LONG BEACH, California
Gavin Brady over the weekend joined a small, elite club of match racing sailors with a common problem: what to do with all of those Crimson Blazers in their closets.
Only Rod Davis and Peter Holmberg also own four of the traditional winner's wardrobe in Long Beach Yacht Club's Congressional Cup presented by Acura, now counting 44 years of consecutive competitions among the best in the world at their specialty.
After winning 15 of his 18 round robin contests, Brady drove through the sailoffs with a steady and steely determination in sweeping local pride Scott Dickson and Sweden's Johnie Berntsson---who was coming off seven consecutive wins---in two straight races each in the semifinals and finals, respectively.
Berntsson had swept France's Philippe Presti, 2-0, in the other semifinal, and Presti took the measure of Dickson in the consolation final.
Brady, a New Zealand native who has lived in Annapolis, Md., since the mid-90s, won his first two Congressional Cups in 1996 and '97 when he was only 22 and 23, then his third in 2006 after building a professional sailing career of America's Cups and various ocean races.
"We were competitive in a boat sailing fast and we didn't have to take any risks," Brady said.
As a southwest breeze built to 13 knots, the clincher against Berntsson was especially a show of total control. Brady had Berntsson pinned to leeward and slightly ahead of the starting line and didn't tack until reaching the port layline for the windward mark. Downwind, he blocked the Swede's every move while jibing only twice, and on the next two legs he needed only two tacks and one jibe---a total of three tacks and jibes for the race he won by 14 seconds.
"They were just better," Berntsson said. "They did a better start. If we had tacked [on the first leg] he would have gained too much on us."
Berntsson plain got off on the wrong foot. Seconds before the horn for their first race, Brady stalked him up to the line, where he gained a slight overlap, bow to stern, and Berntsson tagged him as he turned away. Chris Larson, Brady's tactician, waved a protest flag and the on-water umpires hoisted a blue flag---foul on Berntsson.
But the killer came another few seconds later when the umpires talked it over and ruled that Berntsson caused the contact deliberately and imposed a second penalty.
Berntsson said later, "I made a big mistake at the start."
But he didn't agree with the second flag, which forced him to do a penalty turn immediately, and calmly questioned chief umpire Jan Stage about it before the awards ceremonies.
A side note: There would be no protest hearing because there haven't been any in match racing since 1988, when the standard on-water umpiring system was formally introduced to the world in this event.
Brady's other crew, besides the veteran Larson, were Jim Swartz, Rodney Daniel, John Ziskind and Kazuhiko Sofuku, all America's Cup veterans---13 in all---except Swartz, the Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur who has hired these guys to sail on his new STP 65, Moneypenny, starting this summer on the East Coast.
"But I'll drive Moneypenny," Swartz said with a smile after his first-ever match racing experience. "This was a training mission for me. I learned a lot."
Source: Long Beach Yacht Club, May 5, 2008