Four-time Congressional Cup winner Taylor Canfield (USA) and his Stars+Stripes team ended the opening day of the 56th Congressional Cup undefeated with seven straight wins in the qualifying round robin. Swede Johnie Berntsson, also a former winner of the event, posted an impressive 5-2 performance to place second in the round robin.  

Day 1 of the event started in ideal 10-13 knot conditions with ten of the world’s top match racing teams competing off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. This world-class event, hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club, and an official event of the World Match Racing Tour, runs through Sunday Sept. 19.

Canfield is the reigning Match Racing World Champion and a four-time Congressional Cup winner. His victories in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 put him in an auspicious position: tied for the most Congressional Cup wins with four other skippers: Ian Williams (2011, 2012, 2017 and 2019); Gavin Brady (1996, 1997, 2006, 2008); Peter Holmberg (1998, 1999, 2001, 2002); and Rod Davis (1981, 1985, 1989, 1993).  The USVI native has his eye on a fifth victory – which would make him the winningest skipper in more than a half-century of Congressional Cup racing.

But a lot can happen over the next four days of racing, with the world’s number-one ranked match racing skipper Eric Monnin (SUI) and Maxime Mesnil (FRA), #4, in the mix; plus Chris Poole (USA) – right off a win in the Oakcliff International Regatta; Sam Gilmour (AUS); Dustin Durant (USA); and Ficker Cup’s tuned-up trio of qualifiers Emil Kjaer (DEN), Jeffrey Petersen (USA) and David Wood (USA).

Johnie Berntsson (SWE). Photo: Ian Roman
The Congressional Cup has been one of the leading yacht racing events in the world since 1965. Long Beach Yacht Club, spearheaded by the late William Dalessi, pitched the concept of a premier level regatta. When a California Congressman and Senator offered to sponsor the event, it was dubbed the Congressional Cup. The stunning trophy – a three-foot tall, sterling masterpiece – was designed and created in a joint effort by Dalessi and trophy artisan Ralph Egleston of Long Beach. Egleston hand-engraved the Congressional Seal and the nameplate so the large, hand-wrought silver vessel would have instant recognition and significance. It has been sought-after by sailors, world-wide even since.

The first Congressional Cup regatta took place in 1965 with seven area skippers, Larchmont Yacht Club’s Arthur Knapp Jr., and one entrant from Long Beach Yacht Club. Dalessi believed, as host, LBYC should always have an entry in the event – and even as the Congressional Cup expanded over the years into a world-class Grade One regatta, and part of the World Match Racing Tour, the organization has honored that tradition.

The Congressional Cup Trophy
This year’s LBYC entry is Durant – who stepped in when fellow member Scott Dickson was forced to drop out, unable to return to the States due to pandemic protocol. Durant, nicknamed ‘Dusty,’ is a three-time Congressional Cup veteran, and last raced in the regatta in 2015 – but ‘dusted off his sailing gloves’ to represent his home club. Durant was the only competitor shut out today, but expectations are high for tomorrow.

The double round robin series will continue through Friday, starting at 11:30AM, with free spectator viewing directly off Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, located at 15 39th Place, Long Beach. Then, the top four competitors will advance to semi-and petite-finals Saturday, with finals Sunday Sept. 19.

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