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Shaking it up at Congressional Cup: Poole joins Canfield, Berntsson & Monnin in semis

by Betsy Senescu 19 Sep 08:01 BST 14-19 September 2021
Junior Congressional Cup © Ian Roman / WYRT

It wasn't just the sudden 4.3 earthquake that shook things up at the Congressional Cup this weekend. The spirited racing, which had started Wednesday Sept. 15, found five skippers battling for the final spot in the semi-final round at this prestigious Long Beach Yacht Club, World Match Racing Tour event.

At the start of Day Four, only two races remained in the double round robin series: a scant 1.5 points separating the five hopefuls. Jeffrey Petersen (USA) and Emil Kjaer (DEN) each went 1-1; while David Wood's (USA) losses to Petersen and Johnie Berntsson (SWE) eliminated him from the hunt. But when Chris Poole (USA) aced both of his matches - including a stunning win over Berntsson - he leapfrogged the pack to land the final spot in the semis.

"I thought it would be a tall order to get through," Poole admitted, after an opening day record of 2-5. "This is a really tough event, and the field of competition is really deep. And the younger guys we saw come up from Ficker Cup are not slow... so to have that competition: it was really a tall order."

"There were a lot of factors that had to happen for us to win our two races: that's all we had control over," Poole continued. "But the guys on my boat did a phenomenal job and the chips fell in our favor." Poole called his pairing with Berntsson in the semi-finals a "fistfight" - which included Poole earning a black flag. They ended the day 2-2.

Taylor Canfield (USA), as the frontrunner in Stage One, had selected Eric Monnin (SUI) as his opponent in the semis. A four-time Congressional Cup champion, Canfield ended the day 2-1 against Monnin, who has yet to win a Crimson Blazer. Their second race of the semis was abandoned due to a wind shift.

The 2021 Congressional Cup marks Monnin's eighth attempt at the title. "For us it's really cool to be in the semis: it's our first time," noted Monnin, who also was black flagged today. "We always struggle a bit on these boats and adapting to the conditions, but this is a big opportunity. We want to perform well so we don't let that chance go."

Junior Congressional Cup

Friday afternoon, after four flights of round robin racing, the teams had returned to the club for the most important match of the day: the Junior Congressional Cup. LBYC Junior Sailors - ranging in age from 11 to 15 - were paired up with Congressional Cup skippers for some serious fun on Alamitos Bay.

They enthusiastically rigged their FJs and docked out, the evening wind fresh and cool. OCS at the start, Madison Mansour and crew, Jeffrey Petersen, ducked back to the line, and in the puffy breeze tipped: tossing young Madison out of the boat! Swiftly retrieved, she would rebound to fifth place finish in the race.

But first, the fleet had to sail three times around, tacking and jibing in the gusty sundowners, heeling precariously. Chris Poole, crewing for Kai Bramble, was seen bailing furiously while others just barely stayed upright.

Competition was lively as the skippers and their pro crews orbited the course, fans and family cheering from the balcony at LBYC. At the head of the pack, lead changes were frequent, especially as the fleet approached the upwind finish.

In the final moments Walter McFarland and crew Johnie Berntsson, overtook Alex Lech and crew Taylor Canfield - even as Canfield, clowning, reached out to grab McFarland's FJ and hold him back! But McFarland broke free and bested Lech by one boat length, with Jack Snow and Sam Gilmour taking third.

At the Press Conference that evening, McFarland was awarded a Crimson T-shirt: a nod to the Crimson Blazer the Congressional Cup victor will earn.

"We start them young," laughed LBYC's Lisa Meier, who will chair the 2022 Congressional Cup. "The Congressional Cup skippers have always been excellent inspirations for our juniors: providing friendship and role models, with their high level of professionalism and achievement."

"Long Beach Yacht Club is invested in youth and not just our own," Meier pointed out. Community-wide, the Long Beach Yacht Club Sailing Foundation's Middle School STEM program fosters an interest in science, technology, engineering and math through sailing, with hands-on integrated learning opportunities using boating as a platform.

"Seeing the level of focus and talent our younger Ficker Cup and Congressional Cup participants bring to the sport is encouraging," Meier continued. "It's exciting to see these youth focused on participating at the highest levels, and that they feel there is a roadmap to achieve that. And we want to make sure that door is open to anyone who wants to enter it."

56th Congressional Cup continues Sept. 19

The final day of racing in the 56th Congressional Cup will begin tomorrow, Sunday Sept. 19 at 11:30AM at the "Congressional Cup Stadium" - a designated racecourse off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, at the south end of 39th Place in Long Beach. Spectators are invited to watch the racing live, or online on the official Facebook page at @CongressionalCup.

For up-to-the-minute results visit: www.matchracingresults.com/2021/congressional-cup

For details on Congressional Cup go to thecongressionalcup.com; visit wmrt.com for details on the WMRT.

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