the big con
Once upon a time, Long Beach Yacht Club’s Congressional Cup was a big deal. This prestigious event is the only ISAF Grade 1 match race in North America – a fact that LBYC never stops reminding anyone who will listen – but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t even know it was going on last week. In earlier days LBYC made an effort to publicize their match, but this year, LBYC joined Sydney’s CYCA’s Sydney-Hobart coverage in the race for who could do a crappier job bringing their landmark events to race fans worldwide.
The Congressional Cup is probably the best candidate for live streaming video of any match race in the world – it has all the elements necessary for a great broadcast: The races take place in big boats just inches off the club’s pier, the breeze is generally solid, the courses are short, the teams are some of the best in the world, the spectator crowd is big and vocal, and the boats – the horrible Catalina 37 – are so slow that there is rarely any separation at all, and usually plenty of bumping, grinding, and yelling.
Once upon a time, LBYC gave a shit about promoting match racing, and this led to their long-standing tradition of producing a live radio broadcast for both the spectators and, more recently, the online audience. But like CYCA’s Sydney-Hobart initially groundbreaking online coverage efforts, LBYC sat on its asses while things like streaming video became viable, laughably simple, and cheap. The Con Cup literature mentions the "300 volunteers" that make the event possible, but apparently, not one of those 300 is capable of lending a video camera, firewire cable, and laptop to the old codger with the microphone, so he could actually commentate rather than talking about his 1D48 race team for hours with sound quality straight off the AM dial of your radio. And of course, even this shoddy work isn’t available if you miss it live, presumably because recording sound and uploading it to the web is simply too complex for this group. Sadly for the many people who’d watch this Grade 1 event (the only one in North America, they’ll have you know), the only video available is low-res (unless you want to pay for the privilege) T2P coverage from Tugger Thompson. And if you take the time to watch it, rest assured that Thompson’s still got a knack for using Muzak and poor editing to make almost any racing seem boring. In an era where even the relatively minor Detroit Cup proved that the audience exists (The D-Cup’s live web coverage saw over 14,000 unique viewers), LBYC’s effort was pathetic, and missed a huge opportunity to promote both its event and match racing in North America in general.
The Cup itself was won by Francesco "Chicco" Bruni’s Azurra Team in a light air final over Gavin Brady, with 2009 winner Johnny Bertsson taking third and first time Con Cup racer Billy Hardesty in fourth. Hardesty did provide some comic relief for asshat radio announcer Steve Steiner (don’t forget his 1D48 racing team) by constantly being in the way of other teams’ starts.