Johnie Berntsson and his sailing crew are the first team from Sweden  to win the Long Beach Yacht Club’s Congressional Cup in its 45 year history. “We are very happy,’ said Berntsson. ‘We were very lucky, too.’ They made most of their luck in a remarkable recovery from a bad start climaxed by a 2-0 sweep of Italy’s Francesco Bruni in the best-of-three finals Saturday.

Congressional Cup Sailing in Long Beach by Rich Roberts

Congressional Cup Sailing in Long Beach by Rich Roberts

Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie, who started fast but faded later, won the fleet race for non-sail off teams to collect $1,000 and an Oceanaut watch.

Berntsson, 36, won 11 of his last 13 races after starting 4-7, and the most dramatic was his first win over Bruni, who had led almost the entire two laps around the half-mile windward-leeward course as they approached the finish line, spinnakers straining full of a brisk 15 knots of southwest Long Beach sea breeze.

Then Berntsson jibed away to aim for the nearer pin end of the line, while Bruni continued toward the committee boat end. Berntsson’s bow crossed a couple of feet ahead by a single second. The next clinching race was an almost anti-climactic 24-second victory as Berntsson controlled the favored right side of the course.

Berntsson, who won last year’s Bermuda Gold Cup on the World Match Racing Tour and was second in the last two Congressional Cups, gave all credit to his crew of tactician Daniel Wallberg, trimmer Johan Backman, main sail trimmer Johan Barne, pitman Niklas Calzon and bowman Bjorn Lundgren.

‘The guys made me grow and didn’t blame me when I made the mistakes,’ he said. ‘If you have that confidence you can come back and do better. My plan was to make some aggressive starts.’

Berntsson’s won $10,000 and watches for his crew. Bruni won $6,000.

2009 Congressional Cup – Final Results

FINALS
Berntsson d. Bruni, 0:01; Berntsson d. Bruni, 0:24 (Berntsson wins, 2-0).

PETIT FINALS
Hutchinson d. Richard, 0:55; Hutchins d. Richard, 0:02 (Hutchinson wins, 2-0).

SEMIFINALS
Berntsson d. Richard, 0:22; Richard d. Berntsson, DNF; Berntsson d. Richard, 0:33 (Berntsson wins, 2-1).

Bruni d. Hutchinson, 0:55; Bruni d. Hutchinson, 0:26 (Bruni wins, 2-0).

FINAL ROUND-ROBIN STANDINGS:

1. Terry Hutchinson, USA, 15-3;
2. tie between Francesco Bruni, Italy, and Mathieu Richard, France, 13-5;
4. tie between Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, and Adam Minoprio, New Zealand, 10-8 (Berntsson wins tiebreaker);
6. Ben Ainslie, Great Britain, 9-9;
7. Sébastien Col, France, 7.5-10*;
8. Staffan Lindberg, Finland, 7-11;
9. Philippe Presti, France, 4-14;
10. Brian Angel, USA, 1-17.

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