The Congressional Cup is supposed to match the superstars of sailing, but some of them got caught with their reputations down Friday.
Two-time defending champion Dave Perry and America's Cup campaigners John Kolius and Rod Friday's Competition
Davis all blew opportunities to take charge of the four-day series off Long Beach and remained in a first-place deadlock with 5-2 records and two races remaining today.
Back at the dock, Kolius laughed and yelled at Perry: "No matter how bad you guys want us to win this thing, we're not gonna do it."
Kolius could afford to laugh. He was the only one among the leaders who didn't have to go into the protest room afterward to protect his share of the lead. Perry was protested by Dennis Conner for a pre-start maneuver, while Davis was involved in a two-way protest with Jack Gobbell.
Young John Shadden also flew a protest flag against Davis, a close friend, for a technicality involving flying a spinnaker without a pole but later changed his mind.
"It was a touchy protest," Shadden said, "and I don't want to protest Rod."
If the wins by Perry and Davis in those races stand and the three sailors post equal results today, the ultimate winner of the traditional crimson blazer may be determined by a sailoff. Each is 1-1 against the other two.
Kolius is scheduled to sail today against Gobbell (1-6) and Conner (3-4), Davis draws Ted Turner (3-4) and Mauro Pelleschier (4-3), while Perry meets Gobbell and Shadden (2-5).
None of those races is guaranteed--not after Friday, when the leaders proved they were capable of losing to anybody.
"It still takes a little luck," said Kolius' tactician, John Bertrand. "We just aren't the machines everybody thinks we are."
Kolius was on his way to a 3-0 record for the day and the undisputed series lead in ideal breezes building from 8 to 12 knots, then a mishap occurred. He had a 28-second lead over Chris Dickson when a spinnaker shackle opened on the first downwind leg, costing him half his lead before he could get the chute filled again.
Then just before the leeward mark, Dickson pulled two quick jibes that left Kolius' crew confused about how they were going to drop the spinnaker, resulting in a jibsheet tangling around the pole and chaos on the boat as Dickson sailed past.
Bowman Robbie Young wound up holding the jib in one hand and the spinnaker in the other and falling through the forward hatch. They all had a good laugh about it later.
"Brain fade," Kolius called it.
Dickson, who heads New Zealand's America's Cup campaign, said: "We kept the pressure on them and had better crew work. That's what it's all about."
In the day's other key race, Perry led Davis throughout, but never by more than 19 seconds, and won by only two seconds by slipping his boat inside the port pin at the finish line. Down at the other end, Davis was trying to push his bow across by luffing up--sailing's equivalent of leaning into the tape.
It worked for Davis when he nipped Ron Daugherty to win the Cup in 1981, but this time he went dead in the water a few feet before reaching the line.
"Unfortunately, we hit two waves," crewman Geoff Davis said. "Ideally, you want smooth water when you try to shoot the line."
Perry lost his race against Ireland's Harold Cudmore (4-3) by 1:25 after he jumped the gun and restarted 11 seconds behind.
"I tried to get tricky," said Perry, who hadn't raced since last spring's Olympic campaign ended in the U.S. Trials. "I'm rusty. I'm getting careless. The sharpness isn't there."
The victory was sweet for Cudmore, who lost the cup to Perry in the deciding race a year ago. He posted a 3-0 record for the day to get back into contention at 4-3.