LONG BEACH, Calif.—As a globetrotting professional racing sailor, Gavin Brady doesn’t spend much time in any one place, but spring will usually find him in Long Beach.
As usual, that places him in the lineup April 29-May 3 for the Long Beach Yacht Club’s 44th Congressional Cup, duking it out with world-class peers in America’s only Grade 1 match racing regatta. Brady, a New Zealand native who has lived in Annapolis, Md. since 1988, has won the Congressional Cup three times—most recently in 2006—and is poised to equal Rod Davis and Peter Holmberg with his fourth victory.
Another former winner in the lineup is Dave Perry, who won in 1983 and ’84 and has successfully resurrected his match racing skills in recent years.
Brady’s first win came in 1996 when he was 23 and relatively unknown on the world scene, followed by his second in ’97.
“This yacht club gave me a break when I was young, so this is a really special event for me,” he said.
This year’s field features three of the world’s top 10 match racers and six of the top 20, as rated by the International Sailing Federation. Brady isn’t in either group because other commitments, including last year’s America’s Cup with BMW Oracle, allowed him time for only five match racing events over the past two years.
But he is likely to be a factor. Besides his three wins in the Congressional Cup, he has been in the semifinals six times and the finals five times.
His competition is led by Russia’s seventh-ranked Eugeniy Neugodnikov, skipper of the “Lord of the Sail” team from Ekaterinburg who last year won 10 of 18 matches to equal the third best record. Neugodnikov missed the sailoffs on a tiebreaker but scored some consolation by winning the last day’s fleet race for non-championship qualifiers.
Others are Pierre-Antoine Morvan, France, No. 8; Damien Iehl, France, No. 10; Philippe Presti, France, No. 14; Andrew Arbuzov, Russia, No. 15; Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, No. 19; Simon Minoprio, New Zealand, No. 26; Dave Perry, USA, No. 44; Brady and Scott Dickson, also a New Zealand native but a Long Beach resident who again qualified by winning last fall’s Ficker Cup.
Dickson, like Brady, lacks a significant ranking after sailing in a limited number of events, which skews the rankings. For example, Ed Baird, a past Con Cup winner, is ranked only 108th, 40 spots behind Brady, who spent his time driving Alinghi to victory in the America’s Cup last year. The America’s Cup, although the sport’s penultimate match racing event, doesn’t count in ISAF’s rankings.
The 10 six-man crews will sail Catalina 37s owned by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation, rotating boats daily. They’ll race a double round-robin of match racing, followed by the fleet race and best-of-three championship sailoffs Saturday, April 15.
Since the Congressional Cup was launched in 1965 by a Deed of Gift recorded in the U.S. Congress, other world-renowned sailors such as Ted Turner, Dennis Conner, Rod Davis, Peter Gilmour, Peter Holmberg, Dean Barker, Ken Read and Chris Dickson have won the Crimson Blazer emblematic of victory in the prestigious event.
A high level of organization has been maintained over the years by a volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families.
The Long Beach Yacht Club, founded in 1929, has from its beginning sought to encourage future generations of sailors and power boaters. Located on a promontory of Alamitos Bay in the Long Beach Marina, it has a dynamic junior sailing program whose members compete in various youth regattas. There is also a junior swim team and an enthusiastic big game fishing program.
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