“History doesn’t repeat itself,” said Mark Twain allegedly, “but it often rhymes.” And over at the pinch-me-to believe-it’s-real Long Beach, California it’s deja-vu as Britain’s Ian Williams and the USA’s Taylor Canfield go toe to toe for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the match-racing world.
There’s another big fight tonight in the UK, I know which one I’ll be tuned into. The two biggest names in match-racing going head-to-head for the Crimson Blazer and that magnificent trophy is simply too good to miss. Fury vs Whyte is second string in comparison. Tune into YouTube tonight – you won’t regret it and you won’t have to pay a pay-per-view fee.
But this wasn’t a walk in the park. Congratulations to Johnie Berntsson for putting up one heck of a battle with Ian Williams, levelling the score at 2-2 and going into a decider where our collective hearts were in our mouths right to the very death. It was top class match-racing and the final run was something to show every aspiring athlete in this discipline of just how to shake a blanketing opponent. Brilliant from Williams. Mesmerising. And he squeaked it, clean and simple. Berntsson is no mug and that finals place was well-earned by Ian. Great racing.
And Chris Poole, with his Riptide Racing Team, were more than good against the event favourite Taylor Canfield having squared up at 1-1. But race three was their undoing as they carried a penalty into the final run in a good 15-18 knots of breeze with King Kenny Read calling the airwaves (name me a better commentator in this sport) and holding the kite up to the line.
A quick drop over the bow, pull in to deck level below the goosneck and circle a 360 was all that was required, I say ‘all’ but this is one tough manoeuvre, and as the spinnaker went looking for mackarel over the bow, Canfield stormed the line. 2-1 and with a soggy old chute, it was so near yet so far for the affable Riptide Team who succumbed 3-1 on the final standings. They will be back. Canfield sails on.
I sat thoroughly entertained for a good three, maybe four hours last night, at top flight racing by some of the very best sailors on the planet. I absolutely take my hat off to the competitors for the fabulous ambassadorial role they are executing out in Long Beach and for the astonishing show of skill, poise, precision, tactics and seamanship they are displaying.
And to all the organisers – the Tour, the members of the prestigious Long Beach Yacht Club on East Appian Way, the volunteers who have given up their week to help, the professionals involved in the Tour (huge shout out to Ian Roman for the wonderful photography) and to those in the commentary box, wow what a fabulous, outstanding job you are all doing. Thank you. This is quality.
The Congressional Cup is an event that can hold it’s own against the very, very best anywhere in the world. Whoever pulls on that Crimson Blazer, be it Taylor for his sixth or Ian to level the score at five, they will have more than earned it and will take a place in history that is something very special.
This 57th running is a vintage one. A return to its rightful place at the very top of our sporting calendar. I just wish I had a spot on the bleachers at the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier with a cool beer in my hand to watch one of our sport’s most defining rivalries play out before my eyes. It’s going to be electric.
Let’s get ready to rumble…