Taylor Canfield’s American Stars+Stripes team triumphed in the 56th Congressional Cup at Long Beach Yacht Club on Sunday, capping five days of high-test competition in the World Match Racing Tour championship event — and making Canfield the winningest skipper in the history of the Cup.
Said Canfield of his fifth Congressional Cup victory, “It’s incredible, but it feels just like every other win. Fantastic! And to win with the Stars+Stripes Team again — I’m on top of the world.” Racing with Canfield were Mike Buckley, the CEO of Stars+Stripes, Mac Agnese, Leo Boucher, Victor Diaz De Leon, George Peet and Erik Shampain.
Canfield attributed the victory to sticking to their plan. “Our goal is to always get better throughout the week. We had some difficult moments and some tough debriefs about how we could continue to get better, and that makes us stronger in the end. And we like to keep the umpires out of the game,” Canfield added. “I think we had only one penalty over the week.”
Aggressive maneuvers and resultant penalties oft proved to be the demise of Canfield’s rivals. Advancing to the semi-final round for the first time in his eight Congressional Cup history, Eric Monnin (SUI) won his initial match against Canfield. But the Swiss bowed to Canfield in the next three bouts, including one black-flagged match. In the petite finals, Monnin beat Chris Poole (USA) in the best-of-three series to capture his first podium finish in his Congressional Cup career. Monnin and his bride Ute Wagner are probably the first husband-wife team to podium in the Cup.
Poole and Johnie Berntsson (SWE) entered the day 2-2 with one match left in the semi-finals, a winner-take-all to advance. In the vigorous pre-start, Poole failed to keep clear and received a penalty he couldn’t exonerate before the finish, bowing to Berntsson.
Then it was Canfield versus Berntsson in the finals. It was the lightest day of the series, with patchy, more southerly breezes of 7 knots, adding to the complexity and challenge of match racing. Stars+Stripes swept the series with three wins in a row. Berntsson captured his fourth second place in 15 years of Congressional Cup racing. The 2009 winner of the Crimson Blazer, Berntsson remains a crowd favorite at LBYC.
Canfield commended the level of competition at the event. “It was great to come and beat an incredible field of sailors, including some up-and-coming young guys. But at 32, I think I’ve got a few more years left in me,” he added with a laugh.
Scores of spectators had gathered on Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier to watch the spectacle, which included a fleet race for those teams not making the semis. Jeffrey Petersen (USA) won that race. Peterson is the current United States Youth Match Racing champion and Governors Cup champion. At age 19, he was also the youngest skipper. An LBYC Junior, 13-year-old Madison Mansour, did main and tactics for Petersen.