LONG BEACH— The world’s top-match racing skippers will return to Long Beach from April 24 – 28 for the 59th Congressional Cup regatta, a premier event on the prestigious World Match Racing Tour, presented by Long Beach Yacht Club.
The 2024 Congressional Cup promises action and excitement. Defending champion Chris Poole (USA) will lead the line-up of competitors, including four-time Congressional Cup winner Gavin Brady (USA), who returns after a 12-year hiatus.
The Congressional Cup has a rich history dating to its inaugural edition in 1965. Over the years, it has become a key event in the match-racing calendar, attracting skilled sailors and sailing enthusiasts alike. The competition follows a round-robin format, in which each team competes against every other team before the top teams advance to the knockout stages.
“The Congressional Cup is the grandfather of match racing and brings world class sailing talent to Long Beach Yacht Club each year,” said Tony Mansour, 2024 Congressional Cup Chair, in a statement. “This year we literally have all of the highest-ranked skippers in the world flying into beautiful Long Beach, Calif. to compete for the distinct honor of the Crimson Blazer.”
Also on the roster are the top 10 ranked match-racing skippers, including 2009 Congressional Cup winner Johnie Berntsson (SWE), Jeppe Borch (DEN), Eric Monnin (SUI), Mati Sepp (EST), and Nick Egnot-Johnson (NZL), plus Dave Hood (USA). The two final contenders will advance from the Ficker Cup Regatta held the prior week, April 19 to 21.
During the five-day racing event, teams will compete using a fleet of uniform 37-foot Catalina keelboats, ensuring a level playing field. The essence of the game lies in strategy and skill, with crews facing off in a double-round robin format and navigating the course in intense battles. Spectators can witness the action directly from the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.
In 1965, the Long Beach Yacht Club (LBYC) introduced the Congressional Cup, revolutionizing match racing and leading the way in on-the-water umpiring innovation. With the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) launch in 2000, the Congressional Cup solidified its position as a premier event. The executive director of WMRT, James Pleasance, expressed excitement about the enduring and successful partnership with LBYC. As a founding event, the Congressional Cup has firmly established itself on the international match-racing calendar. It stands as a coveted competition for aspiring match-racing champions, allowing them to join the distinguished list of past winners.
Poole noted, “The Congressional Cup is one of the most difficult events to get into and even more difficult to win. The who’s who of yacht racing have all competed for a Crimson Blazer and a chance to put their name on the Congressional Cup. That is why I’ve worked so hard to get here, to compete against the best on a level playing field.”
Poole debuted on the Long Beach race course in 2013 and consistently climbed the leaderboard, culminating in an undefeated performance in every match at the 2023 event. Reflecting on his approach to sailing and match racing, Poole emphasized the mindset of never doubting his ability to compete with his sailing heroes. He steadfastly believed in his potential to be among the world’s top sailors through continuous dedication to improvement. Poole highlighted the significance of mental focus and self-criticism in a sport that rewards those striving to surpass their previous achievements.
The Congressional Cup kicks off on April 23 with a practice day and dinner, offering an introduction to the skippers and crews. Then five days of intense racing unfold, accompanied by nightly press conferences and social gatherings hosted at LBYC. The competition takes place off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Additionally, starting on April 26, the event will be live-streamed for those unable to witness the action in person.
LBYC has earned a reputation for exceptional hospitality and organizational prowess, leveraging the dedication and enthusiasm of over 300 member volunteers annually to orchestrate this globally acclaimed event. Since 1965, the club has been the venue where skippers converge to vie for the Congressional Cup and the revered Crimson Blazer. Much like the Green Jacket at the Masters Tournament in golf, the Crimson Blazer symbolizes triumph in one of the most distinguished yacht racing events worldwide, serving as a gateway to the America’s Cup.