Photos courtesy of Long Beach Yacht Club
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's Chris Steele and team won the Ficker Cup trophy over the weekend to secure a spot in this week’s 51st Congressional Cup regatta, hosted by the Long Beach Yacht Club (LBYC).
The Ficker Cup is a respected Grade Two regatta established by the LBYC in 1980 in honor of Bill Ficker, the winning skipper of the 1970 America’s Cup and a world class Star Boat champion. Etched on the Ficker Cup trophy are the names of sailing greats, including, but not limited to, Terry Hutchinson and Simone Ferrarese, both of whom went on to win the Congressional Cup in subsequent years.
Steele’s story is that of the defiant underdog. Hoping for a spot on the 2015-16 World Match Racing Tour (WMRT), he was denied the position, but showed up anyway to “prove a point," he said in a statement released Monday. Earning the WMRT card guarantees the eight chosen competitors a place at each event of the World Championship circuit, including the Congressional Cup, which now stands as the season opener for the WMRT, according to the release.
“We’re on the path,” Steele said in a statement. "We came here with the intention of trying to learn as much as we could, and we knew if we didn’t qualify for anything, we weren’t good enough to be racing anyway.”
He added, "We stepped it up to another level and are happy with the day – but are not going to lose focus on next week.”
According to the LBYC, Steele had competed in the Congressional Cup as a teenager as part of four-time winner Gavin Brady’s crew and was eager for the opportunity to lead a team to a victory himself.
Dustin Durant and team, runner-up to Steele, will also be heading to the Congressional Cup.
In a statement, Durant said, “[...]this whole event has been a learning experience; and we’re going to the Congressional Cup with that attitude. If we do well it’s good; if we don’t, it’s okay: we’ll be racing against the best guys, and we’ll learn something.”
Durant had lost to Scott Dickson in the LBYC sail-off for Congressional Cup yacht club representative, missing his chance for an automatic entry to the renowned regatta. However, his spot in the Ficker Cup gave him another chance to win at the prized event.
Both Steele and Durant will now move on to compete against current International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Match Racing Champion and two-time Congressional Cup winner Ian Williams, as well as defending Congressional Cup champion Taylor Canfield, among others.
The 51st Congressional Cup, the season opener of the World Match Racing Tour, takes place in Long Beach starting Wednesday, May 13 through Sunday, May 17 and can be watched from the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. The first day of racing begins on Wednesday at 11:30AM. For more information about the Ficker Cup or Congressional Cup, visit the website here.