| USA’s Taylor Canfield, Ian Williams (GBR), Johnie Berntsson (SWE) and Chris Poole (USA) have advanced to the semi-final stage in the 57th Congressional Cup, after a lively day of sailing in winds grazing the top range for the Catalina 37 fleet.
Ten of the world’s top-ranked match racing teams battled 20 knots of wind and bloodthirsty rivals for a chance at the Crimson Blazer at Long Beach Yacht Club in this five-day regatta.
None of the qualifiers are strangers to Congressional Cup’s elite; past winners Canfield, Williams and Berntsson each already have in their closets an iconic Crimson Blazer: yacht racing’s equivalent to The Masters’ green jacket. And Poole, who qualified for the semi-finals in 2021, has tasted blood.
Concluding races tomorrow and Saturday will prove to be thrilling for competitors, and spectators as well as they watch from the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.
There was little doubt five-time Congressional Cup winner and defending champion Canfield would qualify to the final four. Pedigree and poise have kept his Stars+Stripes USA team at the top of the leader-board over the past three days of exhilarating racing.
Likewise Williams, a four-time Congressional Cup victor and long-time rival, quickly made known his intentions, with his newly branded Team Gladstone’s Long Beach claiming a spot on the top of roster despite a three-year absence from Congressional Cup racing.
But it came down to the wire for the final two berths, with four gifted skippers hungry for those spots: Berntsson, Poole, Jeppe Borch (DEN) and Emil Kjaer (DEN).
In the last flights of the second round robin today Poole won a decisive match over Kjaer, which could have thrust Kjaer ahead in a tiebreaker; instead the loss squeezed him out of the semis. Still, it marked an impressive result for the 20-year-old sailor from Denmark.