Photo courtesy of Long Beach Yacht Club
What was predicted to be a rivalry between Reigning ISAF Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams and defending Congressional Cup champion and ISAF number two ranked skipper Taylor Canfield has quickly become anybody’s game.
Chris Steele and team, who flew from New Zealand to win the Congressional Cup qualifier, the Ficker Cup, after being denied a World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) card, certainly proved a point last weekend and clearly intend to do so during this five-day racing event.
On Wednesday, day one of the 51st annual Congressional Cup, a dedicated Steele defeated Williams. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Joachim Aschenbrenner ran top-five ranked Eric Monnin of Switzerland up and over the line early, to take the start as well as the race. Canfield lost to New Zealand’s Reuben Corbett.
Commentator Steve Steiner announced during the race, "It’s wild to see Taylor in the back: that’s not something you’re used to!"
Conditions were moderate, according to LBYC, with breezes in the six-to-10 knot range with partly cloudy skies.
This heated first-day match race regatta was notable due to the amount of “Congressional Cup virgins” in the field. Bjorn Hansen of Sweden and Aschenbrenner are competing in their first cup, while Steele races the Congressional Cup as a skipper for the first time.
"It’s obviously hard to come and race in boats we’ve never sailed in before," said Hansen, in a statement. "We’re looking forward to increasing our level during the week and squeezing through to the semi-finals. And if we are able to do that; anything can happen in a semi-finals series."
He added, "On the other hand, I know it's 12 really good teams here, so it is going to be tough."
These 12 teams from nine nations will be vying for the Congressional Cup trophy and the iconic Crimson Blazer. For more information about the cup and for live results, click here.
The 51st Congressional Cup, the season opener of the World Match Racing Tour, is taking place in Long Beach through Sunday, May 17 and can be watched from the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. The first day of racing began on Wednesday at 11:30AM.