France's Mathieu Richard leads the way on day one of the Congressional Cup in Long Beach 12/4/06

With France’s Mathieu Richard leading the way by winning all five of his matches, the five European competitors in the 42nd Congressional Cup presented by Acura, won 18 of their 25 races to claim the top three positions on opening day.

Close behind Richard, who is eighth in the current International Sailing Federation (ISAF) rankings, stand Great Britain’s Ian Williams (No. 7) and Finland’s Staffan Lindberg (13) at 4-1.

Conversely, the three New Zealanders – four if you count local Scott Dickson who has lived in Long Beach for a decade – were 7-13, an atypical mark for a small country that turns out champion match racers like sheepskin slippers.

Bobby Frazier, principal race officer for the host Long Beach Yacht Club, was commended for clicking off the first five of the week’s 18 rounds of a double round robin in nearly six hours of fluky winds. The customary sea breeze never showed, although it did increase to 7 knots for the final round when Brady beat Williams by 14 seconds in the last race of the day to hand the Brit his first loss and dampen a minor re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar against Richard on Wednesday.

One of the event’s rookies, Brian Angel, 24, of nearby Redondo Beach, opened with a win against Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson but then lost four in a row.

“The good thing that comes out of it is that we were fast,” Angel said. “The big thing here is that you pay for everything you do wrong.”

Lindberg, who owns a book distributing company in Finland, was strong off the starting line in all but one of his races – the one he lost to New Zealand’s Simon Minoprio. “One of my crew said, ‘Get the boat off the line in front and we’ll do the rest.’ They did.”

With a $41,000 purse at stake, the six-man crews sailed their Catalina 37s twice around a windward/leeward course set off the shoreline adjacent to the Belmont Pier, which has accommodations for spectators with expert race commentary at no charge.

Results (day 1)
Mathieu Richard (France) 5-0

Ian Williams (Gr. Britain) 4-1

Staffan Lindberg (Finland) 4-1

Gavin Brady (New Zealand) 3-2

Simon Minoprio (N. Zealand) 3-2

Johnie Berntsson (Sweden) 2-3

Peter Wibroe (Denmark) 2-3

Brian Angel (Redondo Beach) 1-4

Scott Dickson (Long Beach) 1-4

Cameron Appleton (N. Zealand) 0-5