Dave Perry, John Kolius and Rod Davis, who left seven other skippers in their wakes this week, will settle their Congressional Cup deadlock in a sailoff at Long Beach today.
Each won twice Saturday to remain tied, with 7-2 records after the nine scheduled races over the past four days. Because Kolius had beaten Perry, Perry had defeated Davis and Davis had beaten Kolius, there was no other way to settle the issue but to go back to the boats today. Three guys can't wear one crimson blazer.
The only other sailoff in the event's 21 years was won by Dennis Conner in 1973. This year, Conner finished with a 4-5 record.
The three survivors will draw to determine which two would race first. The winner of that race will then meet the winner of the draw for the championship.
Davis and Perry didn't seem happy with the arrangement. Apparently, they would have preferred to continue the round-robin format of the series among themselves until the tie was broken.
Perry's tactician, Peter Isler, said: "I just hope we get the bye."
That would probably be an advantage, matching a fresh crew against one that had just won a tough race.
Kolius shrugged and said: "It's their (the Long Beach Yacht Club's) regatta. They can handle it any way they want to. We've already thrown away one chance to win it. We're not going to throw away another."
Then there was the matter of which boats they would sail. All Catalina 38s are not created equal, despite the committee's painstaking efforts to make them so. As an extra measure for the first time this year, the rules called for crews to switch boats each day from a predetermined draw.
But after 45 races there appeared to be fast boats and slow boats, to the delight or chagrin of the respective owners who loaned them out for the week. Basilea, which Kolius sailed Saturday, had an 8-1 record for the week, while no other boat was better than 6-3, and one--Lady J--wound up 1-8.
The rotation called for Kolius to sail Lady J if all the skippers had to return for a fifth day today because of postponements during the week. Instead, the committee chose to have the trio draw from a pool of the five boats considered most similar in performance.
Saturday's races were delayed nearly three hours until the wind arrived, eventually building to 12 knots, and for awhile it appeared further hassle would be unnecessary.
Kolius had a comfortable lead over John Shadden in the final round and Italy's Mauro Pellaschier led Davis by 17 seconds at the first weather mark. If that order held, Kolius would have won the title up by having beaten Perry earlier.
But odd circumstances sometimes determine sporting events, and this time it may have been the language barrier.
Pellaschier is the skipper for the Yacht Club de Costa Smeralda's America's Cup program, which is financed by the Aga Khan. But he brought only three of his regular crew with him and picked up three local sailors.
That was good for international good will but bad for sailing.
Steve Flam of Long Beach, one of the Americans on board, said: "We have a problem. We're speaking different languages."
So when they approached the first leeward mark, according to Flam, "We just didn't know what we were gonna do until we were there . . . whether we were gonna jibe or not."
As a result, they dropped their spinnaker on the wrong side of the boat, got lines tangled and were unable to retrieve it until Davis had swallowed the lead. By the time they reached the windward mark again, Davis was 34 seconds in front and home free.
Pellaschier thus wound up 4-5 in his second Congressional appearance.
"I think we sailed better than last year," he said. "Maybe in 40 or 50 years we win."
Perry is the two-time defending champion, but the series is getting more difficult. He had to sweat out a protest well into the night a year ago and now faces a sailoff.
Saturday he and his crew returned to the dock wearing Mouseketeer caps, ears and all.
"That's the way we sailed all week--Mickey Mouse" he said.
However, Perry led at every mark in beating Pellaschier by 17 seconds and Ted Turner by 1:48, while Kolius had little trouble disposing of Ireland's Harold Cudmore by 31 seconds and Shadden by 1:09.