The Congressional Cup at Fifty
Posted April 6, 2014
Half a century on from the inaugural, the 50th Congressonal Cup is a survivor and still a leader.
It’s a spirit thing that powers the heart of the Long Beach Yacht Club.
Thanks to viewing from a pier and bleachers, it’s spectator-friendly.
And it’s a standalone. From its just-us-folks beginnings, this thing spiraled up in a hurry and made its own place in the world. Tying the Congressional Cup to a circuit just never worked out. Tying it to a title sponsor just never worked out. But we know now that those things never had to work out. Chairing the various features of a Congressional Cup are each a rung on the ladder to chairing the event itself, which in turn is a rung on the long ladder to a place in “the flags,” as sailors call their serving club officers. Add a few hundred Long Beach Yacht Club volunteers brimming with enthusiasm and passion, and you have the formula that keeps the sailors coming back. They come because they like it, because they’re happy here, because they feel the love.
Racing continues with two days of racing for the Ficker Cup, with the top four advancing to further flights and cuts until we have a final-two match and a 2014 Congressional Cup champion on Sunday.
Fifty years ago, it made sense-enough to stage match racing in bring-your-own Cal 40s. Then came the club’s commitment to matched sails, to even things out. Now, behind an even bigger commitment, the entire region benefits from having a fleet of foundation-owned, identical Catalina 37s available for other events as well. On-the-water umpiring? Just one of the many things we take for granted today that began at the Congressional Cup.
Through the years, the event has had its identity crises. Should the Congressional Cup have a bucks-up title sponsor? No. Title sponsors come and go, trailing turmoil, and the Cup is here to stay. Should it be part of a bigger, international circuit with a pot of prize money? The answer, again, was no. Not if Long Beach Yacht Club wanted to run its own show. And the winner’s Crimson Blazer is a big deal in itself, worn by the likes of Ted Turner, Bill Ficker, and Dennis Conner, who declares, “Winning the Congressional Cup launched my America’s Cup career, because whoever won the Congressional Cup was looked upon as the best match racer in the world.”
You can find event details at LBYC Congressional Cup or meet the all-time players in video at . . .
I’m not on the scene for the 50th, but even at a distance, over the phone or in the email trail, I can feel the energy. Things are UP in Long Beach this week.
And people wonder why I’ve got this grinKimball