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Race for the semi-finals at the 56th Congressional Cup

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Race for the semi-finals at the 56th Congressional Cup
Race for the semi-finals at the 56th Congressional Cup

LONG BEACH, Calif. (17 September 2021) With six matches remaining in the qualifying rounds of the 56th Congressional Cup, the ten competing teams surged into full form on Day 2 of the regatta, each battling for valuable points to secure their place in the semi-finals tomorrow.  Taylor Canfield (USA, Stars+Stripes) leads the combined results with 10 wins and 2 losses with Sweden's Johnie Berntsson (SWE, Berntsson Sailing Team) at 9-3, and no.1 world ranked skipper Eric Monnin (SUI, Capvis Swiss Match Race Team) in third position at 8-4.

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Amplified by winds of 10 to 13 knots, there were several clashes on the course with  competitors finding their stride in the five-day regatta, and honing their skills in the supplied fleet of Catalina 37s, sailing impressively close to the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier and treating spectators to an ideal stadium view of the racing.

Maxime Mesnil (FRA) and Jeffrey Petersen (USA) Photo: Ian Roman
Maxime Mesnil (FRA) and Jeffrey Petersen (USA) Photo: Ian Roman

"Centimeters!" remarked Principal Race Officer Randy Smith, of how close "the Battle of Balboa" was – referring to Balboa Yacht Club's entries Jeffrey Petersen (USA, Golden State Match Racing) and David Wood (USA, Stars+Stripes Development Team), both of whom qualified to the regatta from the Ficker Cup last week. "I honestly braced for contact," Smith added, describing the match won by Petersen, one of his three victories today. Petersen sits in a precarious fifth place with a 6-6 score behind Taylor Canfield, Berntsson, Monnin, and Dane Emil Kjaer (7-5).

On-water umpires  Photo: Ian Roman
On-water umpires Photo: Ian Roman

"The race for the semis is on and every single point counts," commented Monnin. "It will probably come down to a one-point decision whether you make the semis or not."

Only the top four teams will advance to the semi-finals and a chance to win the much coveted Crimson Blazer. Racing is expected to heat up on Friday with the six qualifying matches remaining in the double round robins. Collisions and altercations are common in the aggressive game of match racing, and LBYC (Long Beach Yacht Club) organizers have on-the-water umpires to make real time decisions on fouls and related penalties. A bosun is stationed on the course at all times to repair or replace equipment on the spot, and Chief Umpire Flavio Naveira chided competitors saying, "No train wrecks please!" in an effort to keep racing on track and on time.

New to Congressional Cup rules this year is an exclusion zone at the Belmont Pier to restrict just how close competitors can come to the concrete structure and wings which extend 120-feet east and west. In 2018, Australian competitor Harry Price proved how close race action is to the audience on the Pier; when his boat clipped the edge of the pier breaking a lamppost. The corner of the pier is now good-humoredly known as 'Price Point.'

Racing will continue through Sunday for the 56th Congressional Cup and Crimson Blazer, starting at 11:30am local time daily, directly off the Pier at 15 39th Place, Long Beach, Calif. A Saturday afternoon race will pair up umpires and VIP's with competitors for a 'Race to the Bar'. The remaining teams from the qualifying rounds also get a chance to earn some extra cash in Sunday's consolation fleet race.

Weather forecasts call for 8 to 14 knots on Frdiay to continue from the southwest, and plenty of California sunshine. 

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