Five All

Building narrative in sailing is made much easier when the very best provide the bylines and in winning his fifth Crimson Blazer, Ian Williams just ensured that the 2023 Congressional Cup will be a corker. Five wins apiece between Ian and Taylor Canfield sets up a beauty next year – who will make history with a sixth? It’s generational stuff. We may never see this being done again.

©Ian Roman / WMRT

And it was won in style. With lighter airs coming back, it was a day for precision tactics and boatspeed, both of which the Brits had in abundance and their clear thinking, cool calls and outstanding team-work (roll tacking and gybing boats of this size – incredible) dispatched Canfield with a flattering 3-1 scoreline.

But it was so, so desperately close with penalties aplenty and the boats seemingly tethered by a cord all afternoon. First blood went to Taylor with a text-book win that left the north face of the Eiger to climb for the Brits and for all the world it looked like the momentum was all going the way of the Americans.

©Ian Roman / WMRT

With everything to do, Williams showed class to win race two showing real mettle and aggression right from the off and suddenly we had a contest. Canfield, the 2021 winner of the Covid-affected regatta which Williams didn’t attend, looked stunned and it was all-on fireworks as the two came to the line for race three.

Circling just metres away from the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier has to be one of the most iconic sights in our sport and the crowds that thronged were getting some of the best entertainment that sailing can offer. If you didn’t enjoy this, there’s not a lot more our sport can do for you. In the final lead into the line, Williams went for a hook with Matt ‘Catflap’ Cornwell calling the bow and the two boats kissed meaning the umpires had to call a foul and it was Williams that was chalked the penalty.

©Ian Roman / WMRT

But the mark of Williams and his absolutely top-flight team was what happened immediately after the penalty call. Many a sailor goes to pieces post-foul but Williams was relentless and hunted down Canfield on the final approach to the committee boat end and pinned the Americans outside. The boat-work was simply incredible. The jib was up and down like a yo-yo as the Brits stalled out and closed the door meaning Canfield had to gybe away and circle back handing a five boatlength advantage right there and then in this crucial race.

With the afternoon breeze building beautifully, Williams was off to the races but still carrying a penalty and by the final run, the spectators knew that a ‘spin and win at the pin’ was going to be called and it was desperately, desperately close – impossible to call. Five boatlengths became a photo-finish as the British crew raise their jib, dropped the kite beautifully and bore hard away. The commentators called it for Canfield who gave it everything surfing into the line fast, but the win was Wiliams’s. In a nutshell, that race summed up the 57th Congressional Cup. It was fabulous. Watch it. You simply have to.

©Ian Roman / WMRT

After that nail-biter, the final race was a more gentle affair. Williams split tacked on the line, executed a beautiful committee boat start and rolled into the building breeze on the right of the course. It was text-book stuff and once ahead, it was a straightforward stroll to a fifth Crimson Blazer and a place alongside Canfield in the history books.

As British wins go, this is right up there and leaves me thinking why on earth Williams isn’t being snapped up by the America’s Cup or SailGP. What he showed was utter brilliance and such a cool head under pressure. Rarely do we see such fine execution and I’d put this up amongst any of our gold medallists in the Olympics over the past 30 years. Outstanding.

©Ian Roman / WMRT

And I’ve said it before, but it’s well-worth saying again – Long Beach YC were the perfect hosts for this pitch-perfect stadium style regatta. They just do it so well and my goodness that club looks like a bucket-list must-visit, an absolute jewel of world yachting with a membership that can be rightly proud of how brilliantly they executed this Congressional Cup. The World Match Racing Tour has gold-dust with this and its place as one of the true Blue Riband events of world sailing is unquestioned. Congratulations to all involved. Outstanding.

Here’s to the 58th Congressional Cup in 2023. And even if it’s half as good as the 57th, we’re in for a sailing treat.

History was written this weekend but history awaits.

5 thoughts on “Five All

  1. I watched the coverage earlier and was enthralled from start to finish. It made me remember how good the AC used to be when we had proper match racing!

    Either way, as you say it begs the question why on earth hasn’t Williams been snapped up by an Americas cup team. Not just his helming but his management of the crew is next level.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is it possible he’s been scouted by such programs but turned them down? Although I don’t share it, the “those weird and convoluted boat designs aren’t for me” attitude seems so widespread that it wouldn’t surprise me if there were a few pros who felt that way themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ian Williams brilliant. How about bigging up Alan Roberts. Actually a far harder event. More competitive with over 30 entries. Solo racing for more that two days plus two around the bouys. Results 4, 4, 1 = 3rd overall


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