Don’t look now but there’s a wonder boat dominating the Long Beach Yacht Club’s 45th Congressional Cup.
No sooner did the USA’s Terry Hutchinson step off Catalina 37 number 11 after winning all six of his races Tuesday than it proved to be the magic tool to resurrect Finland’s Staffan Lindberg from 1-5 oblivion to sweep his way through four races back into contention Wednesday.
And as soon as Hutchinson swapped it for number 1, his streak ended with a loss to France’s Sébastien Col in Wednesday’s opening round . . . somewhat to his relief, though it meant he wouldn’t go undefeated through 22 races to the title and claim a bonus choice between $30,000 and a new Acura.
“I would have bet 30 grand that we weren’t going to win the car,” Hutchinson said. “And now that the monkey’s off my back I won’t hear the comments from the committee boat, ‘Hey, you’re still winning the car!’ ”
Be assured that Hutchinson, now 9-1, lost honestly; his 22-second setback may have had something to do with Col being ISAF’s top-ranked match racer in the world coming into the event, while Hutchinson, who hadn’t done much match racing the last couple of years, was ranked … uh, 921st.
Like Lindberg, Col also bounced back Wednesday, although not quite as dramatically. He was 3-1 on the day, his only loss coming by seven seconds against Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie (three gold medals, three-time ISAF World Sailor of the Year, ad infinitum) in a remarkable contest that saw the lead change four times after both boats had hoisted spinnakers to reach the starting line downwind.
Col is now in some classy company as part of a five-way tie for fourth place with Lindberg, France’s Mathieu Richard and New Zealand’s Adam Minoprio, all 5-5, with eight rounds to go before the final four enter Saturday’s championship semifinals.
Ainslie remained just a jump behind Hutchinson at 8-2. His second loss was to Lindberg, who rolled him on a jibe when the wind was still a light 8 knots in the day’s second round. Italy’s Francesco Bruni is third at 6-4.
The thrill factor kicked in for the fourth and final round of the day when the south wind built from 11 knots and swung hard right at 15 knots, conditions when the heavy duty Catalina 37s really feel their oats.
Lindberg, who sails with an all-Swedish crew, said, “Yesterday I made a couple of major mistakes. Today we were more patient. We didn’t want to do anything stupid.”
One moment the right was favored; minutes later the left was best. Ainslie’s crew said it made tactician Kelvin Harrap a nervous wreck.
“I learned a lot of lessons today about light air,” Harrap said. “When it’s quite light the guy behind you has a better chance of coming back.”
Col was bothered about the congestion on the tight half-mile course with five matches running simultaneously.
“It’s tough to stay out of the traffic,” he said. “You can’t anticipate the moves of the other pair.”
Hutchinson said that almost cost Col the win in their match.
“We got tangled up with another match that made it difficult for Sébastien to defend his lead,” Hutchinson said.
Another observation submitted by chief umpire Alfredo Ricci was that of the 30 protest flags thrown Wednesday, 21 came in the last race with the wind at its peak.
But the real question going into Thursday’s continuation of the double round-robin is about the C/37s. All 11 of the boats, including a spare, are as equal as possible, so maybe the 10-0 record for number 11 is just a fluke. Sweden’s Johnie Berntsson, sitting in eighth place at 4-6, hopes not. He gets the wonder boat Thursday.
“We expect Staffan [Lindberg] to leave his spirit on boat number 11,” Berntsson said.
The Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier east of downtown Long Beach has bleacher seating within rooting distance of the action, free parking at the beach end and shuttle service starting, all free of charge.
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