersen and Anna Östling (SWE), while David Wood (USA) warmed up to two wins late in the day.
It was last year's Ficker Cup champion, Kjaer, who finished the day on top, undefeated after the fleet completed the first round robin, and dipped into the second while the breeze held.
"This is definitely one of our most competitive Ficker Cup fields in history," said Chairman Bob Piercy. The Grade 2 event was founded in 1980 to honor yacht racing icon Bill Ficker. "As far as the talent and ranking points of our competitors, we are high: just on the verge of a Grade 1. And I love the fact we have the two extremes as far as age and experience are considered. It is going to be an interesting regatta!"
The field indeed spanned young and old; Ficker Cup veterans and newbies; and for some the learning curve was steep.
Anna Östling (SWE) who ended the day 0-8, said, "We're super stoked to finally be here. We have tried to get here a few times, but different things have gotten in the way — like babies coming," she added with a laugh. "We've heard so much about Long Beach Yacht Club and the event and have been eager to come. Our Swedish hero Johnnie Berntsson (2009 Congressional Cup champion) has raced here for years, and has been very kind in helping us prepare. So we think we're as ready as we can be."
Still, Östling pointed out, "it's a new boat for us, a bigger boat, and quite heavy, and a new venue." Her team WINGS competes successfully in the Women's World Match Racing circuit and Östling is the No. 2-ranked female skipper in the world. Typically sailing with a crew of five aboard 28-foot Fareast keelboats, they have added two Americans for racing the bigger Catalina 37s here. "Our goal is to get to know the boat as quickly as possible and develop the team together. It's a different game plan, and teamwork will be very crucial, but we're excited to be here and looking forward to good days ahead."
On the other end of the spectrum is Perry: no newcomer to the Catalina 37 boat and Ficker Cup racing. To compliment someone's expertise, the common phrase 'they wrote the book' is often a figurative statement, but in the case of Dave Perry – it's literal. Perry penned the NORTH U MATCH RACING PLAY BOOK, now in its fourth edition.
Perry was a serious racer in his early years, winning the Congressional Cup in 1983 and 1984 while he campaigned for the 1984 Olympic Games. "After that I stepped away from sailing, with the exception of the coming out for the Congressional Cup each year." In 2006 he reemerged, eager to focus on match racing. He is a five-time US Match Racing Champion, saying "it's fun, and helps keep me young."
Ironically, in his role as match racing coach, Perry is facing several of his protégés on the racecourse this weekend: Petersen, Wood, Weis and Holz. Rebounding after a slow morning, the master kept pace with the students.
Ficker Cup racing continues Friday and Saturday at the Congressional Cup stadium, a designated racecourse adjacent the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Spectators are invited to watch the action, for free, which begins at 11:30AM daily.
Scattered clouds and slightly lesser winds are expected tomorrow, picking up Saturday for the final stages of Ficker Cup 2022.