Photos by Asia Morris, taken during Saturday's matches.
What was anticipated to be a battle between two sailing greats quickly became a bit of a free-for-all, with losses taken by both world-renowned sailors on their first day of racing on Wednesday. The favorites, reigning ISAF Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams and ISAF number two ranked skipper Canfield, were in an unsteady place.
Twelve skippers from nine nations struggled valiantly through the 51st annual Congressional Cup regatta, hosted by the Long Beach Yacht club from May 13 to 17. All sailed for a chance to win the coveted Crimson Blazer, $75,000 in winnings and points to place them ahead of the game in the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT), of which the Congressional Cup served as the season opener.
Canfield and his US One Team defended the Congressional Cup title during an unpredictable five-day series of races. At the sudden-death final match, Canfield barely edged Robertson out by nearly a boat-length. According to a release issued today, Canfield led by mere meters by the finish during the final race he later described as “intense.”
“I was a little nervous coming into the event; I haven’t match raced since February, and probably sailed the worst I’ve sailed in a while,” said Canfield in a statement. “The team really pushed hard through the whole event.”
He said it came down to the "last luff," and his crew was ready. "We went right through the lee of Robertson and kept working every moment," he said.
Canfield crossed the finish line less than two seconds ahead of Robertson to win the final match and the Congressional Cup title.
Of his second place finish, Robertson said in a statement, “I put together a group of guys that are really good friends, so that’s the reason I came, to have some fun with my mates, at one of the best events in the world."
Robertson said the crew was happy with their finish, commending their team on a "fantastic" job.
"The boys said we probably did everything 100 percent, both on the water and off," he said. "You couldn’t ask for more that that.”
Williams finished third after making an impressive comeback during a “repechage” on Saturday, defined as a trial heat to give losers in the first round a last-chance opportunity to qualify. After three days of round robins, Williams finished in the bottom half of the pack, while the top six contenders, including Canfield and Robertson, qualified automatically for the quarterfinals.
Williams and his Team GAC Pindar was pitted against Keith Swinton, Scott Dickson, Przemyslaw Tarnacki, Eric Monnin and Dustin Durant to win the repechage and one of two remaining spots for a chance to compete on Sunday.
During the finals, the match between Williams and Robertson was thrilling to say the least. Robertson took two wins before Williams hurtled back with two of his own. It came down to a final match that went to Robertson in the end.
Williams was quoted by the LBYC on Saturday saying "We got a little stitched up to be in the repechage, to be honest.” He later joked that it was their intention to “get our full quota of races in.”
Along with Canfield receiving the Crimson Blazer, the losing skipper and team is presented with "The Book,” a glass-encased instructional guide “from a Successful Skipper on How Races Are Won," the release said. The Book was given to Congressional Cup Chairman Bill Durant’s son, who finished in 12th place this year. It is entitled Race Your Boat Right and was written by world champion yachtsman Arthur Knapp Jr. in 1960.
Before you pass judgment, however, it's important to note that Canfield was a recipient of The Book in 2011, and my, look how far he has come.