Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Terry Hutchinson leads Congressional Cup unbeaten

[Source: Congressional Cup] Two illustrious sailors---Terry Hutchinson and Ben Ainslie---are the first to say the Long Beach Yacht Club's 45th Congressional Cup is a lot closer than it looks on the scoreboard that shows them with 6-0 and 5-1 records after the first day of racing Tuesday.

But the Annapolis veteran, who won here in 1992 and called tactics for winners Ken Read in 2003 and Dean Barker in 2006, said he isn't pondering the choice between $30,000 or the keys to a new Acura awarded to anyone who goes undefeated all week.

"There are a lot of good sailors here," said Hutchinson, who was recently honored as America's Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. "You could easily go for oh and six tomorrow."

And it wasn't a perfect day for Hutchinson's crew, which like all the others is lodged at LBYC members' homes.

"The day started out," he said, "with those five words no host likes to hear: 'Do you have a plunger?' "

It did get better. Hutchinson dealt Ainslie, the triple Olympic gold medalist and ISAF World Sailor of the Year, his only loss, by five boat lengths.

Ainslie said, "The thing to do is roll with the punches and keep it going."

Some had more punches to roll with than others. France's Sébastien Col, Mathieu Richard and Philippe Presti, currently ranked Nos. 1, 3 and 6 in the world, share sixth place with only two wins each. Richard won the traditional Crimson Blazer here two years ago.

The depth of the field is a factor. Hutchinson's tactician, Cameron Appleton of New Zealand, said their toughest race was against the U.S.'s Brian Angel, who stands 1-5. Ainslie said Sweden's Johnie Berntsson---3-3 but second here the last two years---gave them their worst moments, next to their loss to Hutchinson.

New Zealand's Adam Minoprio, a winner in the World Match Racing Tour opener at Marseille earlier this month, shares third placed with Italy's Francesco Bruni, a late entry, at 4-2.

With 18 rounds to run through Friday, leading into Saturday's championship sailoffs for the final four, principal race officer Mike Van Dyke made the most of steady southwest breezes building from 6 to 14 knots through the afternoon on the half-mile windward-leeward course inside the Long Beach breakwater.

Bruni, who wasn't invited until two weeks ago when a spot opened up, said at the evening's press conference, "We're very happy with the sun, the wind . . . and the pizza [delivered to the teams] after sailing."

Hutchinson was happy, too, after winning only two of his six starts and breaking even in two others.

"We clearly lost our last start to Angel," he said. "I expect we're going to have some hiccups on the way."

But his best move saved the race against Angel, who led the final race going into the first windward mark.

Tactician Cameron Appleton of New Zealand said, "That was our hardest race of the day. He was first off the line and controlled the race. But at the top mark he hoisted his chute a little too soon and we came in between him and the buoy. Then we luffed him head to wind and he had to drop [the spinnaker], and we bore off, raised our chute and sailed away."

Berntsson pulled off another slick comeback to beat Col by four seconds. First, he cut Col's lead to less than a boat length with a quicker spinnaker hoist and jib drop at the last mark, and when Col tried to luff him upwind near the finish he was able to break the overlap and bear away to the line to win by half a boat length.

Standings:Round Robin
1 Terry Hutchinson 6.00
2 Ben Ainslie 5.00
3 Franchesco Bruni 4.00
4 Adam Minoprio 4.00
5 Johnie Berntsson 3.00
6 Philippe Presti 2.00
7 Mathieu Richard 2.00
8 Sebastien Col 2.00
9 Staffan Lindberg 1.00
10 Brian Angel 1.00

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