Congressional Cup : Davis Scores Two Victories, but Losing Skippers Protest

Times Staff Writer

Rod Davis opened defense of his Congressional Cup sailing championship by finishing first in both races Wednesday, but he could be in last place before the start of today's racing.

Results of protests against Davis in his victories over Canada's Terry McLaughlin and Ireland's Harold Cudmore were to be announced at this morning's skippers meeting, before the second day of match racing off Long Beach.

Although it was up to the judges to sort out the intricacies of the rules, it seemed the worst Davis would get was a split. There was no contact in the prestart incident with McLaughlin, but Davis also protested Cudmore in the other race for hitting him from behind.

"I was running downwind and there was a collision," Davis said.

The McLaughlin affair involved windward-leeward rights. There was no contact, but McLaughlin, skipper for Nova Scotia's True North America's Cup campaign, claimed he had to alter course to avoid hitting Davis when Davis turned downwind in front of him about 20 seconds before the starting gun.

With favor from the judges, Cudmore and McLaughlin could move into a first-place tie with two-time champion Dave Perry, who had two unprotested victories against Steve Flam and New Zealand's Chris Dickson.

The sailing started nearly four hours behind schedule because of last-minute changes that were required to keep the Catalina 38s equally rigged and equipped. The wind was 14 knots, gusting to 19, for the first round of races but was dying from 10 knots through the second race, which was completed at dusk over a shortened course.

Flam, the host Long Beach Yacht Club's sailoff entry, was the hard-luck skipper of the day. Although appearing to be a minnow among sharks, he almost scored two wins, and still hoped to pull one against Australia's Colin Beashel out of the protest room.

Perry, who won the Congressional in 1983 and '84, was leading Flam by five lengths when he failed to lay the first weather mark. He had to tack twice, as Flam slipped around to seize the lead.

However, Flam, 24, and his all-Long Beach crew were having equipment problems on their new boat. Before the race was over, three of his six sheet blocks were broken, and Perry came back for a 1 minute 50 second victory.

Flam tried to fly a yellow flag indicating he needed repairs, but it tore loose from the backstay.

"When even your breakdown flag breaks down, you know it's not your day," he said. "At least we were there for two races."

He was leading Beashel near the first leeward mark when he luffed up, leading to a double protest. Flam claimed that Beashel's spinnaker touched his shrouds, while Beashel claimed Flam gave him no chance to stay clear.

"It was a move he (Beashel) wasn't expecting," Flam said, "judging by the look on his face."

After the incident, Flam sailed well below the mark as Beashel, helmsman for one of Australia's America's Cup syndicates, went on to finish first by 2:45.

If Beashel loses the protest, he would be 0-2 after losing the first race to Dickson by 26 seconds.

Dickson was over the line before the gun in that leadoff matchup between the sailors that placed first (Beashel) and second in last month's world 12-meter championship, but restarted 15 seconds behind and passed Beashel on the first downwind leg. His spinnaker ripped halfway through at the start of the second downwind leg, but by then his lead was so big that it didn't matter.

The crews switch boats today, and the committee hoped to get in at least three races, weather and wind permitting.

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